Partition Plans (Palestine)

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plans for the territorial division of palestine that attempted to reconcile the rival claims of the jewish and arab communities; first suggested in 1937 by britain's peel commission.

Following the outbreak of the Arab rebellion in 1936, the British government, which had been granted the Palestinian mandate by the League of Nations, appointed Earl Peel to chair a royal commission. The commission learned that Jewish nationalism was as intense and self-centered as Arab nationalism, that both were growing forces, and that the gulf between them was widening. Partition was seen as the only method for dealing with the problem. In its final report (July 1937), the Peel Commission recommended that Palestine be partitioned into a small Jewish state; an Arab state to be united with Trans-jordan; and an area, including Jerusalem, to remain under a permanent British mandate. The Zionist leadership accepted the principle of partition and prepared to bargain over the details. But the Arab leadership refused to consider partition and re-asserted its claims to the whole of Palestine. Although the Peel plan was not acted upon, the principle of partition guided all subsequent exercises in peacemaking (19371947).

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution (no. 181) for replacing the British mandate with two independent states, thereby suggesting that the logic of partition had become inescapable. The UN partition resolution laid down a timetable for the termination of the British mandate and for the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state linked by economic union, along with an international regime for Jerusalem. An exceptionally long and winding border separated the Jewish state from the Arab one, with vulnerable crossing points to link three Jewish enclavesone in eastern Galilee, one on the coastal plain, and one in the Negev. The Jewish state would also contain a substantial Arab minority within its borders.

Despite doubts about the viability of the state as proposed, the Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan. Local Arab leaders and the Arab states rejected it vehemently as illegal, immoral, and unworkable. To frustrate this partition, the Palestinian Arabs resorted to arms. The UN partition plan thus provided both an international charter of legitimacy for a Jewish state as well as the signal for the outbreak of war between Arabs and Jews in Palestine.

see also arab nationalism; nationalism; palestine arab revolt (19361939); peel commission report (1937).


Katz, Yossi. Partner to Partition: The Jewish Agency's Partition Plan in the Mandate Era. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1998.

Khalidi, Walid, ed. From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem until 1948. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971.

Segev, Tom. One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the Mandate, translated by Haim Watzman. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000.

Shlaim, Avi. The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, the Zionists, and Palestine, 19211951. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

avi shlaim