The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a proposal by the United Nations, which would end the British mandate in the area and proposed a partition of Palestine. The UN General Assembly adopted the plan as Resolution 181.
This convoluted plan recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. With bizarre boundaries and the withdrawal of the British Mandate no later than August 1, 1948, the progressive removal of British armed forces, the plan never had a chance of succeeding.
The two new states, one Jewish and one Arab would come into existence two months after the withdrawal but no later than October 1, 1948. The UN had hoped to address the conflicting claims of Palestinian and Jewish nationalism and called for an Economic Union between the two states, as well as the protection of religious and minority rights.
The Jewish Agency for Palestine immediately accepted the UN’s plan despite many misgivings. However Arab leaders rejected it. Their argument was that the UN was violating its own principles of the right of self-determination in the UN Charter.
The UN plan, which never had any hope of succeeding was never implemented because as soon as the resolution was adopted, civil war broke out between the Jews and Arabs with the British squarely in the middle.
The Palestinian Mandate: The British had broken up the Ottoman Turk Empire at the end of World War I, and in 1923 drafted the Balfour Declaration which called for a small Jewish homeland
In 1937, after a six-month-long Arab general strike and armed insurrection, the British established the Peel Commission. The Commission recommended breaking up the land into an Arab state linked to Transjordan; a small Jewish state; and a mandatory zone. The Jewish faction under David Ben Gurion accepted the plan, the Arabs once again roundly rejected it stating that the divided land share was unfair to the Jews getting the best agricultural land.
The British followed with the Woodhead Commission which rejected and provided two possible alternatives for the Arabs and Jews to consider. Nothing was working and the two sides were drifting farther apart. In 1938 the British government issued a policy statement declaring that “the political, administrative and financial difficulties involved in the proposal to create independent Arab and Jewish States inside Palestine are so great that this solution of the problem is impracticable”.
World War II: With the war with Germany and the Axis looming, the British looked to appease the Arabs as they would need their support in the war’s southern reaches in the oil-rich Middle East and for control of the Mediterranean. The MacDonald White Paper of 1939 stated that it is “not part of [the British government’s] policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State”, sought to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine and restricted Arab land sales to Jews. This ran against the Mandate according to the League of Nations. With the pogroms against the Jews in Europe rising, many were seeking to move to Palestine but the British were trying to stem immigration and much of it ended up being illegal.
The Jews didn’t trust the Arab leaders who were against any kind of Jewish homeland at all. And then there was the Grand Mufti.
The Grand Mufti of Palestine visited Hitler in 1941 and was seeking German support for a general Arab uprising. However, he didn’t stop there, he asked Hitler and Mussolini to declare the illegality of the Jewish home in Palestine. He also asked, “they accord to Palestine and to other Arab countries the right to solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries, in accordance with the interest of the Arabs and, by the same method, that the question is now being settled in the Axis countries.”
That sounded ominously to the Jews as the Mufti wanting to eradicate the Jews from the land forever. After the war and the awful details of the Holocaust surfaced, President Truman asked the British to allow 100,000 Jewish emigres to travel to Palestine.
In May 1947, the UN formed a special body, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). The committee proposed breaking Palestine into three parts: an Arab State, a Jewish State and the City of Jerusalem, linked by extraterritorial crossroads. From Wikipedia UNSCOP:
The proposed Arab State would include the central and part of western Galilee, with the town of Acre, the hill country of Samaria and Judea, an enclave at Jaffa, and the southern coast stretching from north of Isdud (now Ashdod) and encompassing what is now the Gaza Strip, with a section of desert along the Egyptian border. The proposed Jewish State would include the fertile Eastern Galilee, the Coastal Plain, stretching from Haifa to Rehovot and most of the Negev desert, including the southern outpost of Umm Rashrash (now Eilat). The Jerusalem Corpus Separatum included Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.
Post War Partition and War: The Partition Plan after being voted on by the UN caused massive outbreaks of violence between Palestinian Jews and Arabs known as the 1947-1948 Civil War. The British, tired of the issues there, washed their hands of the area and left in May of 1948. With the British army gone, it created a massive power vacuum and chaos ensued.
On that night, May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council met and declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel”
The next day on May 15, the tiny nation, less than 24 hours old, was attacked by a coalition of the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, together with expeditionary forces from Iraq.
The Israelis persevered against great odds and now controlled a much larger swath of territory than was previously allowed by the partition. The remainder of Palestine was annexed by Transjordan and the Palestinians were never given their homeland by the other Arab neighbors.
And peace remains a tricky issue in the area ever since.
Photos courtesy: Wikipedia