More than 70 years after Israel declared its citizenship, its borders have not yet been fully established. Wars, treaties, and conquest mean that the form of the Jewish state has changed over time, and in part is still undefined.
Here is a series of maps that explain why.
The land that would become Israel was for centuries part of the Ottoman Empire ruled by the Turks. After World War I and the collapse of the empire, the territory known as Palestine – part of which west of the Jordan River was also known as the land of Israel by the Jews – was marked and assigned to Britain to be administered by Allied powers. winning (immediately after approval by the League of Nations). The terms of the mandate entrusted Britain with the creation of Palestine “a national home for the Jewish people”, as long as its action does not prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities there.
The rise of Palestinian Arab nationalism along with the rapid growth of Palestine’s smallest Jewish population – especially after the advent of Nazism in the 1930s – saw an escalation of Arab-Jewish violence in Palestine. Britain handed over the problem to the United Nations, which in 1947 proposed dividing Palestine into two states – a Jew, an Arab – with the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area to become an international city. The plan was accepted by the Jewish leadership of Palestine but rejected by Arab leaders.
The Jewish leadership in Palestine declared the creation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, at the moment when the British mandate ended, albeit without announcing its borders. The next day Israel was invaded by five Arab armies, marking the beginning of Israel’s War of Independence. The fighting ended in 1949 with a series of ceasefires, producing ceasefire lines along Israel’s borders with neighboring states and establishing the borders of what became known as the Gaza Strip (occupied by Egypt) and East Jerusalem and the West Bank (occupied by Jordan). ). The surrounding Arab states refused to recognize Israel, which means that its borders remained undecided.
The biggest change in Israel’s borders came in 1967, when the conflict known as the Six Day War left Israel occupying the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and most of the Syrian Golan Heights – effectively tripling the size of the territory under Israeli control. Israel effectively annexed East Jerusalem – claiming the entire city as its capital – and the Golan Heights. These moves were not recognized by the international community until the US changed its official position on the issue under the Trump administration, becoming the first major power to do so. In most cases, international opinion continues to regard East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as occupied territory.
One of Israel’s land borders was first formalized in 1979, when Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize the Jewish state. Under the treaty, Israel’s border with Egypt was established and Israel withdrew all its forces and settlers from Sinai, a process which ended in 1982. This left Israel in the occupation of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, with borders his (excluding that of Egypt) still described by the 1949 ceasefire lines.
In 1994, Jordan became the second Arab state to recognize Israel, formalizing its long border with the Jewish state in the process. While there has not yet been a peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon, the 1949 ceasefire line of the two countries serves as the de facto border of northern Israel, while Israel’s border with Syria remains unclear.
Similarly, Israel has had a de facto border with Gaza since withdrawing its troops and settlers in 2005, but Gaza and the West Bank are considered a single unit occupied by the UN and official borders have not yet been defined. The final status and contours of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were supposed to be put into negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians living there under Israeli occupation, but decades of negotiations have proved fruitless.
- Israel & Palestinians
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