1947 UN Partition Plan

1947 UN Partition Plan

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The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was created by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine was formed in May 1947 in response to a United Kingdom government request that the General Assembly "make recommendations under article 10 of the Charter, concerning the future government of Palestine"...

 in 1947 to replace the British Mandate for Palestine with "Independent Arab and Jewish States" and a "Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem" administered by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 29 November 1947 as Resolution 181.

Under the plan, the Mandate would be terminated as soon as possible, and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 would evacuate Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 no later than the previously announced date of 1 August 1948. The new states would come into existence two months after the evacuation, but no later than 1 October 1948. The plan sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims of two competing movements, Jewish nationalism (Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

) and Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 nationalism. The plan included a detailed description of the recommended boundaries for each proposed state. The plan also called for an economic union between the proposed states, and for the protection of religious and minority rights.

The proposed plan was accepted by the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine, through the Jewish Agency. The plan was rejected by leaders of the Arab community (the Palestine Arab Higher Committee etc.), who were supported in their rejection by the states of the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...


Under the plan, a transitional period under United Nations auspices was to begin with the adoption of the resolution, and last until the establishment of the two states. On the UN adoption of the Resolution Civil War
1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine
The 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine lasted from 30 November 1947, the date of the United Nations vote in favour of the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the UN Partition Plan, to the termination of the British Mandate itself on 14 May 1948.This period constitutes the...

 broke out . On 11 December 1947 Britain announced the Mandate would end at midnight 14th May 1948 and its sole task would be to complete withdrawal by 1 August 1948. On May 14th, an independent state of Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 was declared "from the moment of the termination of the Mandate". The 1948 Arab–Israeli War began on the Invasion of Palestine by the Arab States on the 15th May 1948.

Competing Jewish and Arab claims

In the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, Great Britain agreed to "recognize and support the independence of the Arabs within" a large portion of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, including Palestine. In exchange, the Arabs agreed to revolt against the Ottomans. In November 1917, the British Foreign Office issued the Balfour Declaration
Balfour Declaration
The Balfour Declaration may refer to:* Balfour Declaration of 1917, a letter from Arthur Balfour on "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people"...

, which expressed British support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. Based in part on these arguably contradictory promises, both Jews and Arabs came to believe that the British had promised them an independent state in Palestine.

The Paris Peace Conference
Paris Peace Conference
Paris Peace Conference may refer to:* Paris Peace Conference, 1919, negotiated the treaties ending World War I* Paris Peace Conference, 1946 July 29 to October 15, 1946See also...

 (including the Treaty of Sèvres
Treaty of Sèvres
The Treaty of Sèvres was the peace treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Allies at the end of World War I. The Treaty of Versailles was signed with Germany before this treaty to annul the German concessions including the economic rights and enterprises. Also, France, Great Britain and Italy...

), and the San Remo Conference
San Remo conference
The San Remo Conference was an international meeting of the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council, held in Sanremo, Italy, from 19 to 26 April 1920. It was attended by the four Principal Allied Powers of World War I who were represented by the prime ministers of Britain , France and Italy and...

, laid the foundations for the British Mandate of Palestine. After much debate concerning Jewish and Arab claims to the land, the following compromise language acknowledging the Balfour Declaration was included in the Mandate: "Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, and to the grounds for reconstituting their National Home in that country." On 24 July 1922, the Mandate was approved by the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

. On 16 September 1922 the League approved the Transjordan memorandum
Transjordan memorandum
The Transjordan memorandum was a British memorandum passed by the Council of the League of Nations on September 16, 1922. The memorandum described how the British government planned to implement the article of the Mandate for Palestine which allowed exclusion of Transjordan from the provisions...

 exempting the portions of the Mandate east of the Jordan River from the provisions concerning a Jewish National Home and Immigration. This territory eventually became the nation of Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...


Early proposals for partition

Increased Jewish immigration and rising Arab nationalist sentiment led to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, prompting the creation of The British Peel Commission
Peel Commission
The Peel Commission of 1936-1937, formally known as the Palestine Royal Commission, was a British Royal Commission of Inquiry set out to propose changes to the British Mandate of Palestine following the outbreak of the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine...


