Monday, May 18, 2015
How Palestine Became Divided by Michael R. Burch, an editor of Holocaust and Nakba poetry
How Palestine Became Divided
by Michael R. Burch, an editor of Holocaust and Nakba poetry
The gist of this article has been taken from the Wikipedia article "United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine," which is copiously footnoted. For purposes of brevity, I will stick to the primary facts. I have reworded the Wikipedia article slightly, for purposes of clarity, but the facts remain basically the same. Where I have made any comments of my own, I have enclosed my comments in italicized square brackets, like [this]. Now, here goes . . .
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 was a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly. It was approved by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions on November 29, 1947. The resolution recommended the division of the British Mandate of Palestine into two provisional states, one Jewish and one Arab, with a framework for economic union.
[The Palestinians have never had their own state; as a consequence millions of Palestinians now live in a stateless political limbo in the West Bank where more than a million of their valuable olive trees have been destroyed (think of the movie "Avatar"), in the walled concentration camp of Gaza (think of the movie "District 9"), in various refugee camps around the Middle East (think of varying degrees of hell in Dante's poem "The Inferno"), or as "citizens" of the "democracy" of Israel (think of the black "citizens" of the Deep South during the days of Jim Crow laws and public lynchings).]
The resolution reflected two competing nationalist expressions embodied in Palestine, one emanated primarily from Europe [Jewish], the other from the then-present majority [Palestinian]; both had been accepted as legitimate a quarter century earlier by the UN's precursor, the League of Nations. The resolution was passed to [ostensibly] help resolve both the recent humanitarian disaster befallen the European Jews [the Holocaust] as well as the long-running conflict between Zionist ambitions to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and the competing civil and religious rights of the Arab majority there. The General Assembly also recommended that the City of Jerusalem be placed under a special international regime, a corpus separatum, [to be] administered by the United Nations and outside both states; this was to preserve peace, given the unique spiritual and religious interests in the city among the world's three great monotheistic religions [Judaism, Christianity, Islam]. A transitional period under UN auspices began with the adoption of the resolution and was scheduled to last until the two states were established. Although the resolution contemplated a gradual withdrawal of British forces and termination of the Mandate by August 1, 1948, and full independence of the new states by 1 October 1948, this did not happen; the passage of the partition plan immediately instigated a civil war in Palestine.
[It is important to note that the UN did not "create" the state of Israel or "give" the land owned by individual Palestinians to Israeli Jews. Obviously the UN has no right to "give" my house to you, or vice versa. The purpose of the UN was, primarily, to create two states where the populations could vote democratically for governments of their own choosing. However, as we will see, the Palestinians had an overwhelming majority of the population, and the Zionist leaders among the Jews were intent on controlling all the land, as the founding father of Israel, David Ben Gurion said himself. The Palestinians were in the same position as Native Americans who heard George Washington and other prominent white settlers talking about "democracy" while publicly claiming the right to take their land and control their lives. In both cases, for millions of native people, this was not "democracy" but ethnic cleansing and genocide.]With the fighting continuing and the planned British withdrawal approaching, the United Nations Security Council reached an impasse on March 5, 1948. The Partition Plan called on the Security Council to use its Chapter VII powers to prevent the parties from using force to alter the boundary settlement. There was no consensus among the members of the Council regarding the use of force to impose the partition. The United States subsequently recommended a temporary UN trusteeship for Palestine "without prejudice to the character of the eventual political settlement" and the Security Council voted to send the matter back to the General Assembly for further deliberation. In May 1948, the simultaneous British withdrawal [from Palestine] and Israel's unilateral Declaration of Independence, which cited the UN resolution as recognizing the right of the Jewish people to establish a state, led to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The General Assembly decided to appoint a Mediator, and relieved the established Palestine Commission from any further exercise of responsibility under Resolution 181 (II). Although the original mediator was assassinated, continued UN mediation efforts resulted in the 1949 Armistice Agreements, which temporarily delineated borders and greatly quieted the fighting between the parties.
[The mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden, was assassinated on Friday 17 September 1948 by members of the Jewish militant Zionist group Lehi, whom the British called "the Stern gang." A three man center of this extreme Jewish group had approved the killing: Yitzhak Yezernitsky (the future Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Shamir), Nathan Friedmann (also called Natan Yellin-Mor) and Yisrael Eldad (also known as Yisrael Scheib). A fourth leader, Emmanuel Strassberg (also known as Emmanuel Hanegbi) was also suspected by Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion of being part of the group that had decided on the assassination. The assassination was planned by the Lehi operations chief in Jerusalem, Yehoshua Zettler. By most accounts, it was carried out by six young members of the Lehi group: Yehoshua Cohen, Shmuel Rosenblum, David Ephrati, Yitzhak Markovitz, Yehoshua Zettler, and Meshulam Makover. A three-man team ambushed Bernadotte's motorcade in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood. Two of them, Yitzhak Ben Moshe (Markovitz) and Avraham Steinberg, shot at the tires of the UN vehicles. The third, Yehoshua Cohen, opened the door of Bernadotte's car and shot him at close range. The bullets also hit a French officer who was sitting beside him, U.N. Observer Colonel André Serot. Both were killed. In the immediate confusion, Col. Serot was mistaken for Dr. Ralph Bunche, the American aide to Bernadotte. Meshulam Makover was the driver of the getaway car. General Åge Lundström, who was in the UN vehicle, described the incident as follows:
“In the Katamon quarter, we were held up by a Jewish Army type jeep placed in a road block and filled with men in Jewish Army uniforms. At the same moment, I saw an armed man coming from this jeep. I took little notice of this because I merely thought it was another checkpoint. However, he put a Tommy gun through the open window on my side of the car, and fired point blank at Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot. I also heard shots fired from other points, and there was considerable confusion… Colonel Serot fell in the seat in back of me, and I saw at once that he was dead. Count Bernadotte bent forward, and I thought at the time he was trying to get cover. I asked him: 'Are you wounded?' He nodded, and fell back… When we arrived [at the Hadassah hospital], … I carried the Count inside and laid him on the bed…I took off the Count's jacket and tore away his shirt and undervest. I saw that he was wounded around the heart and that there was also a considerable quantity of blood on his clothes about it. When the doctor arrived, I asked if anything could be done, but he replied that it was too late."
