The state of Israel is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week. Ic came into existence?
The state of Israel is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week. Ic came into existence on May 14th, 1948, when the British mandate over Palestine was brought to an end. But in Israel, the peak of the celebrations will be next Thursday, May 11th, which is the anniversary date according to the Hebrew calendar.
SYNOPSIS: Mr. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, proclaimed the new state in Tel Aviv. The portrait of the founder of Zionism, Theodor herzl, looked down on his dream come true.
Israel needed people, and Jews flocked there in thousands: survivors from Nazi persecution in Europe, and Jewish communities from Arab states. They responded to what was called "the ingathering of the exiles".
Four times, Israel has fought its Arab neighbours: in 1948, at the very start of its life; in 1956, in Sinai. That was when Britain and France landed troops in the Suez area, raising the suspicion that they had been party to the Israeli attack.
1967: the third war. Israel felt menaced on all sides, and occupied parts of Egypt, Syria and Jordan to protect its frontiers. The military reputation of its forces stood high.
But it remained vulnerable to guerrilla attacks. 25 people were killed at Lod Airport in a gun and grenade battle in May 1972; 11 Israeli Olympic athletes at Munich four months later. This last was the work of the extremist Palestinian Black September group.
The fourth Arab-Israeli was took place in October 1973. Egypt and Syria caught the Israelis temporarily unprepared, and Egypt got troops across the Suez Canal into Sinai. Israel struck back, and a stalemate developed. But Israel's reputation for military invincibility had been badly dented.
The conflict brought a sense of urgency to big-power efforts to produce a peace settlement. A disengagement agreement was signed that November between Egypt and Israel at Kilometre 101 on the Cairo-Suez road. Constant shuttling by American Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger helped to achieve two more limited agreements.
Mr. Menachem Begin's victory in last May's elections aroused fears that peace negotiations with this "hardliner" might be more difficult. He has encouraged Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank, territory from which the United Nations has said Israel must withdraw its troops. The West Bank and Jerusalem are two of the knottiest problems for any peace settlement. Israel gained access to the "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem -- a sacred shrine of Judaism -- in 1967, and successive government have said that it could never give this up.
Nevertheless, the nearest approach to a break-through came last November, when Mr. Begin responded to the offer of President Sadat of Egypt to visit Jerusalem. There were many expressions of goodwill when both leaders addressed the Knesset, but no essential change of position. The hard bargaining on Jerusalem, the West Bank and a Palestinian homeland has still to come.
Israel has survived 30 years, but Prime Minister Begin is still struggling with the basic problem: how to achieve peace without jeopardising security.