CREATION OF ISRAEL, MAY 14 1948 ________________________________________
UNITED NATIONS PALESTINE PARTITION PLAN
(1) The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a proposal by the United Nations, which recommended a partition of Mandatory Palestine at the end of the British Mandate. On 29 November 1947, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Plan as Resolution 181
The resolution recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. The Partition Plan, a four-part document attached to the resolution, provided for the termination of the Mandate, the progressive withdrawal of British armed forces and the delineation of boundaries between the two States and Jerusalem. Part I of the Plan stipulated that the Mandate would be terminated as soon as possible and the United Kingdom would withdraw no later than 1 August 1948. The new states would come into existence two months after the withdrawal, but no later than 1 October 1948. The Plan sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims of two competing movements, Palestinian nationalism and Jewish nationalism, or Zionism. The Plan also called for Economic Union between the proposed states, and for the protection of religious and minority rights.
The Plan was accepted by the Jewish Agency for Palestine, despite its perceived limitations. Arab leaders and governments rejected it and indicated an unwillingness to accept any form of territorial division, arguing that it violated the principles of national self-determination in the UN charter which granted people the right to decide their own destiny.
Immediately after adoption of the Resolution by the General Assembly, a civil war broke out and the plan was not implemented.
(2) UNITED NATIONS RESOLUTION 181
United Nations Resolution 181, resolution passed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1947 that called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the city of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum (Latin: “separate entity”) to be governed by a special international regime. The resolution—which was considered by the Jewish community in Palestine to be a legal basis for the establishment of Israel, and which was rejected by the Arab community—was succeeded almost immediately by violence.
Palestine had been governed by Great Britain since 1922. Since that time, Jewish immigration to the region had increased, and tensions between Arabs and Jews had grown. In April 1947, exhausted by World War II and increasingly intent upon withdrawing from the Middle East region, Britain referred the issue of Palestine to the UN. To investigate a suitable course of action, the UN formed the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), an inquiry committee made up of members from 11 countries. Ultimately, UNSCOP delivered two proposals: that of the majority, which recommended two separate states joined economically, and that of the minority, which supported the formation of a single binational state made up of autonomous Jewish and Palestinian areas. The Jewish community approved of the first of these proposals, while the Arabs opposed them both and instead suggested a single secular democratic state in Palestine with citizens receiving equal rights. A counterproposal—including a provision that only those Jews who had arrived before the Balfour Declaration (and their descendents) would be citizens of the state—did not win Jewish favour.
The proposal to partition Palestine, based on a modified version of the UNSCOP majority report, was put to a General Assembly vote on Nov. 29, 1947. The fate of the proposal was initially uncertain, but after a period of intense lobbying by pro-Jewish groups and individuals, the resolution was passed with 33 votes in favour, 13 against, and 10 abstentions.
(3) The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an internationalised city.
Jewish representatives in Palestine (the Jewish Agency) accepted the plan tactically - though with reluctance - because it implied international recognition for their aims of establishing a state, but on lesser territory than they considered a legal and historical right to.
The Palestinians and Arabs felt that it was a deep injustice to ignore the rights of the majority of the population of Palestine. The Arab League and Palestinian institutions rejected the partition plan, and formed volunteer armies that infiltrated into Palestine beginning in December of 1947.
(Correction 15 April 2014: This page has been amended to make clear the position of the Jewish Agency toward the Partition Plan.)
Summary of UN General Assembly Resolution 181, November 29, 1947
The territory of Palestine should be divided as follows:
A Jewish State covering 56.47% of Mandatory Palestine (excluding Jerusalem) with a population of 498,000 Jews and 325,000 Arabs;
An Arab State covering 43.53% of Mandatory Palestine (excluding Jerusalem), with 807,000 Arab inhabitants and 10,000 Jewish inhabitants;
An international trusteeship regime in Jerusalem, where the population was 100,000 Jews and 105,000 Arabs.
The partition plan also laid down:
A guarantee of the rights of minorities and religious rights, including free access to and the preservation of Holy Places;
A constitution of an Economic Union between the two states: custom union, joint monetary system, joint administration of main services, equal access to water and energy resources.
The General Assembly also proposed:
A two-month interim period beginning 1 August 1948, date of expiry of the mandate when the British troops were to be evacuated, with a zone including a port to be evacuated in the territory of the Jewish State by 1 February;
A five-country Commission (Bolivia, Denmark, Panama, Philippines, Czechoslovakia) in charge of the administration of the regions evacuated by Great Britain, of establishing the frontiers of the two states and of setting up in each of them a Provisional Council of Government;
The gradual take-over of the administration by the Provisional Council of Government in both States, and the organization of democratic elections for a Constituent Assembly within two months.