The following day the United Nations Security Council condemned the killing of Bernadotte as "a cowardly act which appears to have been committed by a criminal group of terrorists in Jerusalem while the United Nations representative was fulfilling his peace-seeking mission in the Holy Land." After his death, Bernadotte's body was returned to Sweden, where the state funeral was attended by Abba Eban on behalf of Israel. Folke was survived by a widow and a 14 year old son. He was buried at the Northern Cemetery in Stockholm.
Lehi leaders initially denied responsibility for the attack. Later Lehi took responsibility for the killings in the name of Hazit Hamoledet (The National Front), a name they copied from a war-time Bulgarian resistance group. The group regarded Bernadotte as a stooge of the British and their Arab allies, and therefore as a serious threat to the emerging state of Israel. Most immediately, a truce was currently in force and Lehi feared that the Israeli leadership would agree to Bernadotte's peace proposals, which they considered disastrous because they allowed the return of displaced Palestinian refugees, who had every right to return to their native land and homes. They did not know that the Israeli leaders had already decided to reject Bernadotte's plans and take the military option.
Lehi was forcibly disarmed and many members were arrested, but nobody was charged with the killings. Yellin-Mor and another Lehi member, Schmuelevich, were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization. They were found guilty but immediately released and pardoned. Yellin-Mor had meanwhile been elected to the first Knesset (the Israeli Parliament). Years later, Cohen's role was uncovered by David Ben-Gurion's biographer Michael Bar Zohar, while Cohen was working as Ben-Gurion's personal bodyguard. The first public admission of Lehi's role in the killing was made on the anniversary of the assassination in 1977. The statute of limitations for murder had expired in 1971.
The Swedish government believed that Bernadotte had been assassinated by Israeli government agents. They publicly attacked the inadequacy of the Israel investigation and campaigned unsuccessfully to delay Israel's admission to the United Nations. In 1950, Sweden recognized Israel but relations remained frosty despite Israeli attempts to console Sweden such as the planting of a Bernadotte Forest by the JNF in Israel. At a ceremony in Tel-Aviv in May 1995, attended by the Swedish deputy prime minister, Israeli Foreign Minister and Labor Party member Shimon Peres issued a "condemnation of terror, thanks for the rescue of the Jews and regret that Bernadotte was murdered in a terrorist way," adding that "We hope this ceremony will help in healing the wound."
In 1998, Bernadotte was posthumously awarded one of the first three Dag Hammarskjöld Medals, given to UN peacekeepers who are killed in the line of duty.
While future national leaders of Israel like Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin committed acts of terrorism, most Americans consider them "democrats" and "freedom fighters," while Palestinians who use force are routinely called "terrorists." Why are American taxpayers shelling out trillions of dollars to fight a war against terrorism, when Israel's terroristic policies were prime factors in Americans being attacked on 9-11? American victims of terrorism, American soldiers and American taxpayers have paid an immense price to protect Israel's terrorists, while waging war against the men who oppose Israel's injustices.]Both the League of Nations, as well as the terms of the various League of Nations Mandates, had their origin at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 and were drafted within the councils of the victorious Allies of World War I. The League of Nations could not alter the terms of a mandate in any substantial way. It was the original intention of the League of Nations that the Mandatory regime would lead toward their eventual independence.
[People interested in understanding the truth about where things started to go wrong should study the imperialistic attitude, hubris and wild blunders of Winston Churchill during his brief stint as the British Colonial Secretary in charge of the region in the early 1920's. The claim that Zionism was a reaction to the Holocaust doesn't hold water, because Jews were being given preference over Palestinians long before Hitler came to power in Germany. This preferentialism was demonstrated at a time when there were very few Jews in Palestine, and the Zionist movement was having a hard time convincing Jews to move there. Churchill favored Jews over Palestinians, and wanted to cut the budget for the region in half, so he strolled into the region for a few days, set up puppet rulers who were war buddies of T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), then took off to paint pictures of the pyramids (he was an amateur artist). This attitude of Western politicians (Truman would do something similar in 1948) would convince Arabs they were sure to get the shaft, and they were right. Americans who act as if Arabs are "religious fanatics" who hate Americans and Jews on general principle, are clueless. If anyone had done to our loved ones what Jews, Americans and Brits did to Arabs, we would blow them to atoms, until they desisted. In other words, the 9-11 attacks, as terrible as they were, wouldn't hold a candle to what Americans would do to Arabs, if Arabs treated American women and children the way Americans have treated Arab women and children. Until Americans stop contributing to the suffering and premature deaths (i.e., murders) of innocent Arab women and children, our reaction to 9-11 is sheer hypocrisy. If it is wrong for Arab men to kill our women and children, then obviously it was wrong for Americans to abet the murders of Arab women and children.]
