The Armistice Agreements
After the cease-fire, negotiations took place between Israel and Egypt on the Greek island of Rhodes under the mediation of the American diplomat Ralph Bunche. This led to an armistice agreement which was followed by subsequent agreements with Lebanon, Transjordan and Syria. The net result of the agreements was the establishment of the cease-fire lines of 1949.

Source: Website of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The above demarcation lines were fixed by the Rhodes Armistice Agreements. Article V.2 of the Agreement with Egypt (in similar terms to the other Agreements), provided:

“The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims and positions of either Party to the Armistice as regards ultimate settlement of the Palestine question.”

Jerusalem, which was to be internationalised under the partition resolution, was now divided. Israel took West Jerusalem; and Transjordan took East Jerusalem, including the Old City, with its centres of major religious significance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.[1]

The territory which Israel describes as “Judea and Samaria”, which was to be part of the proposed Arab state under the Partition Resolution, also came under the control of Transjordan. In 1950 Transjordan purported to annex this territory, which it described as the “West Bank” of the Jordan River, and Transjordan therefore changed its name to “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”. This annexation had no international approval and was recognized only by Britain and Pakistan, and not by any of the Arab states.

Although the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian control, it was not annexed by Egypt, and its inhabitants were defined as stateless.

Syria advanced its boundary from the international boundary agreed between Britain and France in 1923 when Britain transferred the Golan Heights to the French mandate of Syria, to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.Israel expanded its borders beyond the boundaries fixed by the Partition Resolution to include a corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the whole of Upper Galilee in the north, and Beersheba in the southern desert.

Note: The agreements at Rhodes were cease-fire agreements only. No Arab country recognized the legitimacy of Israel, and the Arab League still considered its members to be engaged in a continuing war.

Effect on the Palestinians
1. An Arab exodus from the territory which became Israel, took place during the war. That exodus began after the UN Partition Resolution of November 1947, and continued after the date of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948, when the Arab armies invaded.

2. Some hundreds of thousands of Arabs left their homes in the areas which came under Jewish control. Estimates of the number of refugees who left their homes in Israel from 1947 to 1949 vary from 419,000, calculated on the basis of numbers before and after the exodus, to 726,000, based on UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) relief figures.[2]

3. Jordan gave refugees citizenship and full rights. Lebanon refused both citizenship and equal rights. Egypt denied refugees in Gaza the right to enter Egypt.

4. The causes of the Arab exodus are the subject of controversy, since the events took place in the heat of war, and most of the reports are politically motivated.
Arab sources accuse the Jewish forces of a concerted terror campaign aimed at removing the Arab population. (See Plan Dalet). An Israeli response is to point to the documented Arab calls for the inhabitants of the area to leave their homes and make way for an Arab invasion, and a serious effort by Israel to persuade the Arab population to remain. (British police memorandum and Arab sources.)

Both descriptions of the events probably have an element of truth, depending on the exigencies of full-scale war. For example, the Jewish leadership in the mixed city of Haifa made a point of attempting to persuade the Arab population to remain in place, a call which was resolutely rejected in order to clear the way for the expected invasion of the city. On the other hand some of those who occupied strategically critical areas in the centre of the country between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were displaced and others fled as a consequence of the highly coloured reports in the Arab media.

Essentially, however, the Arab exodus was result of the fact that the war of 1947-1949 took place, in the sense that if there had been no invasion and a peaceful partition had been completed then it is unlikely that any substantial emigration would have occurred.
5. The Arabs who remained in Israel became Israeli citizens with equal voting rights. However the areas where most of the Arab population lived were placed under military government under the Defence (Emergency) Regulations introduced by the British Mandatory authority, and the freedom of movement of the inhabitants was limited by a requirement for military permission. The restrictions were generally allowed to lapse in the 1960’s, and the military government was formally abolished in 1972. There were 11 Arab members elected to the Israeli Parliament in 2006, and an Arab Justice served on the Full Bench of Israel’s Supreme Court.

6. The Palestinians who lived in the region outside the 1949 Armistice lines came under the rule of Jordan and Egypt. Those who lived in the area described by the Jordanians as the “West Bank” of the River Jordan, were absorbed into Jordan as Jordanian citizens, although many remained in refugee camps receiving UNRWA aid.[3] Those who lived in Gaza came under Egyptian rule, but did not receive citizenship. Gaza was not annexed by Egypt and its inhabitants became stateless and were not allowed to enter Egypt without express permission.

As at 1996 UNRWA provided services to over four and a half million people seeking aid as Palestinian refugees and their descendants, as follows:

West Bank 1.2 million Gaza 880,000 Jordan 1.832 million
Lebanon 372,700 Syria 352,100

Effect on Israel

One of the first Laws of the State of Israel was the “Law of Return”, which provided that every Jew was entitled to immigrate to Israel as of right.

Between 15 May 1948 and 31 December 1951 a total of 686,739 Jewish immigrants arrived in Israel. The Jewish population thus grew from about 650,000 in 1948 to about 1.4 million in 1951, causing immense strains on Israel’s undeveloped economy, with severe housing and food shortages.

The first wave of immigration following independence consisted of over 120,000 survivors of the Nazi holocaust, arriving from the Displaced Persons camps of Europe and the British detention camps in Cyprus. The Romanian government was bribed to permit another 117,950 survivors to leave, and others arrived from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.


In addition many of the Jewish communities in Arab countries were subjected to active persecution following the creation of Israel. In 1950 the Iraqi government agreed to release its Jews provided they left behind their property and valuables, and a total of 123,371 immigrants were immediately airlifted to Israel. Then followed the arrival of more than 250,000 immigrants from Morocco, 56,000 from Tunisia, 35,000 from Libya, nearly 30,000 from Egypt and 46,640 Jews airlifted from Yemen. In all between 1948 and 1972 about 840,000 Jewish refugees fled from the countries of the Arab world, and about 580,000 found refuge in Israel.

By the mid-1950s the Jewish population was roughly half of European background and half non-European. The vast tent camps were being replaced by permanent housing, and development towns were being established to absorb many of the new immigrants.


[1] The “Old City” of Jerusalem is the ancient walled city. It includes the site of the Jewish Temples built by Solomon and Herod; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre located where Queen Helena found the Holy Cross; and the Dome of the Rock, built over the Rock from which the Prophet ascended to heaven on horseback.

[2] J Schechtman (The Refugee in the World, Displacement and Integration, NY 1963) estimates 561,000 in the districts which became Israel.

[3] Those who live in Gaza and the West Bank came under the administration of the Palestinian Authority in 1995 under the Oslo Accords, while those in Jordan are Jordanian citizens.