On 7 July 1937, the Peel Commission proposed a Palestine divided into a small Jewish state (about 15%), a much larger Arab state, and an international zone. The Arab leadership rejected the plan. The Jewish Agency also rejected the borders in the British plan, but established their own committees on borders and population transfer so that they could offer an alternative plan of their own. Both of the proposals contained provisions for the relocation of Arab population to areas outside the borders of the new Jewish state, modeled on the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey was based upon religious identity, and involved the Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey and the Muslim citizens of Greece...

. These proposals were rejected by the Arab side.

The British Woodhead Commission
Woodhead Commission
The Woodhead Commission, properly known as the Palestine Partition Commission, was established in 1938 in the British Mandate of Palestine to investigate the implementation of the Peel Commission's plan for a partition of Palestine....

 was charged with investigating the implementation of the Peel Plan. They considered several additional plans for partition. On 9 November 1938, based largely on the Woodhead Commission's work, 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", and inviting representatives of Arabs and Jews to London for additional talks regarding Palestine. These talks, known as the St. James Conference
St. James Conference
The St. James Conference was held from February 7 to March 17 in 1939 in the St James's Palace in London.It was held by Malcolm MacDonald, the British colonial secretary, to discuss with Arabs and Jews to determine the future of the region. The meeting ended without result on 17 March 1939...

, were unsuccessful.

With war
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 looming, and Britain needing to shore up Arab support and access to oil, Parliament approved the MacDonald White Paper on 17 May 1939. The White Paper declared "unequivocally that it is not part of [the British government's] policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State" and sought to eliminate Jewish immigration to Palestine. This was seen as a contradiction of the terms of the Mandate (according to which, the government of Palestine "shall facilitate Jewish immigration"), and an anti-humanitarian catastrophe, in light of the increasing persecution in Europe
Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and also Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938.Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and...


Jewish reaction to the White Paper was varied. The Jewish Agency, which represented the mainstream Zionist leadership, still hoped to persuade the British to restore Jewish immigration rights, and cooperated with the British in the war against Fascism. Aliyah Bet was organized to spirit Jews out of Nazi controlled Europe, despite the British prohibitions. The White Paper also led to the formation of Lehi
Lehi refers to:In Mormonism:* Lehi , a prophet in the Book of Mormon of the 7th-6th centuries BC* Lehi, son of Helaman, another prophet in the Book of Mormon of the late 1st century BC...

, a small Jewish terrorist organization which opposed the British during most of the war.

UN Involvement

After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, despite pressure to allow the immigration of large numbers of Jewish Holocaust survivors to Palestine, the British maintained limits on Jewish immigration imposed in the aftermath of the 1936–1939 Arab revolt. In response, the Jewish community began to wage increased campaigns of illegal immigration and armed resistance
Jewish Resistance Movement
The Jewish Resistance Movement , sometimes called United Resistance Movement , was an umbrella group for Jewish Resistance movements in the British Mandate of Palestine...

. These and United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 pressure to end the anti-immigration policy led to the establishment of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry
Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry
The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was a joint British and American attempt in 1946 to agree upon a policy as regards the admission of Jews to Palestine. The Committee was tasked to consult representative Arabs and Jews on the problems of Palestine, and to make other recommendations 'as may be...

. In April 1946, the committee reached a unanimous decision. The Committee approved the American condition of the immediate acceptance of 100,000 Jewish refugees from Europe into Palestine. It also recommended that there be no Arab, and no Jewish State. US President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 angered the British government by issuing, without forewarning, a statement supporting the 100,000 refugees, but refusing to acknowledge the rest of the committee's findings. The British government had conditioned the implementation of the report's recommendations on the US providing assistance if force would be required to do so, but that was not offered. The US War Department had issued an earlier report which stated that an open-ended US troop commitment of 300,000 personnel would be necessary to assist the British government in maintaining order against an Arab revolt.

On 7 February 1947, Britain announced its intent to terminate the Mandate for Palestine. On 2 April 1947, Britain formally asked the United Nations to make recommendations regarding the future government of Palestine. On 15 May 1947, the UN appointed the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine was formed in May 1947 in response to a United Kingdom government request that the General Assembly "make recommendations under article 10 of the Charter, concerning the future government of Palestine"...