In 1937, members of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations had privately informed the leadership of the Jewish Agency that the Palestine Mandate could not be implemented according to the Agency's wishes. Faced with the prospect of remaining a minority in greater Palestine, the Jewish Agency Executive decided that partition was the only way out of the impasse. The principle of partition was placed on the agenda of the Twentieth Zionist Congress. In a 15 July 1937 editorial, David Ben-Gurion implied that partition could never be an acceptable long-term solution: 'The Jewish people have always regarded, and will continue to regard Palestine as a whole, as a single country which is theirs in a national sense and will become theirs once again. No Jew will accept partition as a just and rightful solution.' During the Congress, Ben Gurion supported the proposal to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. At the same time, he delivered speeches which made it clear that he did not accept partition as a final solution: 'If I had been faced with the question: a Jewish state in the west of the land of Israel in return for giving up on our historical right to the entire land of Israel I would have postponed the establishment of the state. No Jew is entitled to give up the right of the Jewish nation to the land. It is not in the authority of any Jew or of any Jewish body; it is not even in the authority of the entire nation alive today to give up any part of the land'... ...'this is a standing right under all conditions. Even if, at any point, the Jews choose to decline it, they have no right to deprive future generations of it. Our right to the entire land exists and stands for ever.'
[Since the Arabs had a clear and overwhelming majority of the population, this meant one of two things: (1) Israel would not be a democracy, or (2) Israel would have to force hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee the land, and keep them from returning. In 1948, operating under Plan Dalet, Israeli soldiers would implement option 2, ethnic cleansing.]
The Zionist Congress continued to publicly propose that Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth according to the Biltmore proposals, while at the same time admitting in private that they had a partition plan of their own that was acceptable as a basis for negotiations. During the debate on partition in November 1947, Mr Husseini (of the Arab Higher Committee) referred to Ben Gurion's previous contention that no Zionist could forego the smallest portion of the land of Israel, and suggested that the Revisionists were being more honest about their territorial aspirations than the representatives of the Jewish Agency. By December 1947, the Jewish community in Palestine let it be known that they had tens of thousands of well equipped and well trained fighters.
In the White Paper of 1939, the British Government had determined that it was under no legal obligation to facilitate the further development of the Jewish National Home, by immigration, without respecting the wishes of the Arab population. The 1939 Zionist Congress denied the moral and legal validity of the White Paper. The opinion of the Permanent Mandates Commission, which had the duty "to advise" the Council of the League of Nations "on all matters relating to the observance of the Mandates" was divided. Four members felt the White Paper violated the terms of the mandate, while three members did not. An analysis prepared by the UN Secretariat concluded: 'It remains a matter of speculation whether the Council of the League, in the circumstances existing in the summer of 1939, would have sided with the majority of four or the minority of three of the Permanent Mandates Commission. The outbreak of war in September 1939 prevented the Council from considering the question.'
When the Jewish and Arab leadership could not agree on a course of administration that would lead to a unified independent state, the government of the United Kingdom requested that the Question of Palestine be placed on the Agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. They asked that the Assembly make recommendations, under Article 10 of the Charter, concerning the future government of Palestine. The British proposal recommended that a special committee be established to perform a preliminary study designed to assist the General Assembly in developing recommendations. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was an advisory committee to the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine Question. Membership on the Ad Hoc Committee was open to all the members of the United Nations. The General Assembly resolution called for the establishment of a United Nations Palestine Commission with a mandate to implement the plan of partition. The United Kingdom recognized the United Nations Palestine Commission as the successor government of Palestine. But the United Nations had not agreed to automatically fall heir to all of the responsibilities either of the League of Nations or of the Mandatory Power in respect to the Palestine Mandate. It had merely agreed to facilitate the transfer of sovereignty from the Mandatory to the provisional governments and to administer and govern a small trusteeship.
The Palestine Mandate
In November 1917, as General Allenby was preparing to conquer Palestine, the British Foreign office issued the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a letter from the Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, head of the British Zionist movement. The declaration stated:
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
This declaration was a compromise, based on a draft telegram that Lord Balfour had asked Weizmann to submit earlier. It did not contain a formal commitment. It reflected the efforts of the British Zionist movement led by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, longstanding British sentiment for restoration of the Jews and British strategic and imperial considerations on the one hand. On the other hand, it reflected concerns of British Jewish anti-Zionists and foreign office personnel concerned about antagonizing the Arab world. These conflicting forces were to be reflected in the vicissitudes of British policy, ultimately causing Britain to express a desire to be relieved of its responsibility for administering the mandate, which in turn led to a recommendation for the partition of Palestine.
After the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Allied Supreme Council met at the San Remo Conference in April 1920 to confirm the allocation of Ottoman lands under the proposed new System of Mandates. Palestine was placed under the British mandate. The final juridical date on which the mandates for the Middle East became a part of a fixed and authoritative law of nations was delayed due to difficulties surrounding the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Sèvres, and the Treaty of Lausanne. The League of Nations British Mandate of Palestine attempted to make the national home for the Jewish people an article of the Law of Nations, by incorporating the wording of the Balfour Declaration. The mandates were supported by President Woodrow Wilson, but the Senate refused to ratify the Covenant of the League of Nations or the mandates. Senator Borah explained his objections to the mandates:
"When this league, this combination, is formed four great powers representing the dominant people will rule one-half of the inhabitants of the globe as subject peoples – rule by force, and we shall be a party to the rule of force. There is no other way by which you can keep people in subjection. You must either give them independence, recognize their rights as nations to live their own life and to set up their own form of government, or you must deny them these things by force.
[The bolded words above explain in large part why the U.S. was attacked on 9-11. We betrayed the American Creed that all human beings are created equal, and are entitled to justice and self-determination. When we chose to deny the rights of Palestinians to the same rights that we so avidly claim for ourselves, we opened up a Pandora's Box of evils that beset us to this day. The only cure is to practice what we preach.]
The British Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, together with the Italian and French governments rejected early drafts of the mandate because it had contained a passage which read:
"Recognizing, moreover, the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim which this gives them to reconstitute it their national home..."
