Israel is complicated. If you read this for six minutes, you're going to learn a lot.

Early History

Israel (the kingdom of Judea) has its roots in the bible, previously as Canaan. It continued as a Jewish kingdom until it was conquered, back and forth, throughout history. 

A Jewish presence remained, but Jews had been scattered into exile for a while. You’ve probably heard about that. 

1890's - 1900's

Theodore Hertzl was the primary Zionist thinker, which means he was one of the first people to call for the establishment of a Jewish nation. He was a German Jew alarmed at antisemitism in Europe, and in, 1896, formally declared interest in a Jewish state. 

Interestingly, he specified Argentina or ideally Palestine as the location. British authorities would later counter with Uganda. It was considered but rejected. 


1910's - 1920's

You’re doing great. Keep reading. 

So: early settling and land purchase had begun in Palestine by Jewish settlers. A major breakthrough came in 1917, when the British government declared support for “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. 

This was back when a British declaration really meant something, so settling and such picked up in earnest. 

1930's - 1940's

You don’t need to be a historian to know that this is when the Holocaust happened. Palestinian settling picked up. Through the 1930’s, immigration picked up enough to inflame local Palestinian and Jewish tensions, leading to riots and leading to a British restriction on Jewish immigration. 

Interestingly, Palestinian settlers and Nazi Germany did overlap in one key respect. The Grand Mufti Husseini of Palestinians was in contact with Hitler and Nazi Germany, even meeting with him personally in 1941. 

What a dick. 


Tensions were high; attacked perpetrated by Palestinians and Jewish settlers forced Britain to withdraw from the land. 

They made a proposal that two states would be formed: an independent Palestinian state, an independent Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem as a neutral territory for the world. 

Jewish leaders accepted this; Arab leaders rejected it. And this led to…


On 14 May 1948, the day before the expiration of the British Mandate, Jewish leaders including David Ben-Gurion declared establishment of a Jewish state. The next day, the armies of four Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq — declared war. 

Israel won, but at great cost. Around 700,000 Arab Palestinians fled or were forced into exile, beginning a refugee crisis still present to this day. For the Israelis, this was Independence Day; for the Palestinians, this was “The Nakba,” or “disaster.”


1950's - 1970's

Power through. We’re almost there. You can be smug forever if you finish this. 

So: a burgeoning Jewish state received international recognition, beginning in the United Nations in 1949. And, in 1967, Israel won the Six Day War with Egypt, Syria and Jordan, capturing the Sinai Peninsula and Jerusalem. 

The Yom Kippur war followed in 1973, again with Egypt and Syria, leading to a historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1978, creating a framework for Israel and Arab states. 

Importantly, this was the last era of outright interstate wars with Israel. From here on out, wars are replaced with skirmishes, terrorist attacks, and general unrest which is still present. 

1980's - 1990's

Israel was here to stay at this point. Close to a million soviet Jews left the former USSR to come to Israel; Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister for a second time on a platform of compromise. 

Peace talks started promising. The PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist and swore an end to terrorism; in 1994, Israel signed a treaty with Jordan making it the second Arab country (after Egypt) to enter normal relations. 

Unfortunately, public support faltered in the face of terrorist attacks. Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli, and the process crumbled. 


2000's - Present

Here we go; the finale. You’re almost done! 

So: in 2000, Israel offered Palestinians a state with Gaza, the West Bank, and a shared Jerusalem with monetary compensation for refugees from the 1948 war. The deal was rejected, marking an end to a golden period of peace talks.

Ariel Sharon withdrew from Gaza, ceding control to Palestinians. He also led the construction of the West Bank barrier in the face of 1,100 casualties via suicide bombings.

The Israeli government began a rightward shift, culminating in Netanyahu’s rise to power, and marked by proxy wars and heightened tensions.

With no rewards for peace talks, Netanyahu found the benefit of banging the drums of war.


That’s it! You did it! An insultingly simplified overview of Israel that you can always refer to!

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