On This Day - 14th May

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Birth of Israel

The 14th of May 1948 — Israel

By 1947 Britain's government had given up any hope of arriving at a solution to the intractable problem of Israel/Palestine, and eventually announced its withdrawal from the territory would take place by August 1 1948, soon brought forward to May 15 that year.

The United Nations , which Britain had played a major part in founding, had attempted to bring in a partition plan, creating separate Jewish and Arab states with Jerusalem to be UN administered, but in what with hindsight was tragic arrogance the Arab side refused. The Jews to their credit had agreed. What started as riots developed into a civil war; Jewish forces, many of their members having gained military experience fighting for Britain and America in WWII , won the upper hand and fought for control of territory in the disputed lands. On April 9 they massacred Palestinian non-combatants in Deir Yassin in what was probably a wilful act of terror; it succeeded in driving more Palestinians away from their homes.

One day before Britain's mandate expired the Jewish side declared the independence of the state of Israel. On May 15 Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq all attacked Israel. On May 17 David Ben-Gurion, previously named as the first Chairman of the Provisional State Council of Israel on May 14, became that country's first Prime Minister.

The war lasted for a year before a ceasefire was negotiated; but for the Palestinians this offered no comfort: Jordan annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem; Egypt took the Gaza Strip. Israel went from strength to strength, but a country largely peopled by those who had fled pogroms and the Holocaust had apparently, perhaps understandably, learned little about compromise.

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