The Palestine Committee set up by the Foreign Office recommended that the reference to 'the claim' be omitted. The Allies had already noted the historical connection in the Treaty of Sèvres, but they had recognized no legal claim. They felt that whatever might be done for the Jewish people was based entirely on sentimental grounds. Further, they felt that all that was necessary was to make room for Zionists in Palestine, not that they should turn 'it', that is the whole country, into their home. Lord Balfour suggested an alternative which was accepted:
'Whereas recognition has thereby [i.e. by the Treaty of Sèvres] been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, and to the [sentimental] grounds for reconstituting their National Home in that country ...'
The Vatican, the Italian, and the French governments continued to press their own legal claims on the basis of the former Protectorate of the Holy See and the French Protectorate of Jerusalem. The idea of an International Commission to resolve claims on the Holy Places had been formalized in Article 95 of the Treaty of Sèvres, and taken up again in article 14 of the Palestinian Mandate. Negotiations concerning the formation and the role of the commission were partly responsible for the delay in ratifying the mandate. The United Kingdom assumed responsibility for the Holy Places under Article 13 of the mandate. However, it never created the Commission on Holy Places to resolve the other claims.
Jewish immigration to Palestine in the initial period following World War I was sparse, owing to difficult conditions in Palestine and lack of sufficient commitment to Zionism to face the rigors of pioneering life, as well as lack of funds for development.
On 24 July 1922, in London, the terms of the British Mandate over Palestine and Transjordan were approved by the Council of the League of Nations. Under the Anglo-French Declaration, and the McMahon-Hussein Agreements, certain areas had been reserved to be Arab and independent in the future. No fixed borders for the Palestine Mandate had been established in the zone controlled by the British Military, or the Occupied Enemy Territories Administration (OETA). The OETA was in effective control under the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) at the time of the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement. The conventions required that the status quo be maintained until a peace treaty was negotiated. Accordingly, the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement had called for the borders to be established after the Peace Conference. The Zionist Organization submitted a proposed map at the Peace Conference, which excluded the independent Arab area east of the Hedjaz Railway. In drafting the Mandate, the British elected to use the Jordan River as a natural boundary instead of the railway line. Article 25 stated:
In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions, provided that no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.
Accordingly, on 16 September 1922 the League of Nations formally approved a memorandum from Lord Balfour confirming the exemption of Transjordan from the clauses of the mandate concerning the creation of a Jewish national home, and from the mandate's responsibility to facilitate Jewish immigration and land settlement in that portion of the former occupied territories.
In the 1930s, with increased anti-Semitism and the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany, the Fifth Aliya brought substantial numbers of European Jews to Palestine.
The Arab uprising of 1936-9 was triggered by increased Jewish immigration in conjunction with rising Arab nationalist sentiment. Following the revolt, the British Peel Commission proposed a Palestine divided between a small Jewish state (about 15%), a much bigger Arab state and an international zone. The Jewish Agency 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 forced transfer of the Arab population to areas outside the borders of the new Jewish state. The plans were developed along the lines of the Greco-Turkish transfer. After these proposals were rejected by the Arab side, the British changed their position and sought to eliminate Jewish immigration to Palestine. This was seen as a contradiction of the terms of the mandate, and an anti-humanitarian catastrophe, in light of the increasing persecution in Europe. In the prewar period it led to organization of illegal immigration. While the small Lehi group attacked the British, 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.
[Why should Palestinians have been forced to move, abandoning their homes? What if the roles were reversed? What would Americans say if the Jews had been the clear majority and some other race had demanded that they cede their land and homes? The problem is obvious: racism is wrong, and the minute Americans choose sides based on race, all hell breaks lose, as it did during the Civil War and later during the days of Jim Crow laws and public lynchings.]
When the British insisted on preventing immigration of Jewish Holocaust survivors to Palestine following World War II, the Jewish community began to wage an uprising and guerrilla war. This warfare and United States pressure to end the anti-immigration policy led to the establishment of The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946. It was a joint British and American attempt to agree on a policy regarding the admission of Jews to Palestine. In April, the Committee reported that its members had arrived at 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. The report explained that in order to dispose, once and for all, of the exclusive claims of Jews and Arabs to Palestine, we regard it as essential that a clear statement of principle should be made that Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine. U.S. President Harry S. Truman angered the British Labour Party by issuing a statement supporting the 100,000 refugees but refusing to acknowledge the rest of the committee's findings. The British government had asked for US assistance in implementing the recommendations. The US War Department had issued an earlier report which stated that an open-ended U.S. troop commitment of 300,000 personnel would be necessary to assist the British government in maintaining order against an Arab revolt.
[The US War Department would prove prophetic, as after 9-11 hundreds of thousands of US troops and support personnel would be required in Afghanistan and Iraq.]
These events were the decisive factors that forced the British to announce their desire to terminate the Palestine Mandate and place the Question of Palestine before the United Nations.
The United Nations, the successor to the League of Nations, attempted to resolve the dispute between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine. On May 15, 1947 the UN appointed a committee, the UNSCOP, composed of representatives from eleven states. To make the committee more neutral, none of the Great Powers were represented. After spending three months conducting hearings and general survey of the situation in Palestine, UNSCOP officially released its report on August 31. 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 (Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay) recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem to be placed under international administration. A minority (India, Iran, Yugoslavia) plan supported the creation of a federal union based upon the US Constitutional model. It would have established both a Jewish State and an Arab state.
