Israeli Independence puts you in the role of overall commander of the Jewish forces trying to carve out a nation in the aftermath of WW2 and the Holocaust. For good or for bad, they did so largely on the backs of the Palestinians, who had lived in the region for centuries and were in the process of obtaining independence of their own from the British, who controlled the mandate in the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after WW1 ended. I will not go into the political elements of whether this is a "good" game in that sense any further than to say that I would like to see a full treatment on the conflict that attempted to give both sides an equitable say in how things went. Certainly everyone in Western culture has been paying for the instability in the Middle East since the discovery of large oil deposits there, and yet we as Americans really don't have the vaguest idea of how Israel came to be (or, really, why) unless we have a horse in the race. I certainly don't.
That said, even were this a two-player game, you aren't going to get a lot of insight into the conflict from playing this game, at least not unless you read the flavor text on the cards. To be honest, I don't think of II as so much of a wargame as a history lesson. The game could just as easily be played using a 5x5 grid of squares with some stones and a little artwork to differentiate some spaces. Because the entire game consists of the five Arab armies (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt) trying to invade Palestine/Israel and take West Jerusalem, and they do that simply by moving along five separate tracks, one for each army. If any of the armies make it to Jerusalem, it will be "next year in Brooklyn". Of course, given that you play the Israelis, that would mean you lose.
Play is astonishingly simple. The game comes with a deck of 24 cards, of which two are reserved for the "advanced" game. You shuffle the 22 cards, put the five armies in their starting locations, and off you go. In a given turn, you turn over a card, which has a title corresponding to a period or event that happened during the war. I recommend if you play that you take the time to read the flavor text describing the period or event, as it's really all the history you'll get. The next section tells you which Arab armies advance (or retreat, in a couple of cases), sometimes based on the shape of the space they currently occupy (round or square). Once you've done this, you can take a set number of Offensives against the armies, in which you roll a d6. If the number you roll is higher than the number on the army, it retreats one space, otherwise it stays in place. There are frequently DRMs against or for this number specific to the card, so occasionally you'll get bonuses against a specific army (or nerfs against all of your offensives).
Repeat until either an Arab army reaches Jerusalem, or else you work through all of the cards. If you do the latter, you win. And that's it.
There are also three "Israeli Offensive" counters that go with an optional rule. You can use these each once per game to take an extra offensive (without any of the drms or other unique elements of the card-based offensives). It's a good idea to wait until the Arab army is right at your door to do this, of course.
Lebanon and Iraq also have situations where they are removed from the game if they are in their initial position after the Offensives. Obviously, you want to try to achieve this if you can.
There is also an expansion set that adds more cards, gives a couple of extra rules, and lists the cards if you want to play a "historical" game with the events in chronological order. I have not played with the extra cards yet, but did play in historical order (with the basic 22 card deck) for my first game. There are also rules for building a deck based on the degree of difficulty you want, as the card numbers are in three colors based on the smackage they lay down.
While I wouldn't call this a wargame in most circles, it is a pretty engaging and quick little game. Obviously, your decisions come down solely to when to use your "extra" offensives (I highly recommend that rule) as well as how to divvy up the offensives on the card. There's nothing like rolling against Egypt, who is knocking on the door, three times and coming up empty every time, especially if Syria is right on the other side of the city. As such, there's really no "perfect strategy" other than knowing that Syria and Egypt are the aggressive states attacking, and most of the game will come down to how lucky you get based on the degree of difficulty.
That said, it's pretty fun for a 10-15 minute game. If you take the counters (eight total!), a die, and the cards with you on a plane, you can most certainly play on your tray table if you have a piece of paper to track the Arab advances on (and know which spaces are circular).
On the other hand, if your politics in the situation leans toward the Arabs, or if you're expecting a game rather than a diversion, it's probably not a good purchase for you. The price is right - I think the whole thing, expansion and all, was less than $15. The art is very nice, and the rules are very clear (how could they not be?), and there's even a little dissertation in the package on designing and playing wargames, as this is part of VPGs Battlesson series, intended for novices to the hobby.
Me, I'm glad I got it. If nothing else, there will come a day when I play it on an airplane sitting next to an Arab and I'll have an extremely interesting conversation as a result.