My Google searches either haven’t turned up the relevent info, or have, but it was part of a flood tide of irrelevency. So…the Israelis were, as I understand it, heavily outnumbered and outgunned. The only advantage they had that I can see is that they were more determined, as they were defending their homes and families against an invader. But that only counts for so much. So how, exactly, did they pull it off?
This site shows the progress of the war, broken down into several “chapters”. You can probably find what you’re looking for there.
Thanks DW, but I’ve already been to and explored that site. Lots of raw info there, but it doesn’t seem to really answer the question.
One of the factors is that the Israeli command was more unified than the Arab command. The various Israeli militias (the Haganah, the Palmach, the Irgun, the “Stern gang”) all came together into the IDF, while the various Arab armies were all independent, and didn’t really coordinate well.
First of all, you have to look at both sides of the conflict, Jewish and Arab.
The Palestinians, who fought in the first stage of the war, certainly outnumbered the Jews, but they were poorly trained, disorganized, badly led and given to infighting. Although they fought hard, they never coalesced into a real army. The invading Arab armies, in turn, had their own problems: while they did have tanks, cannons and planes, they didn’t really know how to use them - they hadn’t fought a war for some time, and had never fought on a modern, mechanized battlefield. It’s said that they invaded Israel using vintage WW1 tactics. Besides that, they were typical third-world armies, with an officer corps rife with nepotism, cronyism and incompetence, manned with illiterate troops who weren’t sure what they were fighting for. They also expected to win the war in a number of weeks - the kind of underestimation fatal to any army.
The main exception to these problems was Jordan’s Arab Legion, which had been set up and trained by the British, and indeed, they were by far the most successful invader, taking the West Bank and half of Jerusalem. Still, all of the above, combined with a noted lack of coordination, seriously indered the arab advance.
As for the Israelis - yes, they were better organized, better motivated, and better educated, but besides that, there were three main reasons for their victory:
War veterans. Many Israelis had fought in Allied armies; in fact, the British had put together a “Jewish Brigade” made of Palestinian Jews, which served in Europe. more importantly, you had the Partizans, veterans of the brutal underground fights in Eastern Erope against the Nazis. These were people who knew how to take down a tank with a molotov cocktail - a very useful skill.
Volunteers. A substantial number of international soldiers and ex-soldiers came to Israel duing the war, some Jewish, some not. Many were zionists, a few were mercenaries, some were simply romantcs, and they helped set up the professional core of the IDF. A good example is Mickey Marcus, a U.S. Army major and West Point grad, who came to Israel in '48 and was crucial in setting up the IDF’s logistics corps.
Sorry, forgot one:
- Orde Wingate. Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of him - he’s a legend among certain military historians and more or less unknown to the general public. Wingate was a British officer, military genius, and certified lunatic whose most well-known act was to found and lead the Chindits, a special infantry unit operating behind Japanese lines in Indochina, and possibly the best fighters in the Pacific Theater.
In the 1930’s, during the first stage of the guerilla warfare between Arabs and Jews, Wingate was stationed as an intelligence officer in Palestine. Very sympathetic to the Zionists, Wingate decided - more or less independently - to train a group of volunteers in some new, unorthodox infantry tactics he’d developed. These “Night Companies” were a huge success, breaking new ground in light, “special-ops” warfare, and their veterans - led by Yigal Alon and the great Moshe Dayan - went on to found the Palmach, the militia which was to form the core of the IDF.