Preliminary Legal Questions
From the outset, there were important preliminary legal questions regarding the validity of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Anglo-French Declaration, the League of Nations British Mandate of Palestine, and the competence of the United Nations or its members to enforce a solution against the wishes of the majority of the indigenous population. The United States Senate had not ratified the Treaty of Versailles, in part, due to reservations about the legitimacy of the League of Nations System of Mandates. The US government subsequently entered into individual treaties to secure legal rights for its citizens, and to protect property rights and businesses interests in the mandates. In the case of the Palestine Mandate Convention, it recited the terms of the League of Nations mandate, and subjected them to eight amendments. One of those precluded any unilateral changes to the terms of the mandate. The United States insisted that the convention say that it 'consents' rather than 'concurs' with the terms of the mandate and declined to mention the Balfour Declaration in the preamble of its portion of the agreement. It did not agree to mutual defense, to provisionally recognize a Jewish State, or to pledge itself to maintain the territorial integrity of the mandate.
There were also suggestions that the Mandate should have been placed under the UN trusteeship program in accordance with the guiding principles contained in Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 of the UN Charter. All members were required to recognize the 'fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion' when dealing with non-self governing peoples. In that respect the UN system was portrayed as 'a real advance over the League of Nations Covenant and the mandate system established under it.'. All of these issues were more or less brushed aside by routine procedural decisions according to the delegate from Colombia. His observations and comments were addressed to the Ad Hoc Committee on 25 November 1947.
Article 26 of the Palestine Mandate provided that:
'The Mandatory agrees that, if any dispute whatever should arise between the Mandatory and another member of the League of Nations relating to the interpretation or the application of the provisions of the mandate, such dispute, if it cannot be settled by negotiation, shall be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice...'
The Jewish Agency claimed that the Mandate created a binding legal obligation to establish a sovereign Jewish State. The UNSCOP report to the General Assembly said the conclusion seemed inescapable that the undefined term "National Home" had been used, instead of the term "State", to place a restrictive construction on the scheme from its very inception.
The UN never reached a unanimous conclusion. Nothing in the terms of the Mandate precluded the establishment of a Jewish State in all of Palestine. However, a minority felt that nothing in the terms of the post-war treaties and the mandate precluded the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish state denominated along the lines of a 'domestic dependent nation'.
In an earlier dispute involving the grant of the Rutenberg Concessions, the Permanent Court of Justice had ruled it had jurisdiction over every dispute involving the Palestine Mandate:
'The Court is of opinion that, in cases of doubt, jurisdiction based on an international agreement embraces all disputes referred to it [the Court] after its establishment. In the present case, this interpretation appears to be indicated by the terms of Article 26 itself where it is laid down that "any dispute whatsoever .... which may arise" shall be submitted to the Court.'
On 25 November 1947 the Colombian delegate, Fernandez, announced that he favored the first draft resolution of the minority sub-committee, which called for an advisory opinion under Article 96 of the UN Charter and Chapter IV of the Statute of the Court. He stated that 'The delegation of Colombia, faithful to the principles of law, asked that a request should be made for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.' The opinion of the remaining colonial powers was summed-up in the response of the French delegation that the inherent rights of the indigenous population of Palestine were a political or philosophical question, but not a legal matter for the Court to decide. The Colombian resolution requesting an advisory opinion was defeated.
One further legal issue remained. The mandatory Power had the required legal and administrative authority to implement a partition plan. The U.N. could recommend a partition solution but, "does not seem to have any legal ground to impose a solution unless the mandate is in due order transmitted into a trusteeship with the U.N. as administering authority". The only other source of legal authority was if a threat to the peace existed. Four days later the plan of partition was approved with the provision that it be imposed by force: 'The Security Council [shall] determine as a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, in accordance with Article 39 (CHAPTER VII) of the Charter, any attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged by this resolution.'
Plan for the future government of PalestineThe Palestine Mandate contained dispositive clauses that required the establishment of a perpetual system of safeguards for the religious rights and immunities which had been under international guarantee during the mandate period. Those provisions would become operative in the event that a decision was taken to terminate the mandate. Although the Palestine question had only been submitted for a recommendation under article 10 of the Charter, the UNSCOP committee had proposed the termination of the mandate and the establishment of a corpus separatum under UN trusteeship. Questions relating to the operation of the trusteeship system fall under the provisions of Article 18 of the Charter. That article stipulates that the determinations are 'decisions', not recommendations, and requires a two-thirds majority of the members present. In several cases involving the powers of the General Assembly with regard to trusteeships and mandates, the International Court has held that those decisions can have legal effects which are binding or dispositive.
The United Nations also enacted a formal minority rights protection system as an integral part of the Partition Plan for Palestine, and placed those rights under UN guarantee. A complete list of the various legal instruments still in force, including UN GAR 181(II), was compiled by the UN Secretariat in 1950. The Chairman-Rapporteur of a UN Working Group on Minorities subsequently advised that no competent UN organ had made any decision which would extinguish the obligations under those instruments. The legal instrument was a unilateral Declaration to be made by the government of the new states. This was another established procedure. In the Minority Schools in Albania Case, the Permanent Court of International Justice held that Declarations made before the League Council were tantamount to a treaty.
Like the earlier treaties, the Declarations conferred basic rights on all the inhabitants of the Jewish and Arab states without distinction of sex, nationality, language, race or religion and protected the rights and property of all nationals of the country who differed in race, religion, or language from the majority of the inhabitants of the country. The country concerned had to acknowledge the clauses of the treaty: as fundamental laws of State and no law, regulation or official action could conflict or interfere with their stipulations, nor could any law, regulation or official action prevail over them. The States also had to acknowledge these rights as obligations of international concern placed under the guarantee of the United Nations. Compromissory clauses were included granting the International Court jurisdiction.