 (UNSCOP), composed of representatives from eleven states. To make the committee more neutral, none of the Great Power
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

s were represented. The UNSCOP spent three months conducting hearings and a general survey of the situation in Palestine.

On 18 July 1947, the SS Exodus, a ship packed with Holocaust Survivors wanting to immigrate to Palestine, arrived off the coast. The ship was intercepted by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and a struggle ensued in which two passengers and a crew member died. UNSCOP members watched as the Exodus passengers were forcibly transferred to ships bound for France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. The passengers refused to disembark in France, and the British ultimately decided to transfer the passengers to Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. The voyage resulted in spectacularly bad press for the British and was followed by UNSCOP members as they deliberated in Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...


On 31 August 1947, the UNSCOP officially released its report. The only unanimous recommendation was that the United Kingdom terminate their mandate for Palestine and grant it independence at the earliest possible date. A majority of nations (Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

, Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

) recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem to be placed under international administration. A minority (India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

) supported the creation of a federal union (composed of an Arab state and a Jewish state) based upon the US Constitutional model.

Proposed division

The two states envisioned in the UNSCOP plan were each composed of three major sections, linked by extraterritorial crossroad
Extraterritorial crossroad
In a country that is split into two or more non-adjacent parts, with another country in between, an extraterritorial crossroad is a strip of land that formally belongs to neither country, or with other special arrangements. Often these strips of land are to be formally administered by the United...

s. The Jewish state would receive the Coastal Plain, stretching from Haifa
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

 to Rehovot
Rehovot is a city in the Center District of Israel, about south of Tel Aviv. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics , at the end of 2009 the city had a total population of 112,700. Rehovot's official website estimates the population at 114,000.Rehovot was built on the site of Doron,...

, the Eastern Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 (surrounding the Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias , is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately in circumference, about long, and wide. The lake has a total area of , and a maximum depth of approximately 43 m...

 and including the Galilee panhandle) and the Negev, including the southern outpost of Umm Rashrash (now Eilat). The Arab state would receive the Western Galilee, with the town of Acre, the hill country of Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

 and Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

, and the southern coast stretching from north of Isdud (now Ashdod) and encompassing what is now the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

, with a section of desert along the Egyptian border. The Corpus Separatum included Jerusalem, Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

, and the surrounding areas.

The plan tried its best to accommodate as many Jews as possible into the Jewish state. In many specific cases, this meant including areas of Arab majority (but with a significant Jewish minority) in the Jewish state. Thus the Jewish State would have an overall large Arab minority. Areas that were sparsely populated (like the Negev), were also included in the Jewish state to create room for immigration in order to relieve the "Jewish Problem". According to the plan, Jews and Arabs living in the Jewish state would become citizens of the Jewish state and Jews and Arabs living in the Arab state would become citizens of the Arab state.

The UNSCOP plan would have had the following demographics (data based on 1945). This data does not reflect the actual land ownership by Jews, local Arabs, Ottomans and other land owners. This data also excludes the land designated to Arabs in Transjordan
The Emirate of Transjordan was a former Ottoman territory in the Southern Levant that was part of the British Mandate of Palestine...

Territory Arab and other population % Arab and other Jewish population % Jewish >|- Arab State 725,000 99% 10,000 1% 735,000
Jewish State 407,000 45% 498,000 55% 905,000
International 105,000 51% 100,000 49% 205,000
Total 1,237,000 67% 608,000 33% 1,845,000
Data from the Report of UNSCOP — 1947

The land allocated to the Arab state in the final plan included about 43% of Mandatory Palestine and consisted of all of the highlands, except for Jerusalem, plus one third of the coastline. The highlands contain the major aquifers of Palestine, which supplied water to the coastal cities of central Palestine, including Tel Aviv. The Jewish state was to receive 56% of Mandatory Palestine, a slightly larger area to accommodate the increasing numbers of Jews who would immigrate there. The state included three fertile lowland plains — the Sharon
Sharon, Israel
The Sharon Plain is the northern half of the coastal plain of Israel. Its largest city is Netanya.The Plain lies between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the Samarian Hills, to the east. It stretches from Haifa and Mount Carmel in the north to the Yarkon River in the south, at the edge of...

 on the coast, the Jezreel Valley
Jezreel Valley
-Etymology:The Jezreel Valley takes its name from the ancient city of Jezreel which was located on a low hill overlooking the southern edge of the valley, though some scholars think that the name of the city originates from the name of the clan which founded it, and whose existence is mentioned in...

 and the upper Jordan Valley
Jordan Valley (Middle East)
The Jordan Valley forms part of the larger Jordan Rift Valley. It is 120 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, where it runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south. It runs for an additional 155 kilometer south of the Dead Sea to Aqaba, an area also known as Wadi...

