On May 14, 1948, the independent state of Israel was proclaimed as British rule in Palestine came to an end.
The May 15 New York Times reported, “The declaration of the new state by David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the National Council and the first Premier of reborn Israel, was delivered during a simple and solemn ceremony at 4 P.M., and new life was instilled into his people, but from without there was the rumbling of guns, a flashback to other declarations of independence that had not been easily achieved.”
After World War II and the Holocaust, in which six million European Jews were killed, the United Nations moved to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish sections. The United Nations adopted the partition plan in November 1947. This plan outraged Arabs, and sparked a civil war in Palestine. The Palestinian Arabs had greater numbers, but the Israelis were better armed and organized, and were able to overcome the Arabs. During this time, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs chose to or were forced to evacuate their homes.
The violence caused the United States to withdraw its support for partition. However, when Israel declared its independence, the United States immediately recognized the new state. The Times wrote, “In one of the most hopeful periods of their troubled history the Jewish people here gave a sigh of relief and took a new hold on life when they learned that the greatest national power had accepted them into the international fraternity.”
The armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria invaded almost immediately after the May 14 declaration of nationhood and the withdrawal of British troops, sparking the Arab-Israeli War. Israeli forces defeated the coalition by the end of the year and, via 1949 armistice agreements, Israel expanded its borders beyond those established by the original U.N. partition plan. In 1967, after the Six-Day War, the country took effective control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
The political borders of Israel have continued to change over the course of its statehood due to military and diplomatic developments. Today, the country borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, the Gaza Strip and Egypt in the southwest.