In Mandatory Palestine 60 Years Ago

Posted by on Wed, Jan 23, 2008 @ 04:24 PM
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Events that preceded the founding of Israel 60 years ago and why Jerusalem is still at the center of the Middle East conflict--Part One

The following comes from my "Identity, Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem" (Palgrave 2006).

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In April 1947 Britain requested the transfer of its Mandate responsibilities for Palestine to the United Nations. In November the UN passed Resolution 181 advocating the partition of Palestine, and the future of Jerusalem was in the balance. The resolution called for establishing both an Arab and a Jewish state with mutual economic interests, and for the internationalization of Jerusalem. There was a provision for a nonbinding referendum on Jerusalem’s future after ten years. For his part, the Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion was happy to agree with this in the hope that after a decade the Jews would find it easier to possess the city, even though the projected demographics of the area were not to the Jewish advantage. Despite the peculiarities of other terms of the resolution (there would be 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs in the Jewish state), the Jewish community in Palestine would have a legitimacy it had never had before, in the form of its own independent state.

The Jewish Agency accepted the UN's partition proposal, though the internationalization of Jerusalem was a bitter pill. Their agreement was once again a matter of pragmatism; a state without Jerusalem was better than no state at all. The Arab League, however, rejected the plan on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs.

Ben-Gurion was in charge of defense from 1946 onward and had already concluded that an armed conflict with the Arabs would come. Accordingly he began an arms buildup. In November 1947, just before the UN partition resolution passed, Golda (Meyerson) Meir met secretly with King Abdullah of Transjordan on behalf of the Jewish Agency. They agreed that, following a very likely conflict between the Yishuv and its Arab enemies, the Jews would take the areas designated for them in the UN plan, Transjordan would take Arab Palestine, and the two sides would make peace. Jerusalem was never mentioned, however. Immediately following the passage of the UN resolution, Palestinians attacked the Jewish community. The Jewish forces retaliated, and by mid-January 60 years ago, Palestinians in sections of West Jerusalem were fleeing.

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Tags: jerusalem, Arab Palestine, Golda Meir, partition proposal, Middle East Conflict, West Jerusalem