Abba Eban subsequently declared that the rights stipulated in section C. Declaration, chapters 1 and 2 of UN resolution 181(II) had been constitutionally embodied as the fundamental law of the state of Israel as required by that resolution and assured the committee that Israel would not invoke Article 2, paragraph 7 of the Charter, regarding its domestic jurisdiction. The instruments that he cited during the hearings were the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, and various cables and letters of confirmation addressed to the Secretary General. Mr. Eban's explanations and Israel's undertakings were noted in the text of A/RES/273 (III), 11 May 1949. A similar Declaration of the State of Palestine, supplied by the Palestine National Council, was accepted as being in line with the General Assembly resolution in A/RES/43/177, 15 December 1988.
Both States were also required to adopt democratic constitutions which were to embody the same rights guaranteed in the Declarations. Four days after UNSCOP held its first public hearings the Jewish Agency had signed a letter that came to be known as The Status-Quo Agreement. It was addressed to the Ultra-Orthodox World Agudat Israel organization. It explained that the establishment of the State required the approval of the United Nations, and that this would not be possible unless the State guaranteed freedom of conscience for all of its citizens and made it clear there was no intention of establishing a theocratic State. The letter also provided that the state would honor the Sabbath, and that only kosher food would be served in state institutions.
The Issue of Recognition and the Existence of the New States
A transition period under UN auspices started with the adoption of the resolution. Palestine had been recognized as a dependent state with its own nationality under the terms of the mandate and article 80 of the UN Charter. Transjordan had been recognized as an independent government throughout most of the mandatory period, but it had not been recognized as an independent state. The resolution called for the mandatory to evacuate a seaport and hinterland 'in the territory of the Jewish State', no later than 1 February 1948. That, and other references to the existence of the (still dependent) Jewish and Arab states prior to the termination of the mandate constituted forms of express or tacit recognition.
The General Assembly resolution also provided powerful legal authority, since it called upon the inhabitants of Palestine 'to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put this plan into effect'. Many of those steps, like raising an armed militia to help prevent frontier clashes, are defined as 'Acts of State' according to customary international law. Several legal authorities concluded that this recognition was irrevocable and could not be made provisional, invalidated by difficulties, or the opposition of some parties to the establishment of the new states.
The Jewish population was concentrated in settlement areas in 1947. The borders were drawn to encompass them, placing most of the Jewish population in the Jewish state. (Map reflects Jewish owned land not the size and number of settlements. It does not imply that only Jews lived here or that all other land was owned or exclusively populated by Arabs.) The Jewish Agency contended that the Arab and Jewish portions of the plan were not integral. The Chairman of the Palestine Commission contended that they were integral. The US delegation had implied that the setting up of one state was not made conditional on the setting up of the other state.
The details of the land division were never finalized. On 25 November 1947 an amendment to the plan was passed that would have allowed the boundaries to be adjusted on the spot in Palestine by the Border Commission. The amendment was introduced by the delegation from the Netherlands due to last minute revisions of the demographic data by the mandatory administration. The proposed borders would have cut-off 54 Arab villages from their farm land. The discussion before the vote indicated that the inclusion of those villages in the Jewish state would have added 108,000 more Arabs to the population, or required in the alternative that an additional 2 million dunams of cereal farm land be included in the Arab state. The final text of the resolution read:
On its arrival in Palestine the Commission shall proceed to carry out measures for the establishment of the frontiers of the Arab and Jewish States and the City of Jerusalem in accordance with the general lines of the recommendations of the General Assembly on the partition of Palestine. Nevertheless, the boundaries as described in Part II of this Plan are to be modified in such a way that village areas as a rule will not be divided by state boundaries unless pressing reasons make that necessary.
Palestine's land surface was approximately 26,320,505 dunums (26,320 km2), of which about one third was cultivable. By comparison, the size of modern day Israel (as of 2006) is 20,770,000 dunums (20,770 km2) (Geography of Israel). The land in Jewish possession had risen from 456,000 dunums (456 km2) in 1920 to 1,393,000 dunums (1,393 km2) in 1945 and 1,850,000 dunums (1,850 km2) by 1947 (Avneri p. 224). No reliable figures of private land ownership by Arabs were available, due to the lack of centralized records under the Ottoman Land Code. The 1939 White Paper had imposed prohibitions and restrictions on land transfers to the Jewish citizenry. The Zionist Organization had established a similar system under the Jewish National Fund, or JNF, which held its land purchases in trust 'for the Jewish people as a whole'. The Fund's charter specified that the purpose of the JNF was to purchase land for the settlement of Jews. This was usually interpreted to mean that the JNF should not lease land to non-Jews.
The UN General Assembly made a non-binding recommendation for a three-way partition of Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State and a small internationally administered zone including the religiously significant towns Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The two states envisioned in the plan were each composed of three major sections, linked by extraterritorial crossroads. The Jewish state would receive the Coastal Plain, stretching from Haifa to Rehovot, the Eastern Galilee (surrounding the Sea of Galilee 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 Samarian highlands and the Judean highlands, 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 partition defined by the General Assembly resolution differed somewhat from the UNSCOP report partition. Most notably, Jaffa was constituted as an enclave of the Arab State and the boundaries were modified to include Beersheba and a large section of the Negev desert within the Arab State and a section of the Dead Sea shore within the Jewish State.
The land allocated to the Arab state (about 43% of Mandatory Palestine) 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 on the coast, the Jezreel Valley and the upper Jordan Valley.
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.
The plan called for the new states to honor the existing international commitments and submit any disputes to the International Court of Justice. Under the Anglo-French Accords of 1922, 1923 and 1926 Syria and Lebanon had been granted the same rights of access to Lake Tiberias (aka Sea of Galilee and Lake Kinneret) as the Jewish and Arab Palestinians in the British Mandate territory. Under the 1923 Agreement:
"...Any existing rights over the use of waters of the Jordan by the inhabitants of Syria shall be maintained unimpaired.... ... The inhabitants of Syria and of the Lebanon shall have the same fishing and navigation rights on Lakes Huleh and Tiberias and on the River Jordan between the said lakes as the inhabitants of Palestine, but the Government of Palestine shall be responsible for the policing of the lakes.