. The bulk of the proposed Jewish State's territory, however, consisted of the Negev Desert. The desert was not suitable for agriculture, nor for urban development at that time. The Jewish state was also given sole access to the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...



A number of changes were made to the plan before it was voted on by the General Assembly.

The predominantly Arab city of Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

, previously located within the Jewish state, was constituted as an enclave of the Arab State.

The Bedouin settlement and population figures were revised in a report submitted by a representative of the government of the United Kingdom on 1 November 1947. The Palestine Administration conducted an investigation and used the Royal Air Force to perform an aerial survey of the Beersheba District. They reported that the Bedouins had the greater part of two million dunams under cereal grain production. The administration counted 3,389 Bedouin houses together with 8,722 tents.
The report explained that:
"It should be noted that the term Beersheba Bedouin has a meaning more definite than one would expect in the case of a nomad population. These tribes, wherever they are found in Palestine, will always describe themselves as Beersheba tribes. Their attachment to the area arises from their land rights there and their historic association with it."

On the basis of that investigation, the Palestine Administration estimated the Bedouin population at approximately 127,000. The report noted that the earlier population "estimates must, however, be corrected in the light of the information furnished to the Sub-Committee by the representative of the United Kingdom regarding the Bedouin population. According to the statement, 22,000 Bedouins may be taken as normally residing in the areas allocated to the Arab State under the UNSCOP's majority plan, and the balance of 105,000 as resident in the proposed Jewish State. It will thus be seen that the proposed Jewish State will contain a total population of 1,008,800, consisting of 509,780 Arabs and 499,020 Jews. In other words, at the outset, the Arabs will have a majority in the proposed Jewish State." The boundary of the Arab state was modified to include Beersheba
Beersheba is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the seventh-largest city in Israel with a population of 194,300....

 and a large section of the Negev
The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The Arabs, including the native Bedouin population of the region, refer to the desert as al-Naqab. The origin of the word Neghebh is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'...

 desert within the Arab State while a section of the Dead Sea
Dead Sea
The Dead Sea , also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth's surface. The Dead Sea is deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world...

 shore was added to the Jewish State.

The proposed boundaries would also have placed 54 Arab villages on the opposite side of the border from their farm land. In response, the United Nations Palestine Commission
United Nations Palestine Commission
The United Nations Palestine Commission was created by United Nations Resolution 181. It was responsible for implementing the UN Partition Plan of Palestine and acting as the Provisional Government of Palestine...

 was empowered to modify the boundaries "in such a way that village areas as a rule will not be divided by state boundaries unless pressing reasons make that necessary". These modifications never occurred.

Jewish reaction

The majority of the Jewish groups, and the Jewish Agency subsequently announced their acceptance of the proposed Jewish State, and by implication the proposed international zone, and Arab State. However, it had been stipulated that the implementation of the plan did not make the establishment of one state or territory dependent on the establishment of the others.

The Jewish Agency criticized the UNSCOP majority proposal concerning Jerusalem, saying that the Jewish section of modern Jerusalem (outside the Walled City) should be included in the Jewish State. During his testimony Ben Gurion indicated that he accepted the principle of partition, but stipulated: "'To partition,' according to the Oxford dictionary, means 'to divide a thing into two parts'. Palestine is divided into three parts, and only in a small part are the Jews allowed to live. We are against that."

A minority of extreme nationalist Jewish groups like Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

's Irgun Tsvai Leumi
The Irgun , or Irgun Zevai Leumi to give it its full title , was a Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the earlier and larger Jewish paramilitary organization haHaganah...

 and the Lehi
Lehi (group)
Lehi , commonly referred to in English as the Stern Group or Stern Gang, was a militant Zionist group founded by Avraham Stern in the British Mandate of Palestine...

