JERUSALEM – The 70th anniversary of the United Nation’s decision to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab, was marked on Wednesday by both Israelis and Palestinians.
United Nations Resolution 181 was passed as a way to end British control over Palestine, ceding over 50 percent to a Jewish state and calling for Jerusalem to become a special international city due to its religious importance.
In a recorded message, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that while his country’s independence and sovereignty are not based solely on diplomatic votes, the resolution gave Israel a place among nations. Rivlin urged the UN to continue its work searching for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
The partition eventually led to the founding of the state of Israel on 77 percent of the land – everything excluding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – which, in turn, triggered the displacement of around 750,000 Palestinians, many of whom remain refugees to this day.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said that the victimization and suffering of the Palestinian people began with partition, stressing that Israel was created at the expense of the indigenous people who were violently torn from the land.
Ashrawi and other Palestinian leaders have urged the world to rectify the damage caused to the Palestinians by the resolution.
UN Resolution 181 was meant to put an end to the so-called Palestinian question by dividing the territory into two states, but seven decades later, the problem remains unsolved and continues to fuel violence.
The Partition Plan with Economic Union was proposed by the UN Special Committee on Palestine, and it established the borders of two independent states, both granted a period of fewer than eleven months to be formed.
The resolution was approved with 33 votes in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions.
While the Zionist movement, represented by the Jewish Agency, reluctantly accepted the plan, Palestinian residents and the Arab world rejected it outright. Arab leaders at the time argued that the resolution violated the Charter of the United Nations – which gives people the ability to decide their destiny.
Palestinians warned that they would not accept partition or segregation of their country, or giving preferential rights to what was then a minority.
Resolution 181 gave 56 percent of the land to Israel and 46 percent to Palestine, at a time when the territory was inhabited – according to the British census of 1945 – by 553,000 Jews (31 percent) and 1,197,000 Arabs (68 percent, a small part of them Christian and the rest Muslim).
Arab rejection of the plan led to the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli War on May 15, 1948.
The war ended with a truce in 1949 between Israel on one side and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria on the other; with a significant loss of Arab territory from the original partition plan.
The West Bank and Gaza strip were conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, and the UN considers them occupied territories.