Until the end of World War I, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. By this time, about 450 thousands of Arabs and 50 thousands of Jews lived here. The Jewish community of Palestine was based on the local “Sabra” Jews who lived in Palestinian lands from time immemorial, but from the end of the 19th century, Jews from all over the world began to migrate to Palestine, primarily from Central and Eastern Europe.
Jewish migration was due to two reasons. First, in Europe at the turn of the 19th — 20th centuries. there was another surge in anti-Semitic sentiments — this was true of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Russian Empire. Secondly, at the same time, the Zionist ideology began to spread among the active part of the Jewish population, providing for the main goal to return to Eretz Israel. Influenced by Zionist ideology and fleeing pogroms and discrimination, Jews from Eastern Europe began to arrive in Palestine. They became more and more, especially after the famous pogrom in Chisinau, which gave impetus to the second wave of mass migration to Palestine. But before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, there were still no serious conflicts on a national basis in Palestine.
After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, its extensive possessions in the Middle East were divided into mandated territories between Great Britain and France, and part of the possessions gained independence. In April, 1920, at the conference in Sanremo, the United Kingdom received a mandate to rule Palestine, and in July, 1922, this mandate was approved by the League of Nations. The territory of modern Israel and Jordan was included in the mandated territory of Great Britain. The territory of Syria and Lebanon were under the control of France. But in the same 1922 year, at the initiative of Winston Churchill, three-quarters of Palestinian land was transferred to the Transiordan emirate, which was elected by the representative of the Hashemite dynasty of Sheriffs of Mecca Abdullah, who had shortly been on the throne of the King of Iraq. The lands that were not part of Transjordan and began to be actively settled by Jews. In 1919-1924 there was a third large-scale wave of migration to Palestine - the Third Aliya, by the end of which the Jewish population of Palestine had grown to 90 thousand people.
The increase in the number of Jewish populations in the middle of the 1920s. led to the intensification of nationalist sentiment among the Arabs. Fearing the further settling of Palestine by enterprising Jews, the Arabs from the practice of boycott (refusal to hire, rent property, etc.) moved to open pogroms. The ideologue of the Arab nationalists at this time was the mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini, who later became close to Adolf Hitler on the basis of negative attitudes towards Jews and the British and became one of the conductors of the influence of Nazi Germany in the Arab world. In 1929, a wave of bloody Jewish pogroms swept across Palestine, killing many Jews, and not so much immigrants, as representatives of small ancestral communities of Palestinian cities who were not organized and were not ready to resist the Arabs, in the neighborhood with whom they lived for centuries. But the aggravation of the situation in Palestine productively affected Jewish self-organization — the Zionist movements became more organized and active, began to pay much attention to military training and the acquisition of weapons.
In the 1930s, the influx of Jews into Palestine continued, due to the triumph of Nazism in Germany and a further wave of anti-Semitism in Central and Eastern Europe. By the end of World War II, Jews constituted 33% of the population of Palestine - in contrast to 11% at the beginning of the century. Such a change in the composition of the population has not slowed down the growth of the political ambitions of the Jews, who have become even more active in demanding the creation of their own Jewish state in Palestine. But the whole of the Arab world resisted the realization of this idea. There was a very high probability of a conflict moving into the plane of armed confrontation, especially since by the middle of the 1940s. Jewish radical formations were already very numerous, and many of their members had real combat experience gained while serving in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army and in other armies of countries allied with the anti-Hitler coalition.
London could not find a political solution to the Arab-Jewish contradictions. Therefore, the question of the political future of Palestine was referred to the United Nations. Initially, the Jewish leaders of Palestine insisted on the creation of an independent Jewish state. The Arab world, in turn, demanded the creation of a unified state in which the Arabs and the Jews would live together. The latter option was unacceptable for the Jews, since Arabs still constituted two thirds of the Palestinian population and in fact the new state would be controlled by the Arabs, which would inevitably mean discrimination against the Jewish minority.
The UN considered two options. The first option envisaged the creation of two independent states, while Jerusalem and Bethlehem, due to the presence of holy places there at once several confessions, would be under international control. The second option was to create a federal state in which they would try to maximally observe the balance of interests of Jews and Arabs. 15 May 1947 was established by the UN Special Committee on Palestine. In order to exclude bias in making decisions, it included only neutral countries - Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. Most of the countries on the committee — Guatemala, Canada, the Netherlands, Peru, Uruguay, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden — spoke in support of the first UN version on the creation of two independent states. Iran, India and Yugoslavia spoke in favor of the federation, while the representatives of Australia preferred to abstain.
