Over the course of thousands of years, mankind has gone to war to protect or expand national borders. Every nation on the planet, save a select few, has borders that were at some point drawn and redrawn as a result of war. Often, the victors enjoy the spoils of war and carve up nations to add into their own empires. Likewise, when empires fall, those nations once under the thumb of rulers overseas struggle to form cohesive units with hard and fast borders.
In this post, you can see how the Middle East, including the nation of Israel, was shaped by war at different stages in modern history. In one map, you can see how the empires of Europe carved up the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. In a second map, the various wars that shaped Israel offer a glimpse at the changes that nation underwent throughout its formation.
Shaping the Middle East
As World War I drew to a close, diplomats representing Britain, France, and Russia gathered to determine what the Middle East would look like after the war was over. The nations came to an agreement on how to equitably divide the Ottoman Empire following its destruction, with the nations establishing spheres of influence, known as protectorates, and areas of direct control.
On the map, the British Empire took direct control of major cities in Iraq, extending from Samara, out to Fallujah, and down the coast through Basra to Kuwait and the modern United Arab Emirates. However, the British Protectorate state expanded into portions of modern Saudi Arabia, into northern Iraq, and all the way to the Sinai Peninsula, encompassing modern day Jordan as well.
The French took direct control over central Turkey, nearly splitting the nation in half. French control stretched down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea through Lebanon, western Syria, and half of modern Israel. The whole of Syria and a portion of northern Iraq, including Mosul and Irbil, fell under French Protectorate status.
Jerusalem and Haifa in modern Israel existed within a sphere that was considered under international control. What is visible in this map is the set of lines that dictated the majority of today’s modern borders, which create a lot of tension still in 2015, almost a century later.
Israel, in Many Forms
The map of Israel presented in this post offers an interesting look at the formation of the nation in its early years. On the far left is a map of Israel was it was drawn up by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947. In blue are the lands considered as Israel at that time. The red shading shows the Arab lands assigned under the agreement at the UN.
Shortly after Israel’s formation was announced, the nations of the Middle East launched the 1948 Arab-Israeli War to wipe the new nation off the map. Advancing Egyptian, Syrian, and other Arabian forces squeezed the new state. Represented in the middle map, the dark green shaded areas represent the original advance of Arab forces, with the yellow shades representing what was left of Israel.
However, Israel’s army recovered and pushed back the combined Arab forces on the field of battle. Beginning in the end of June 1948 (lightest yellow shade), the Israel Army pushed back on multiple fronts. By November 1948, Israel had expanded its borders to control all the areas in light yellow and the yellow. By the end of January 1949, Israel had retaken all lands under the UN resolution, and expanded to take all of the yellow shaded areas.
By in large, these borders in Israel exist to this day, with minor changes taking place as a result of subsequent wars, such as the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, and the famous 6-Day War.