chapter  18
27 Pages

The Arab–Israeli conflict, 1949–2007

The defeated Arab states also turned inwards to focus on nation-and statebuilding, as they too had either just achieved independence shortly before the 1948 war or were struggling to achieve it in the period thereafter. The defeat had also delegitimized many of the Arab governments and left them open to radical challenges. Syria, for example, suffered three military coups in 1949 alone and became the most unstable of Israel’s neighbours during the 1950s. Jordan’s King Abdullah was assassinated in 1951 and was replaced first by Talal and then in 1953 by Hussein while Lebanon’s President Camille Chamoun was unsuccessfully challenged in a coup in 1952. The most important changes, however, took place in Egypt. On 23 July 1952, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown and sent into exile by the Free Officers whose aim was to replace what they saw as a reactionary monarchy with a progressive republic based on a strong army, social equality, an end to colonialism, rapid economic development and free universal education. Far-reaching socio-economic reforms were instituted by the new president and prime minister, Mohammed Naguib, and his deputy, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In October 1954, Nasser replaced Naguib. His charisma and his policies of nonalignment, Arab unity and Arab socialism not only made him the darling of the people, but also propelled Egypt into a position of leadership in the Middle East and among the recently decolonized states. This attracted Israel’s interest, as well as that of the superpowers, the United States and the USSR.