The 1926 Accord stipulated that
"All the inhabitants, whether settled or semi-nomadic, of both territories who, at the date of the signature of this agreement enjoy grazing, watering or cultivation rights, or own land on the one or the other side of the frontier shall continue to exercise their rights as in the past."
Apart from the Negev, the land allocated to the Jewish state was largely made up of areas in which there was a significant Jewish population. The land allocated to the Arab state was populated almost solely by Arabs.
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 resolution, 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 trans-Jordan (country of Jordan, west of the river Jordan).
Territory Arab and other population % Arab and other Jewish population % Jewish Total population
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 UNSCOP Report also noted that "in addition there will be in the Jewish State about 90,000 Bedouins, cultivators and stock owners who seek grazing further afield in dry seasons."
Last minute corrections
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. It was included in an Ad Hoc Committee report, A/AC.14/32, dated 11 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 partition plan was revised and the Beersheba region was assigned to the Arab State, while some further parts of the Judean Desert were give to the Jewish State.
Reactions to the plan
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."
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.
A minority of extreme nationalist Jewish groups like Menachem Begin's Irgun Tsvai Leumi and the Lehi (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.
The Arab leadership (in and out of Palestine) opposed the plan.. 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).
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.
During an Arab League Political Committee meeting in February 1948, the Mufti, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni asked for control of all affairs in Palestine. The Political Committee rejected all of his proposals on the basis that the Arab Higher Committee did not represent the Palestinian people. The Leagues' affairs were handled through its own Palestine Council, not through the Mufti or the AHC. When the United States declined to recognize the All-Palestine Government, it said that it had been established without consulting the wishes of Arab Palestinians. During the Ad Hoc Political committee hearings on Israel's application for membership in the UN, Mr. Eban acknowledged that the Arab states could not be logically blamed for withholding recognition, since the UN itself had not yet recognized Israel. Within hours of Israel's admission to the UN, the Arab states and Israel signed the Lausanne Protocol. It established the partition map from the November 29, 1947 UN resolution as the basis for negotiations. The first head of the PLO, Ahmad Shuqayri, was a member of the Syrian delegation to the Lausanne Conference.
John Wolffe says that while Zionists have attributed Palestinian rejection of the plan to intransigence, others have argued 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 Palestinians 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." .
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions, in favour of the Partition Plan, while making some adjustments to the boundaries between the two states proposed by it. The partition was to take effect on the date of British withdrawal from the Mandate Territory of Palestine.
Prior to the vote, the two-thirds majority required for passage of the resolution was not evident, and three countries — Haiti, Liberia, the Philippines — were pressured to consider changing their positions in order to assure passage; they subsequently switched their votes between November 25 and November 29. The pressure came from Jewish and Zionist supporters of partition, including some members of the United States administration and its elected officials, as well as from some private citizens. 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."
Of the permanent members of the Security Council, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union voted for the resolution while the Republic of China and United Kingdom abstained. The full vote was recorded follows:
30 countries (54%) initially in favour: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Belorussian SSR, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Sweden, South Africa, Ukrainian SSR, United States of America, Soviet Union, Uruguay, Venezuela.
An additional 3 (5%) switched to in favor: Haiti, Liberia, Philippines.
Against, (13 countries, 23%): Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.
Abstentions, (10 countries, 18%): Argentina, Chile, Republic of China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia.
Absent, (1 countries, 0%): Thailand
Main article: 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine
On the day after the vote, a spate of Arab attacks left seven Jews dead and scores more wounded. Shooting, stoning, and rioting continued apace in the following days. The consulates of Poland and Sweden, both of whose governments had voted for partition, were attacked. Bombs were thrown into cafes, Molotov cocktails were hurled at shops, a synagogue was set on fire.
Fighting began almost as soon as the plan was approved, beginning with the Arab Jerusalem Riots of 1947. On 1 April 1948, the Security Council adopted Resolution 44 "to consider further the question of the future government of Palestine."
In February 1948, the British representative report stated that in the period from 30 November 1947 to 1 February 1948, there were 869 killed and 1,909 wounded, for a total of 2,778 casualties: British - 46 Killed, 135 Wounded; Arabs - 427 killed, 1,035 wounded; Jews - 381 killed, 725 wounded; others 15 killed, 15 wounded. The Palestine Commissioner said that without 'the efforts of the [British] security forces over the past month, the two communities would by now have been fully engaged in internecine slaughter.'
On May 14, one day before the British Mandate expired, the new Jewish state named the State of Israel announced its formal establishment and the formation of the provisional government. The UN Resolution is mentioned in Israel' Declaration of Independence as recognizing the right of the Jewish People to establish a state. In accordance with the UN Resolution, the Declaration promised that the State of Israel would ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex, and guaranteed freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.
Eleven minutes after the Declaration of Independence was signed, US President Harry Truman de facto recognized the State of Israel, followed by Iran (which had voted against the UN partition plan), Guatemala, Iceland, Nicaragua, Romania and Uruguay. The Soviet Union was the first nation to recognize Israel de jure on 17 May 1948, followed by Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ireland and South Africa. The United States extended official recognition on 31 January 1949. The Arab League had announced the establishment of a civil administration throughout Palestine on the same day. The All-Palestine government did little more than issue passports and raise its own militia, the Holy War Army. The government was eventually recognized by Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.
The declaration was followed by an invasion of the new state by troops from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, starting the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known in Israel as the War of Independence (Hebrew: העצמאות, Milhamat HaAtzma'ut), and to Palestinians as The Catastrophe (al-Naqba). Although a truce began on 11 June, fighting resumed on 8 July and stopped again on 18 July, before restarting in mid-October and finally ending on 24 July 1949 with the signing of the armistice agreement with Syria. By then Israel had retained its independence and increased its land area by almost 50% compared to the partition plan. Following independence, Moetzet HaAm was transformed into the Provisional State Council, which acted as the legislative body for the new state until the first elections in January 1949.
