The disputed partition of Palestine 70 years ago
PARIS: The UN plan that partitioned Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, was adopted 70 years ago.
The resolution led to the creation of Israel, but an independent Palestinian state has yet to see the light of day.
Here is a recap.
Palestine handed to UN
After World War II, Britain´s grasp on power in Palestine was slipping.
It had received a mandate for the territory from the League of Nations in 1922. But things had changed radically since then, following the Jewish Holocaust, mounting pressure from underground zionist groups, the creation of the Arab League and increased US involvement in the Middle East.
In February 1947 London announced it would give up control of Palestine, handing it over to the United Nations, which had replaced the League of Nations.
A three-minute vote
The UN General Assembly in New York adopted Resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine on November 29, 1947.
In a vote that took less than three minutes, Palestine — home to 1.3 million Arabs and 600,000 Jews — was divided into three entities which were to be formed by August 1, 1948.
The Jewish state was allocated 14,000 square kilometres (5,400 square miles) of territory, while the Palestinians were to keep three regions spanning 11,500 square kilometres (4,400 square miles).
A special international zone was created for Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.
The land that was to become Israel represented 54 percent of mandate Palestine, though Jews accounted for 30 percent of the population.
The UN plan also laid out details on citizenship, transit rights, economic union and a declaration that each of the independent states allow access to holy sites and respect the rights of religious communities and minorities.
Common US, Soviet Union front
Even though Britain had prompted the session that called the vote, it abstained because of the explosive nature of the text. Having regularly changed its position over the Palestinian issue, London was at this point broadly on the side of the Arabs.
Arab states were against, calling for the creation of a single, democratic and independent Palestinian state encompassing the whole area.
However they came up against an unexpected alliance between Cold War foes the United States and the Soviet Union which made it possible to get the two-thirds majority needed for the text to be adopted.
While the Soviet Union wanted Britain out of Palestine, the United States leadership, encouraged by Jews inside the country, backed the formation of an independent Jewish state.
Dream for Jews, Arab nightmare
While Jewish leaders accepted the UN plan, some zionists rejected it because the territory that was granted fell far short of the Greater Israel to which they aspired.
But in Tel Aviv there were scenes of jubilation among Jews.
Arab countries rejected the project. And among Palestinians there was a deep sense of injustice, with the number of violent incidents in Palestinian territory eventually escalating.
On May 14, 1948, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel after the end of the British mandate in Palestine.
The first Arab-Israeli war broke out a day later.
By the end of the conflict, Israel occupied 78 percent of mandate Palestine. A Palestinian exodus began, with more than 760,000 eventually leaving.
During the Six-Day War of June 1967 Israel took more territory, occupying the West Bank, east Jerusalem — which it went on to annex — and the Gaza Strip, from which it unilaterally withdrew in 2005. It also took parts of the Golan Heights from Syria and Sinai from Egypt, which it later returned in 1982.