 (known as the Stern Gang), which had been fighting the British, rejected the plan. Begin warned that the partition would not bring peace because the Arabs would also attack the small state and that "in the war ahead we'll have to stand on our own, it will be a war on our existence and future".

Numerous records indicate the joy of Palestine's Jewish inhabitants as they attended to the U.N. session voting for the division proposal. Up to this day, Israeli history books mention November 29 (the date of this session) as the most important date in Israel's acquisition of independence, and many Israeli cities commemorate the date in their streets' names. However, Jews did criticize the lack of territorial continuity for the Jewish state.

Mehran Kamrava says Israeli sources often cite Jewish acceptance and Arab rejection of the U.N. partition plan as an example of the Zionists' desire for peaceful diplomacy and the Arabs' determination to wage war on the Jews. But he notes that more recent documentary analysis and interpretation of events leading up to and following the creation of the state of Israel fundamentally challenged many of the "myths" of what had actually happened in 1947 and 1948." Simha Flapan wrote that it was a myth that Zionists accepted the UN partition and planned for peace, and that it was also a myth that Arabs rejected partition and launched a war.

Chaim Weizmann commented on outside Arab interference with earlier partition proposals. He noted that Arab states, like Egypt and Iraq, had no legal standing in Palestinian affairs. During the 1947 General Assembly Special Session on Palestine "The Egyptian representative explained, in reply to various statements, that the Arab States did not represent the Palestinian Arab population." Avi Plascov says that the Arab countries had no intention of permitting the Palestinians a decisive role in the war or establishing a Palestinian state. He notes that the Arab Higher Committee (AHC) could not carry out its decisions and could not count on local Palestinian support.

Arab reaction

The Arab leadership (in and out of Palestine) opposed partition and claimed all of Palestine. The Arabs argued that it violated the rights of the majority of the people in Palestine, which at the time was 67% non-Jewish (1,237,000) and 33% Jewish (608,000).

Arab leaders threatened the Jewish population of Palestine, speaking of "driving the Jews into the sea" and ridding Palestine "of the Zionist Plague". Azzam Pasha
Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam
Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam ‎ was an Egyptian diplomat, with family origins in Egypt. He served as the first secretary-general of the Arab League between 1945 and 1952.Azzam also had a long career as an ambassador and parliamentarian...

, the General Secretary of the Arab League, "describing the fate of the Jews" declared: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades". On 20 May 1948, Azzam told reporters "We are fighting for an Arab Palestine. Whatever the outcome the Arabs will stick to their offer of equal citizenship for Jews in Arab Palestine and let them be as Jewish as they like. In areas where they predominate they will have complete autonomy."

John Wolffe says that while Zionists tend to attribute Palestinian rejection of the plan to a mere intransigence, Arabs have always reiterated that it was rejected because it was unfair: it gave the majority of the land (56 percent) to the Jews, who at that stage legally owned only 7 percent of it, and remained a minority of the population. Mehran Kamrava also notes the disproportionate allocation under the plan, and adds that the area under Jewish control contained 45 percent of the Palestinian population. The proposed Arab state was only given 45 percent of the land, much of which was unfit for agriculture. Jaffa, though geographically separated, was to be part of the Arab state. Eugene Bovis says that the Jewish leadership had rejected an earlier partition proposal because they felt it didn't allocate enough territory to the proposed Jewish state.

