The area designated as a Jewish state as over 75% desert; it had a population of 498,000 Jews and 325,000 Arabs. The proposed Arab state area had 807,000 Arab inhabitants and 10,000 Jewish inhabitants. The international trusteeship regime in Jerusalem would have a population of 100,000 Jews and 105,000 Arabs.
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly, in its 128th plenary session, by a two-thirds vote (33 to 13 with Britain and nine others abstaining) passed Resolution 181 partitioning Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish community of Palestine jubilantly accepted partition despite the small size and strategic vulnerability of the proposed state. Not only were the West Bank and Gaza Strip not included, but alsoJerusalem, most of the Galilee in the North and parts of the Negev desert in the South were excluded.
After the vote was announced, the six Arab delegations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen stormed out threatening war and the annihilation of the Palestinian Jews. Pakistan’s delegation followed suit. The Arab national movement in Palestine, as well as all the Arab states, angrily rejected partition. They demanded the entire country for themselves and threatened to resist partition by force. Had they acceptedthe UN proposal in 1947, the independent Palestinian Arab state, covering an area much larger than Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza, would have been created along with Israel. Instead, they rejected the plan and launched a war to destroy the nascent Jewish state.
Almost immediately there was Arab violence against the Jews in Palestine. Mordechai Palzur, the former chief of protocol at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, quotes a report published in Foreign Relations of the United States 1947 by Robert Macatee, consul general of Jerusalem:
- It is tragic that many of the present casualties comprise innocent and harmless people going about their daily business. They are picked off while riding in buses, walking along the streets and stray shots even find them while asleep in their beds. A Jewish woman, mother of five children, was shot in Jerusalem while hanging out clothes on the roof. The ambulance rushing her to the hospital was machine gunned and finally the mourners following her to the funeral were attacked and one of them was stabbed to death.
The Arabs were blunt in taking responsibility for starting the war. Jamal Husseini, the Arab Higher Committee’s spokesman, told the Security Council on April 16, 1948:
- The representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight.
The British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, John Bagot Glubb admitted:
- Early in January, the first detachments of the Arab Liberation Army began to infiltrate into Palestine from Syria. Some came through Jordan and even through Amman . . . They were in reality to strike the first blow in the ruin of the Arabs of Palestine.
UNSCOP was prevented by Arab and British forces from doing a full investigation in Palestine. They reported to the Security Council on 16 February 1948:
- Organized efforts are being made by strong Arab elements inside and outside Palestine to prevent the implementation of the Assembly’s plan of partition and to thwart its objectives by threats and acts of violence, including armed incursions into Palestinian territory… This Commission now finds itself confronted with an attempt to defeat its purposes, and to nullify the resolution of the General Assembly.
Jerusalem became the scene of the bloodiest battles, in danger of destruction, which aroused international concern. On 6 May 1948, the Special Session of the General Assembly recommended that:
- … the Mandatory Power appoint, under Palestine legislation, before 15 May 1948, a neutral acceptable to both Arabs and Jews, as Special Municipal Commissioner, who shall, with the co-operation of the community committees already existing in Jerusalem, carry out the functions hitherto performed by the Municipal Commission. (General Assembly Resolution 187 (S.II).)
A Philadelphia attorney, Mr. Harold Evans, was appointed to the post, but he never set foot in Jerusalem. The General Assembly failed to decide on a Statute of Jerusalem, and turned down a proposal submitted at the decisive hour before the Mandate lapsed for a temporary trusteeship regime of the city.
The United States, the Soviet Union and most other member states of the United Nations immediately recognized Israel after it declared independence on May 14, 1948, and indicted the Arabs for their aggression. The United States urged a resolution charging the Arabs with breach of the peace. Soviet delegate Andrei Gromyko told the Security Council, May 29, 1948:
- This is not the first time that the Arab states, which organized the invasion of Palestine, have ignored a decision of the Security Council or of the General Assembly. The USSR delegation deems it essential that the council should state its opinion more clearly and more firmly with regard to this attitude of the Arab states toward decisions of the Security Council.
The initial phase of the fighting ended after the Security Council threatened July 15 to cite the Arab governments for aggression under the Charter. By this time, the Haganah had been renamed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and succeeded in stopping the Arab offensive.
During the summer of 1948, Count Folke Bernadotte was sent by the UN to Palestine to mediate a truce and try to negotiate a settlement. Bernadotte’s plan called for the Jewish State to relinquish the Negev and Jerusalem to Transjordan and to receive the western Galilee. This was similar to the boundaries that had been proposed prior to the partition vote, and had been rejected by all sides. Now, the proposal was being offered after the Arabs had gone to war to prevent partition and a Jewish state had been declared. The Jews and Arabs both rejected the plan. Bernadotte was assassinated by LEHI extremists in Jerusalem on September 17, 1948, an act that resulted in the elimination of the LEHI organization by mainstream Jewish leaders.
Although UN Resolution 181 is still sometimes cited when it is advantageous to the pro-Arab Palestinian position, the State of Israel has consistently maintained that the Partition Resolution became null and void when it was rejected by the Arab side in 1947.
As late as 1999, Resolution 181 was once again the focus of attention, more than 50 years after it was passed by the United Nations and rejected by the Arabs. The Palestinian Authority arranged for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to pass a resolution calling for Palestinian self-determination only on the basis UN Resolution 181. This was a blatant attempt to rewrite all of the history of the years between 1947 and 1999 and it was swiftly denounced.
Ironically, the United Nations has been an anti-Israel institution since shortly after the UN was instrumental in the founding of the State of Israel. Unfortunately the UN was often subverted by a coalition of third-world countries, Soviet client states, pro-Arab and anti-Semitic forces who could use actions against Israel as a proxy for stabs against the United States and its democratic allies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this coalition was absorbed by the Middle Eastern forces seeking to destroy Israel. Today, the UN cannot be seen as a useful guide to world opinion or the moral course of action.
The United Nations will see it self in a new role this month as Palestine mounts a bid for membership in 2011.