From 1948 to the 1990s

Since the war of 1948, Israel has had to fight three more wars against its Arab neighbours. In 1956 Egypt took control of the Suez Canal from Great Britain and France. Together with Israel, these two countries attacked Egypt and, for a short time, Israel took control of the Sinai peninsula.

In May 1967, Egypt’s president Nasser prepared for another attack on Israel. He closed Israel’s only route to the sea and soldiers from all the Arab countries marched to Israel’s border. However, Israel attacked first and surprised its enemies. In a war that lasted only six days , Israel defeated the Arabs and took over some of their land:

  • the Golan Heights from Syria
  • the West Bank from Jordan
  • the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
  • East Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers and tank on the Golan Heights
Image: Government Press Office (Israel)


Occupied territories after the Six-Day War of 1967


The fourth and last war took place in October 1973. It surprised Israel because Egypt and Syria attacked on Yom Kippur, one of Israel’s holiest days. Israel fought back and defeated the Arabs once again. They took control of the Sinai Peninsula, but gave it back to Egypt two years later.

In the late 1970s Egypt saw that it could not win a war against Israel, so it became the first Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state.

From left: Israel's Prime Minster Menahem Begin, American President Jimmy Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the peace talks in Washington '
Image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration


In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon, its northern neighbour. The PLO, an organisation thought fought for the rights of the Palestinians, continued to attack Israel from southern Lebanon. Israel's soldiers stayed in Lebanon until 2000.

Towards the end of the 1980’s, Palestinians in the occupied lands started to protest against Israel’s rule. This was known as the first Intifada. There were demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arabs stopped working for Israelis and some towns stopped paying taxes to the Israeli government. Israel had to use more and more force to get these territories under control.

Fighting during the Intifada
Image: Abarrategi