DOCUMENT 1: Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948)
On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate for Palestine expired, David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), leader of the World Zionist Organization and first prime minister of Israel, declared the establishment of the State of Israel after 60 years of state-building efforts. The document describes the history of the Jewish people, outlines the principles of the State of Israel, and appeals to the United Nations, the Arab inhabitants of the state, the Arab states surrounding Israel, and world Jewry for support and peaceful cooperation.
Excerpt: Eretz-Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses....they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture....
The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people—the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe—was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations....
On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.
This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.
ACCORDINGLY WE...ARE HERE ASSEMBLED ON THE DAY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER ERETZ-ISRAEL AND, BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.
The Avalon Project : Declaration of Israel's Independence 1948. Web.
DOCUMENT 2: Declaration on the Invasion of Palestine (May 15, 1948)
The League of Arab States, or Arab League, was founded in 1945 to improve coordination among its members on matters of common interest and in response to concerns about postwar divisions of territory as well as shared opposition to a Jewish state in Mandate Palestine. On May 15, 1948, the Arab League declared war on the new State of Israel. Arab armies from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, supported by troops from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, attacked. See map below for post-war borders.
2. The Arabs have always asked for their freedom and independence. On the outbreak of the First World War, and when the Allies declared that they were fighting for the liberation of peoples, the Arabs joined them and fought on their side with a view to realising their national aspirations and obtaining their independence. England pledged herself to recognise the independence of the Arab countries in Asia, including Palestine....
4. When the war came to an end England did not keep her promise. Indeed, the Allies placed Palestine under the Mandate system and entrusted England with [the task of carrying it out]....
6. As Palestine is an Arab country, situated in the heart of the Arab countries and attached to the Arab world by various ties—spiritual, historical, and strategic—the Arab countries...have concerned themselves with the problem of Palestine and have raised it to the international level....
9. The Arabs clashed with the Jews, and the two [parties] proceeded to fight each other and shed each other's blood. Whereupon the United Nations began to realise the danger of recommending the partition [of Palestine] and is still looking for a way out of this state of affairs.
10. Now that the British mandate over Palestine has come to an end, without there being a legitimate constitutional authority in the country...the Governments of the Arab States declare the following:
First: That the rule of Palestine should revert to its inhabitants...and that [the Palestinians] should alone have the right to determine their future.
Fifth: The Governments of the Arab States, as members of the Arab League...are responsible for maintaining peace and security in their area. These Governments view the events taking place in Palestine as a threat to peace and security in the area....
Sixth: Therefore, as security in Palestine is a sacred trust in the hands of the Arab States, and in order to put an end to this state of affairs and to prevent it from becoming aggravated or from turning into [a state of] chaos, the extent of which no one can foretell; in order to stop the spreading of disturbances and disorder in Palestine to the neighbouring Arab countries; in order to fill the gap brought about in the governmental machinery in Palestine as a result of the termination of the mandate and the non-establishment of a lawful successor authority, the Governments of the Arab States have found themselves compelled to intervene in Palestine solely in order to help its inhabitants restore peace and security and the rule of justice and law to their country, and in order to prevent bloodshed.
Seventh: The Governments of the Arab States emphasise...that the only solution of the Palestine problem is the establishment of a unitary Palestinian State.
"The Arab League: Declaration on the Invasion of Palestine." (May 1948). Web.
Background image: King Farouk I of Egypt and Sudan revising war plans with commanders of Egyptian army during the 1948 war (Creative Commons).
The Six Day War (June, 1967): Background
On May 18, 1967, Arab leader and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) directed the Secretary General of the United Nations to withdraw the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), a peacekeeping security force, from the territory of Egypt and Egypt-controlled Gaza Strip. On May 22, President Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping and other ships carrying cargo to Israel. Days later, Egypt and Jordan signed a pact declaring in solidarity that “an attack on one was an attack on both,” with President Nasser declaring, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.”
By the end of May, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria had mobilized their armies on Israel’s borders, only a few miles away from Israel’s major population centers. After seeking a diplomatic solution, Israel launched a preemptive strike against the Egyptian air force on the morning of June 5. Urged by President Nasser to join the fighting, Jordan and Syria attacked Israel. This war between Israel and Egypt, Syria, and Jordan is known as the “Six-Day War” because it lasted just six days. During this conflict, Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.
Additional media primary sources from 1967
DOCUMENT 3: Khartoum Resolution and UN Security Council Resolution 242
Two resolutions that were passed in the aftermath of the Six-Day War have heavily influenced policy in the region for the past fifty years. The Khartoum Resolution, passed by the Arab League on September 1, is famous for the "Three NOs" articulated in paragraph three. Resolution 242, adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, outlined conditions for peace in the region.
Khartoum Resolution (September 1, 1967)
1. The conference has affirmed the unity of Arab ranks, the unity of joint action and the need for coordination and for the elimination of all differences. The Kings, Presidents and representatives of the other Arab Heads of State at the conference have affirmed their countries' stand by and implementation of the Arab Solidarity Charter....
3. The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.
"The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." Arab League Summit - Khartoum 1967 - English Text. Web.
United Nations Security Council, Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967)
Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East...
Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security...
1. Affirms that the fulfilment of [United Nations] Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force...
"S/RES/242 (1967) of 22 November 1967." United Nations. Web.
Background image: Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (second from right) at the Khartoum Summit, https://ecf.org.il/media_items/868
DOCUMENT 4: Camp David Accords (1978) and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty (1979)
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (1913-1992) and Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (1918-1981) signed agreements during the Camp David Peace Accords in September 1978. These United States-sponsored talks, under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter, paved the way to the peace treaty signed the following spring. In 1979, as a result of intense diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Israel, and the United States, Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize and enter into a peace treaty with Israel. In exchange for peace, Israel returned to Egypt all of the Sinai that had been captured during the 1967 war and removed Jewish families from the homes they had established there. This treaty became a model for Israel’s “land for peace” policy. See accompanying map.
The Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Government of the State of Israel...
- Desiring to bring to an end the state of war between them and to establish a peace in which every state in the area can live in security;
- Convinced that the conclusion of a Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel is an important step in the search for comprehensive peace in the area and for the attainment of settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its aspects;
- Inviting the other Arab parties to this dispute to join the peace process with Israel..;
- Desiring as well to develop friendly relations and cooperation between themselves in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law governing international relations in times of peace;
Agree to the following provisions in the free exercise of their sovereignty...
- The state of war between the Parties will be terminated and peace will be established between them upon the exchange of instruments of ratification of this Treaty.
- Israel will withdraw all its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai behind the international boundary between Egypt and mandated Palestine...and Egypt will resume the exercise of its full sovereignty over the Sinai.
- Upon completion of the interim withdrawal...the parties will establish normal and friendly relations.
- recognize and will respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence;
- recognize and will respect each other's right to live in peace within their secure and recognized boundaries;
- will refrain from the threat or use of force, directly or indirectly, against each other and will settle all disputes between them by peaceful means....
- agree that the normal relationship established between them will include full recognition, diplomatic, economic and cultural relations, termination of economic boycotts and discriminatory barriers to the free movement of people and goods, and will guarantee the mutual enjoyment by citizens of the due process of law.
Additional primary media resources
Unless otherwise noted, photos on this page are part of the public domain, Creative Commons.