As you know, in the second half of the twentieth century, during the Cold War, Israel became an important regional ally of the United States of America. However, then, in the 1947 year, Washington could not reach an unequivocal opinion regarding the future of Palestine. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union made a clear statement in support of the creation of an independent Jewish state. 14 May 1947, the USSR Permanent Representative to the UN Andrei Gromyko, speaking at a special session of the UN General Assembly, said:
The Jewish people suffered exceptional calamities and sufferings in the last war. On the territory dominated by the Hitlerites, the Jews were subjected to almost complete physical extermination - about six million people died. The fact that not a single Western European state was able to ensure the protection of the elementary rights of the Jewish people and protect it from violence by the fascist executioners explains the Jews' desire to create their own state. It would be unfair not to reckon with this and deny the right of the Jewish people to carry out such an aspiration.
Such a position of the Soviet Union would have been impossible if Joseph Stalin personally had not advocated the creation of a separate Jewish state. It was Stalin who, despite numerous accusations against him by the “liberal public” in anti-Semitism, the modern State of Israel owes its existence. It is worth recalling that by the time Israel was created, the Soviet Union was the only state in the world where a criminal conviction could be obtained for anti-Semitism.
Despite the “purges” of the end of 1930 and certain nuances of the post-war period, the Jews in the Soviet Union felt much better than in most other countries of the world. Of course, the reasons why Stalin advocated the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine were geopolitical in nature. The Soviet leader hoped that a state created with Soviet support and headed by Soviet repatriates could turn into an important ally of the USSR in the Middle East. For the sake of realizing this goal, Stalin even went so far as to complicate relations with the Arab Communist Parties. After all, the latter, despite the commitment of the communist ideology, could not go against the interests of Arab nationalism, which also gained strength in the post-war world.
In the USSR even the composition of the government of the new state was formed. Solomon Lozovsky, a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) and former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, was to be appointed Prime Minister of Jewish Palestine, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, General David Dragunsky, and Navy intelligence officer Grigory Gilman . That is, Stalin seriously hoped that the Soviet Union would be able to turn Israel into its faithful junior partner in the Middle East.
On the other hand, Soviet support for the plan to create an independent state for Jews in Palestine left no other option for the United States — Washington had to support this idea in order not to look like an anti-Semitic state against the background of the USSR. 29 November 1947, the UN held a vote on the resolution 181 on the establishment in Palestine of individual Jewish and Arab states. 33 countries - UN members, including the Soviet Union (separately from the Ukrainian SSR and BSSR), the USA, Australia, France, Poland and a number of Latin American countries voted for the creation of two independent states. 13 countries voted against - Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen. Finally, 10 countries, including Great Britain, China and Yugoslavia, chose to abstain, not wanting to spoil relations with either Arabs or Jews.
14 May 1948, the British Commissioner left Haifa. The UN mandate ended and on the same day the State of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv. The first to recognize the independence of Israel was the Soviet Union. Representatives of the USSR unequivocally spoke at the UN Security Council in defense of the independence of the Jewish state, stressing that if the Arab countries do not recognize Israel, then he is not obliged to recognize them. Almost immediately after independence was declared in Israel, mass migration of Jews from the socialist countries of Eastern Europe — Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia — began. It was thanks to the call-up for military service of young repatriates that they were able to quickly form a large and efficient Israel Defense Forces. In Eastern Europe, a large number of weapons were purchased to equip the young Israeli army.
However, soon after independence, Israel came under American influence. First, the government formed in the USSR did not succeed in arriving in Palestine (it was dissolved), and in Israel a new government was formed from people not connected with Moscow. Secondly, the money of the richest American Jewish community, which actually financed the creation of a state in the poor Palestinian desert, which quickly surpassed all the countries of the Arab world in the standard of living of the population and the quality of infrastructure, played a role. But even after the pro-American turn of Israel, it turned out that Moscow was not so miscalculated.
The very fact of the creation of the State of Israel has very strongly turned the Arab world against the United States and Great Britain. London was criticized for not being able or unwilling to protect the interests of the Arabs. After Israel began to actively cooperate with the West, a turn towards the Soviet Union began in the Arab world. Quite quickly, Egypt and Syria became allies of the USSR in the Middle East, and by the 1960 years, Soviet influence extended to almost all Arab countries except Morocco and the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula.
But despite the fact that during the Cold War years, Israel and the Soviet Union were on opposite sides of the barricades, now Russian-Israeli relations can be called special, very different from relations with the West and with the Arab world. Israel is not an enemy and not a junior partner, but a very special country where millions of people speak Russian and have relatives in Russia.