Covert Plans to Circumvent the UN Partition Plan
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Palestine was already subject to international supervision and control. The decision of the General Assembly to establish a trusteeship for the City of Jerusalem was in keeping with the terms of article 28 of the Mandate and article 80 of the UN Charter. Despite their obligation to give the United Nations and its Palestine Commission every assistance in any undertaking in accordance with the Charter, several of the parties attempted to dispose of the territory without obtaining the consent of the United Nations.
Meeting in Cairo in November and December 1947, the Arab League adopted a series of resolutions aimed at a military solution to the conflict. They formed an Arab Liberation Army. The Arab League also planned punitive measures against Jews living in Arab countries, many of which were subsequently implemented by individual states.
When the United Kingdom announced plans for Transjordan's independence, the Jewish Agency for Palestine had protested that in accordance with the terms of article 80 of the UN Charter, the terms of the mandate could not be altered without violating the rights of the Jewish people. The representatives of the Jewish Agency had raised the issue of article 80, and the right of the Jewish people to settle in all of Palestine with the UNSCOP Commission.
Both the United States and the United Kingdom refused to implement the plan by force, arguing it was unacceptable to both sides. The United Kingdom refused to share the administration of Palestine with the UN Palestine Commission during the transitional period. It terminated the British mandate of Palestine on May 15, 1948. The US State Department Legal Counsel, Ernest Gross, had advised the administration that 'The Arab and Jewish communities will be legally entitled on May 15, 1948 to proclaim states and organize governments in the areas of Palestine occupied by the respective communities.'
In early May, the US State Department had already come to the conclusion that a trusteeship proposal would not be accepted. Discussions between the State Department and Moshe Shertok and Rabbi Silver of the Jewish Agency had indicated that annexation by Transjordan of the proposed Arab state would be acceptable. It was suggested that a population transfer from the Jewish State to Transjordan should take place and that generous financial assistance should be provided to resettle the Arabs in Transjordan. It was also suggested that the problem of Jerusalem be resolved by establishing a condominium of Transjordan and the Zionist State. In the past, the League of Nations had supported a number of population transfers under the terms of bi-lateral treaties. Nonetheless, the Allied Powers, acting through the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, had established that involuntary population transfer was both a war crime and a crime against humanity. In any event, it had been common knowledge for months that Transjordan intended to occupy the territory of the proposed Arab State. The Palestine Post had explained on 30 November 1947 that the other Arab States would not accept Transjordan taking over by itself, and that they were preparing to fight Abdullah. With the consent of the General Assembly, the British High Commissioner had appointed a mayor to head the Jerusalem Municipal Commission during the transition period. The British government and the dominions subsequently voted against a proposed statute written by the UN Trusteeship Council, leaving their own appointee in charge of Jerusalem.
Meir Zamir, a Historian from Ben Gurion University, has published several articles based on unclassified documents from the French archives. He says "Whereas in London foreign minister Ernest Bevin was declaring Britain's intent to end its mandate in Palestine and maintain neutrality in the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, in the Middle East, British officials openly supported the Arabs and sought to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state." and detailed the top secret British arms deal for the Arabs. The article reveals the British involvement in large weapon deals with the Arab countries, and this was countered to the UN resolution on partition and flouted the appeal by the UN Security Council for an embargo on arms sales to either Arabs or Jews.
During the UNSCOP hearings, Ralph Bunche had recorded his suspicions that King Abdullah planned to enlarge his domain through the partition of Palestine. The British grand strategy for stability was to have King Abdullah take over most of Arab Palestine. It was a delicate matter because Transjordan was a British client state, and Abdullah was seen as a British puppet. The Soviet Union had vetoed Transjordan's application for membership in the United Nations on the basis that it wasn't an independent state. The UN Mediator's proposals concerning the exchange of the Negev for Western Galilee were thought to have originated from Britain and America, with the intent of establishing military bases in the Negev so that British troops could be reinstated in the region. UK Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin had twice attempted to influence the territorial outcome by encouraging Abdullah to take over Arab Palestine and by attempting to secure part of the Negev as a connecting strip between Egypt and the other Arab States. In fact, the Political Department of the Jewish Agency had promised to persuade the British to move the Canal Zone bases to the Jewish state in return for Egyptian support of their partition plan.
Several accounts exist regarding a series of covert partition proposals that were the subject of negotiations between various representatives of the Jewish Agency (Golda Meir, Eliyahu Sasson, and Moshe Sharett) and the Emir Abdullah of Transjordan, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Said, and Egyptian Prime Minister Ismail Sidqi. Menachem Begin mentioned the talks with Abdullah during the Knesset debate regarding Transjordan's annexation of the West Bank. He also claimed that Jewish institutions had paid Abdullah bribes. Several Knesset members voiced concerns that the British would use their treaty with Abdullah to station British Forces in the West Bank. Meir's talks had reportedly addressed the Jewish response to Abdullah's plan to annex the area of the proposed Arab state. Despite concerns in the Knesset, the Political Department of the Jewish Agency and the cabinet had viewed the proposal in a favorable light. Both organs had stipulated that Transjordan was not to interfere with the establishment of the Jewish state, and that it must avoid military confrontations. Classified documents that were captured by Israel indicated that the British had wanted to absorb Palestine into a "Greater Syria" that would eventually be ruled by Iraq. Historian Efraim Karsh and others assert that Britain and Transjordan planned to annex the Arab state and all or part of the Jewish state to Transjordan.