Ian Bickerton says that few Palestinian Arabs joined the Arab Liberation Army because they suspected that the other Arab States did not plan on an independent Palestinian state. Bickerton says for that reason many Palestinians favored partition and indicated a willingness to live alongside a Jewish state. He also mentions that the Nashashibi family backed King Abdullah and union with Transjordan. Abdullah appointed Ibrahim Hashem Pasha as the Governor of the Arab areas occupied by troops of the Arab League. He was a former Prime Minister of Transjordan who supported partition of Palestine as proposed by the Peel Commission and the United Nations. Fakhri Nashashibi and Ragheb Bey Nashashibi were leaders of the movement that opposed the Mufti during the mandate period. Both men accepted partition. Bey was the mayor of Jerusalem. He resigned from the Arab Higher Committee because he accepted the United Nations partition proposal. Fu’ad Nasar, the Secretary of Arab Workers Congress, also accepted partition. The United States declined to recognize the All-Palestine government in Gaza by explaining that it had accepted the UN Mediator's proposal. The Mediator had recommended that Palestine, as defined in the original Mandate including Transjordan, might form a union. Bernadotte's diary said the Mufti had lost credibility on account of his unrealistic predictions regarding the defeat of the Jewish militias. Bernadotte noted "It would seem as though in existing circumstances most of the Palestinian Arabs would be quite content to be incorporated in Transjordan."

British reaction

The plan was vigorously debated in the British parliament. Thomas Reid
Thomas Reid (British politician)
Thomas Reid was a British diplomat and politician. He was Labour Member of Parliament for Swindon from 1945 to 1955.-Palestine:...

, the MP for Swindon known for his strong views on the subject, called it an "iniquitous scheme" and suggested that the motive was the weight of Jews in the United States electorate.

Britain ultimately announced that it would accept the partition plan, but refused to implement the plan by force, arguing it was not acceptable to both sides. In September 1947, the British government announced that the Mandate for Palestine would end on 14 May 1948. Britain refused to share the administration of Palestine with the UN Palestine Commission during the transitional period or to assist in smoothly handing over territory or authority to any successor.

The vote

Passage of the resolution required a two-thirds majority of the valid votes, not counting abstaining and absent members, of the UN's then 56 member states. On November 26th, the vote was postponed. According to multiple sources, had the vote been held at that time, it would have received a majority, but less than the required two-thirds.

Final vote

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 voted 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions, in favour of the modified Partition Plan. The final vote was as follows:
In favour, (33 countries, 59%):,  Belgium,  Bolivia,  Brazil,  Byelorussian SSR,  Canada,  Costa Rica,  Czechoslovakia,  Denmark,  Dominican Republic,  Ecuador,  Early Modern France,  Guatemala,  Haiti,  Iceland,  Liberia,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  New Zealand,  Nicaragua,  Norway,  Panama,  Paraguay,  Peru,  Philippines,  Poland,  Sweden,  South Africa,  Ukrainian SSR,  United States,  Soviet Union,  Uruguay,  Venezuela.

Against, (13 countries, 23%):,  Cuba,  Egypt,  Greece,  India,  Iran,  Iraq,  Lebanon,  Pakistan,  Saudi Arabia,  Syria,  Turkey,  Yemen.

Abstentions, (10 countries, 18%):,  Chile,  Republic of China,  Colombia,  El Salvador,  Ethiopia,  Honduras,  Mexico,  United Kingdom,  Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Absent, (1 country, 0%):

Reports of pressure

Both sides put pressure on member countries to vote for or against the partition. A telegram signed by 26 US senators with influence on foreign aid bills was sent to wavering countries, seeking their support for the partition plan. Many nations reported pressure directed specifically at them:
  • United States: President Truman later noted, "The facts were that not only were there pressure movements around the United Nations unlike anything that had been seen there before, but that the White House, too, was subjected to a constant barrage. I do not think I ever had as much pressure and propaganda aimed at the White House as I had in this instance. The persistence of a few of the extreme Zionist leaders—actuated by political motives and engaging in political threats—disturbed and annoyed me."
  • India: Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
    Jawaharlal Nehru
    Jawaharlal Nehru , often referred to with the epithet of Panditji, was an Indian statesman who became the first Prime Minister of independent India and became noted for his “neutralist” policies in foreign affairs. He was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the...

     spoke with anger and contempt for the way the UN vote had been lined up. He said the Zionists had tried to bribe India with millions and at the same time his sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
    Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
    Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit was an Indian diplomat and politician, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, the aunt of Indira Gandhi and the great-aunt of Rajiv Gandhi, all of whom served as Prime Minister of India.In 1921 she married Ranjit Sitaram Pandit, who died on 14 January 1944...