(4) The result was as follows following intense lobbying by the Jewish and Arab sides. Examples are given at
FOR THE RESOLUTION (33) - Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, South Africa, Uruguay, the Soviet Union, the United States, Venezuela, White Russia.
AGAINST (13) - Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.
ABSTENTIONS (10) - Argentina, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia.
ABSENT (1) - Siam.
(5) CREATION OF ISRAEL, 1948
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the new nation on the same day.
Eliahu Elath presenting an ark containing the Torah to President Truman
(The Torah is Judaism’s most important text. It is composed of the Five Books of Moses, the 613 commandments (mitzvot) and the Ten Commandments.
The word “Torah” means “to teach.”)
Although the United States supported the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which favored the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had assured the Arabs in 1945 that the United States would not intervene without consulting both the Jews and the Arabs in that region. The British, who held a colonial mandate for Palestine until May 1948, opposed both the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine as well as unlimited immigration of Jewish refugees to the region. Great Britain wanted to preserve good relations with the Arabs to protect its vital political and economic interests in Palestine.
Soon after President Truman took office, he appointed several experts to study the Palestinian issue. In the summer of 1946, Truman established a special cabinet committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Henry F. Grady, an Assistant Secretary of State, who entered into negotiations with a parallel British committee to discuss the future of Palestine. In May 1946, Truman announced his approval of a recommendation to admit 100,000 displaced persons into Palestine and in October publicly declared his support for the creation of a Jewish state. Throughout 1947, the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine examined the Palestinian question and recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. On November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948 when the British mandate was scheduled to end. Under the resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain a corpus separatum under international control administered by the United Nations.
Although the United States backed Resolution 181, the U.S. Department of State recommended the creation of a United Nations trusteeship with limits on Jewish immigration and a division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab provinces but not states. The State Department, concerned about the possibility of an increasing Soviet role in the Arab world and the potential for restriction by Arab oil producing nations of oil supplies to the United States, advised against U.S. intervention on behalf of the Jews. Later, as the date for British departure from Palestine drew near, the Department of State grew concerned about the possibility of an all-out war in Palestine as Arab states threatened to attack almost as soon as the UN passed the partition resolution.
Despite growing conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews and despite the Department of State’s endorsement of a trusteeship, Truman ultimately decided to recognize the state Israel.
(6)The 1948 Arab–Israeli War or the First Arab–Israeli War was fought between the State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states. In Hebrew it is known as The War of Independence (Hebrew: מלחמת העצמאות, Milkhemet Ha'Atzma'ut) or the War of Liberation (Hebrew: מלחמת השחרור, Milkhemet HaShikhrur). This war formed the second stage of the 1948 Palestine war, known in Arabic as The Nakba or Catastrophe (Arabic: النكبة, al-Nakba).
There had been tension and conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, and between each of them and the British forces, ever since the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1920 creation of the British Mandate of Palestine. British policies dissatisfied both Arabs and Jews. The Arabs' opposition developed into the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, while the Jewish resistance developed into the Jewish insurgency in Palestine (1944–1947). In 1947 these ongoing tensions erupted into civil war, following the 29 November 1947 adoption of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine which planned to divide Palestine into three areas: an Arab state, a Jewish state and the Special International Regime for the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
On 15 May 1948 the ongoing civil war transformed into an inter-state conflict between Israel and the Arab states, following the Israeli Declaration of Independence the previous day. A combined invasion by Egypt, Jordan and Syria, together with expeditionary forces from Iraq, entered Palestine - Jordan having declared privately to Yishuv emissaries on 2 May it would abide by a decision not to attack the Jewish state. The invading forces took control of the Arab areas and immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements. The 10 months of fighting, interrupted by several truce periods, took place mostly on the former territory of the British Mandate and for a short time also in the Sinai Peninsula and southern Lebanon.
As a result of the war the State of Israel retained the area that the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 had recommended for the proposed Jewish state as well as almost 60% of the area of Arab state proposed by the 1948 Partition Plan, including the Jaffa, Lydda and Ramle area, Galilee, some parts of the Negev, a wide strip along the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem road, West Jerusalem, and some territories in the West Bank. Transjordan took control of the remainder of the former British mandate, which it annexed, and the Egyptian military took control of the Gaza Strip. At the Jericho Conference on 1 December 1948, 2,000 Palestinian delegates called for unification of Palestine & Transjordan as a step toward full Arab unity." No state was created for the Palestinian Arabs.
The conflict triggered significant demographic change throughout the Middle East. Around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel and they became Palestinian refugees. In the three years following the war, about 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel with many of them having been expelled from their previous countries of residence in the Middle East.