Upon the termination of the British Mandate (14 May 1948), the Jewish people proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. Less than 24 hours later, the armies of five Arab countries invaded the new state, launching what became Israel's War of Independence, fought intermittently for over a year. By July 1949, separate armistice agreements, based on ceasefire lines, had been signed with all the adjacent Arab states.
In the Declaration of the Establishment of the State, Israel extends its "hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness." This appeal, reiterated by successive Israeli leaders, was persistently ignored or rejected. Arab terror attacks against Israel's population centers continued, with the support and encouragement of the Arab states, which also instituted economic and diplomatic boycotts, blocked international waterways to Israeli shipping and instigated full-scale wars: in 1956 and 1967, Israel launched preemptive strikes in self-defense against major threats; in 1973, Israel repulsed simultaneous all-out attacks by the neighboring Arab states on two fronts.
The cycle of rejection was broken with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's arrival in Jerusalem (November 1977) at the invitation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The visit led to negotiations which resulted in the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty (26 March 1979) and the formulation of the Camp David Accords, which included provisions for peace in the Middle East and a format for self-government for the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Unfortunately, violence continued on other fronts. In 1982, Israel was forced to operate against the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) terrorist bases in southern Lebanon, from where attacks were being launched against the civilian population of northern Galilee. By the end of this operation, the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon was removed, but due to a security vacuum, Israel had to maintain a minimal military presence in the country.
Despite this, Israel's peace efforts continued. On 30 October 1991, a multilateral Middle East peace conference was convened in Madrid, bringing together representatives of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians. The formal proceedings were followed by bilateral negotiations between the parties and by multilateral talks addressing regional concerns.
A significant breakthrough was the Declaration of Principles (September 1993) signed by Israel and the PLO (as the representative of the Palestinian people), outlining arrangements for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Consequently, self-government was implemented in Gaza and Jericho (the Palestinian Authority, 1994) and, with the signing of the Interim Agreement (1995), was extended to additional areas in the West Bank.
Further rapprochement in the region was achieved when Israel and Jordan ended the 46-year-long state of war between them (July 1994), followed by a peace treaty (October 1994), which established full diplomatic relations between the two countries. The momentum in the peace process opened the way for expanding contacts and setting up relations with other Arab countries as well.
In January 1997 Israel and the PA signed the Hebron Protocol, and Israel redeployed in that area; in October 1998 they signed the Wye River Memorandum and phase one of the West Bank and Gaza redeployment was implemented by Israel. In September 1999, Israel and the PLO signed the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, after which Israel implemented further redeployments, released prisoners, opened the southern safe passage route and resumed Permanent Status talks.
Unfortunately, the next step, the Camp David Summit of July 2000 failed, due to the Palestinians' refusal to accept Israel's unprecedented proposals for solving the conflict. Instead, in September 2000, the Palestinians initiated a campaign of indiscriminate terror and violence, causing heavy loss of life and suffering to both sides. Hundreds of Israeli civilians were killed in terrorists shooting and suicide bombings. In reaction, Israel constructed an antiterrorist fence, and managed to bring terrorism under control in most of the country.
Meanwhile, in the North, Israel maintained a gradually decreased security presence in Lebanon until May 2000, when the UN confirmed that the last Israel forces had been withdrawn to the international border. While Palestinian terrorism from Lebanon subsided, the Iranian-backed Hizbullah organization took its place. In July 2006, Israel was forced to respond to massive missile attacks on northern Israel as well as the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers, and reentered southern Lebanon in a military operation to counter the Hizbullah terrorism. This operation, later know as "The Second Lebanon War" lasted about a month, and was followed by a period of calm on Israel's northern border.
Throughout this period, Israel continued in its quest for peace with its Palestinian neighbors. In 2003, Israel accepted the 'Roadmap' to peace, proposed by an international Quartet (US, EU, Russian and the UN), beginning with an end to Palestinian terrorism, to be followed by the final settlement of all issues and an end to the conflict.
In August 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implemented an initiative meant to advance peace, called the 'Disengagement Plan'. In it, Israel withdrew all forces from the Gaza Strip and removed all the Jewish settlements there, as well as four Jewish communities in northern Samaria.
Yet, despite Israel's conciliatory move, Palestinian terrorism from the Gaza Strip continued and even escalated, especially after Hamas seized power there in 2007. In December 2008, after enduring an ongoing barrage of 12,000 rockets against its cities, and after having exhausted all other options, Israel launched a military operation against Hamas in Gaza aimed at stopping the bombardment.
Peace remains Israel's primary goal. Its hopes for a negotiated peace settlement can be realized through reasonable historical compromises with its neighbors, in which the right of Israel to exist in security, as the homeland of the Jewish people, is recognized and respected.
The Declaration of Independence
Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars 1999Peace - "...who publishes peace; who brings good tidings of good" (Isaiah 52:7)