The Partition Plan כ”ט בנובמבר

The United Nations General Assembly votes to partition Palestine

Session of U.N. New York, proclaim establishment of the State of Israel
Session of U.N. New York, proclaim establishment of the State of Israel

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution, which adopted the plan for the partition of Palestine, recommended by the majority of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). 33 states voted in favor of the resolution and 13 against. 10 states abstained.

UNSCOP was appointed seven months earlier, after Great Britain, which ruled the country on the basis of a League of Nations Mandate, decided that in light of the growing Jewish resistance and violent opposition to its rule, it was unwilling to continue on the existing basis, and handed the whole issue over to the UN. The UN Committee reached the conclusion that the Mandate for Palestine should be terminated, and most of its members recommended the establishment in the territory of Mandatory Palestine of an Arab state and a Jewish state, while internationalizing Jerusalem.

Moshe Sharet, Abba Eban & David Hacohen during the flag raising
Moshe Sharet, Abba Eban & David Hacohen during the flag raising

The partition map proposed by UNSCOP allotted the Jewish state only a small part of Western Palestine. Despite this fact, the Zionist Organization and the institutions of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael agreed to accept the plan, since it recognized the right of the Jewish people to a state and not only a “national home” as stated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1922 Mandate for Palestine.

The adoption of the partition resolution by the General Assembly was received by the Jewish community with great joy and thousands went out to the streets to celebrate, even though it was clear that the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs would embark on a relentless war against the realization of the plan to establish a Jewish state.


In favour:






Australia Haiti Sweden Afghanistan Argentina
Belgium Iceland Ukrainian S.S.R Cuba Chile
Bolivia Liberia Union of South Africa Egypt China
Brazil Luxemburg U.S.A Greece Colombia
Byelorussian S.S.R Netherlands U.S.S.R India El Salvador
Canada New Zealand Uruguay Iran Ethiopia
Costa Rica Nicaragua Venezuela Iraq Honduras
Czechoslovakia Norway Lebanon Mexico
Denmark Panama Pakistan United Kingdom
Dominican Republic Paraguay Saudi Arabia Yugoslavia
Ecuador Peru Syria
France Philippines Turkey
Guatemala Poland Yemen

The Resolution: Two States for Two Nations

The partition map as suggested by the UN in 1947, and turned down by the Arab nations.
The partition map as suggested by the UN in 1947, and turned down by the Arab nations.

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 UNSCOP report placed the mostly-Arab town of Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, in the Jewish state, but it was moved to form an enclave part of the Arab State before the proposal went before the UN.

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 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 constituted the western side of “Historic Palestine”, and 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 and the Sea of Galilee (the largest source of fresh water in Palestine). The land allocated to the Jewish state was largely made up of areas in which there was a significant Jewish population (Map of population distribution).

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” (wikipedia).


The Reaction

Celebrations in Tel-Aviv
Celebrations in Tel-Aviv

The majority of the Jews and Jewish groups accepted the proposal, in particular the Jewish Agency, which was the Jewish state-in-formation. A minority of extreme nationalist Jewish groups like Menachem Begin’s Irgun Tsvai Leumi and Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi, (known as the Stern Gang) which had been fighting the British, rejected it. Begin warned that the partition won’t bring peace because the Arabs will 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 29th (the date of this session) as the most important date in Israel’s acquisition of independence, and many Israeli cities commemerate the date in their streets’ names. However, Jews did criticise the lack of territorial continuity for the Jewish state.

Arab Nations attacks following the resolution
Arab Nations attacks following the resolution

The Arab leadership (in and out of Palestine) opposed the plan, arguing 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 also argued a large number of Arabs would be trapped in the Jewish State as a minority. While some Arab leaders opposed the right of the Jews for self-determination in the region, others criticised the amount and quality of land given to Israel.

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. On December 3, at the instigation of the Palestinian leadership, a large mob ransacked the new Jewish commercial center in Jerusalem, looting and burning shops and stabbing and stoning whomever they happened upon. The next day, some 120-150 armed Arabs attacked Kibbutz Efal, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, in the first large-scale attempt to storm a Jewish village.

The United Kingdom refused to implement the plan arguing it was not acceptable to both sides. It also refused to share with the UN Palestine Commission the administration of Palestine during the transitional period, and decided to terminate the British mandate of Palestine on May 15th, 1948.

Fighting began almost as soon as the plan was approved, beginning with the Arab Jerusalem Riots of 1947. The fighting would have an effect on the Arab population of Palestine, as well the Jewish populations of neighboring Arab countries. (wikipedia)

The fighting, finaly ending on July 1949, took the life of thousands of jews and arabs. As a result of that war, over 400,000 arabs escaped from palestine, and over 700,000 jews escaped from Arab countries.

IsraCast, Jerusalem

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