    , had received daily warnings that her life was in danger unless "she voted right".
  • Liberia: Liberia's Ambassador to the United States complained that the US delegation threatened aid cuts to several countries. Harvey S. Firestone, Jr.
    Harvey S. Firestone, Jr.
    Harvey Samuel Firestone, Jr. was an American businessman, and chairman of the board of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company....

    , President of Firestone Natural Rubber Company
    Firestone Natural Rubber Company
    Firestone Natural Rubber Company, LLC is a subsidiary of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the company operates the largest contiguous rubber plantation in the world in Liberia, which first opened in 1926....

    , with major holdings in the country, also pressured the Liberian government
  • Philippines: In the days before the vote, the Philippines' representative General Carlos P. Romulo
    Carlos P. Rómulo
    Carlos Peña Rómulo was a Filipino diplomat, politician, soldier, journalist and author. He was a reporter at 16, a newspaper editor by the age of 20, and a publisher at 32...

     stated "We hold that the issue is primarily moral. The issue is whether the United Nations should accept responsibility for the enforcement of a policy which is clearly repugnant to the valid nationalist aspirations of the people of Palestine. The Philippines Government holds that the United Nations ought not to accept such responsibility". After a phone call from Washington, the representative was recalled and the Philippines' vote changed.
  • Haiti: The promise of a five million dollar loan may have secured Haiti's vote for partition.

The Resolution as a legal basis for Palestinian Statehood

The Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 said that its 1988 Declaration of Statehood was a direct consequence of resolution 181, which continues to provide international legitimacy for the
right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty and national independence. A number of scholars have written in support of this view.

A General Assembly request for an advisory opinion, Resolution ES-10/14 (2004), specifically cited resolution 181(II) as a "relevant resolution", and asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) what are the legal consequences of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions? Judge Abdul Koroma explained the majority opinion: "The Court has also held that the right of self-determination as an established and recognized right under international law applies to the territory and to the Palestinian people. Accordingly, the exercise of such right entitles the Palestinian people to a State of their own as originally envisaged in resolution 181 (II) and subsequently confirmed." In response, Prof. Paul De Waart said that the Court put the legality of the 1922 League of Nations Palestine Mandate and the 1947 UN Plan of Partition beyond doubt once and for all.

See also

  • 1949 Armistice Agreements
    1949 Armistice Agreements
    The 1949 Armistice Agreements are a set of agreements signed during 1949 between Israel and neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. The agreements ended the official hostilities of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and established armistice lines between Israeli forces and the forces in...

  • Balfour Declaration of 1917
  • Churchill White Paper, 1922
    Churchill White Paper, 1922
    The Churchill White Paper of 3 June 1922 clarified how Britain viewed the Balfour Declaration, 1917...

  • Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948
  • Faisal-Weizmann Agreement
    Faisal-Weizmann Agreement
    The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement was signed on January 3, 1919, by Emir Feisal , who was for a short time King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria or Greater Syria in 1920, and was King of the Kingdom of Iraq from August 1921 to 1933, and Chaim Weizmann as part of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 settling...

  • Hussein-McMahon Correspondence
    Hussein-McMahon Correspondence
    The McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, or the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, was a protracted exchange of letters during World War I, between the Sharif of Mecca, Husayn bin Ali, and Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, concerning the future political status of the lands under the...

  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is also used in reference to the earlier phases of the same conflict, between Jewish and Zionist yishuv and the Arab population living in Palestine under Ottoman or...

  • Minority Treaties
    Minority Treaties
    Minority Treaties refer to the treaties, League of Nations Mandates, and unilateral declarations made by countries applying for membership in the League of Nations and United Nations...

  • Proposals for a Palestinian state
    Proposals for a Palestinian state
    Proposals for a Palestinian state currently refers to the proposed establishment of an independent state for the Palestinian people in Palestine on land that was occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967 and before by Egypt and by Jordan since 1949...

  • Sykes-Picot Agreement
    Sykes-Picot Agreement
    The Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1916 was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France, with the assent of Imperial Russia, defining their respective spheres of influence and control in Western Asia after the expected downfall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I...

  • British Mandate of Palestine
  • Lausanne Conference, 1949
    Lausanne Conference, 1949
    The Lausanne Conference, 1949 was convened by the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine from 27 April to 12 September 1949 in Lausanne, Switzerland...

External links