The foundation of the State of Israel, 1948 – Fact sheet 158

The British mandated territory of Palestine, 1922–47

Britain was entrusted with a League of Nations mandate over Palestine in 1922. This provided an interim resolution to the power vacuum in post World War I Palestine caused by the 1917 defeat of the Turks by British forces and the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The British task was to facilitate the partitioning of Palestine to establish a Jewish national home that did not prejudice the civil and religious rights of the Arab majority. Jewish and Arab communities were granted the right to run their internal affairs, but this was not without tensions and outbreaks of violence, which did occur during the 1920s and 1930s.

In April 1947, after failing to reconcile the conflicting demands of both the Jewish and Arab communities, Britain indicated an intention to withdraw from Palestine and requested that a permanent solution be discussed by the United Nations General Assembly. Subsequently, a United Nations Special Committee was established to draft proposals for the future of Palestine.

Under the chairmanship of the Dr HV Evatt, the Australian Minister for External Affairs, the UN Special Committee recommended the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Palestine, together with a neighbouring independent Arab State, and this was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in November 1947.

The State of Israel was subsequently proclaimed in Tel Aviv on 14 May 1948.

Records relating to the foundation of Israel

Information held by the National Archives relating to the foundation of the State of Israel is contained in the records of the then Department of External Affairs, and key overseas missions such as the Australian High Commission in London, and the Australian Mission to the United Nations. Examples of these records are listed in the table below.

Records series containing information on the foundation of Israel

Department of External Affairs, Central Office (CA 18)

Department of External Affairs, London (CA 1759)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesCorrespondence files1948–50A3318
SeriesCorrespondence files1948–50A3320

Australian High Commission, London (CA 241)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesCorrespondence files1918–60A2910
SeriesCorrespondence files1930–52A2908
SeriesUncontrolled correspondence files1945–70A6370

Australian Mission to the United Nations (CA 2758)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesCorrespondence files1946–ongoingA5326

Record items relating to the foundation of Israel

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemIsrael – relations with the Arab States1943–52A1838, 175/11/20 Part 1
ItemPalestine – policy1946–49A461, E350/1/3 Part 1
ItemPalestine – policy1946–49A461, E350/1/3 Part 2
ItemUN Security Council – Palestine – Israel1946–49A4534, 43/5/3 Part 1
ItemUN Security Council – Palestine – Israel1946–49A4534, 43/5/3 Part 3
ItemIsrael – internal – constitutional and citizenship1946–69A1838, 175/1/2
ItemUnited Kingdom's proposals for Palestine1947A5954, 1347/9
ItemPalestine – United Nations Commission of Inquiry on – Attitude of Executive Council of Australian Jewry1947A434, 1947/3/5952
ItemPalestine Commission1947–48A1838, TS852/20/2 Part 1
ItemPalestine Commission1947–48A1838, TS852/20/2 Part 2
ItemPalestine Commission1947–48A1838, TS852/20/2 Part 3
ItemPalestine Commission1947–48A1838, TS852/20/2 Part 4
SeriesPalestine Commission1947–48A1838, TS852/20/2 Part 6
ItemPalestine Commission1947–48A1838, 852/20/2 Part 5
ItemPalestine – implications of withdrawal1947A5954, 1912/3
ItemIsrael – question of recognition1948A432, 1948/594
ItemIsrael – recognition by other countries1948–71A1838, 175/7/1/1
ItemPalestine – Jewish State1948–50A1838, 851/12/3 Part 1
ItemPalestine – Jewish State1948–50A1838, 851/12/3 Part 2
ItemAnniversary – inauguration of State of Israel1949A461, AR317/1/1
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