November 29, 1947 was the day that the UN General Assembly voted for Resolution 181, in favor of the petition of Palestine into two states — one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. The Jews accepted this proposal, the Arabs did not and declared war against Israel the day independence was declared in 1948.
Many myths and misconceptions surround these historical facts, and so today I would like to diverge from my normal format and take the opportunity to set the record straight.
First, it is imperative to note that resolutions of the General Assembly are only RECOMMENDATIONS and carry no weight in international law. This renders totally moot any notion that Israel’s founding depended on this resolution or that Israel is required to stay within the boundaries proposed by the resolution. And yet the day is marked by the Arabs as one of catastrophe, as it is presumed to have set in place the existence of Israel. It is actually something of a joke that Hamas now wants to petition the UN to repeal this resolution, which they imagine would remove Israel from the map. Poof!
What is NOT a joke is that the date is celebrated at the UN as a Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. (Needless to say, there is no day of solidarity with the Kurdish people or the people of Tibet, or any other people.)
There is a basis in international law for the existence of Israel AS A JEWISH STATE, and that is the Mandate for Palestine conferred upon Great Britain by the League of Nations in 1922.
That Mandate says in part:
"the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration [The Balfour Declaration] originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…
"…recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.
"…The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home.
"…The Administration of Palestine [Great Britain]…shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land."
This is historical reality. The intention of the Mandate was to prepare the Jewish homeland for ultimate independence. Nothing Hamas nor Mahmoud Abbas nor anyone else says changes this reality.
The Mandate included all of what is referred to as Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the Golan Heights for a short period before Britain traded it to France. The original territory also included what is today Jordan, which was then given by Britain to the Hashemite Prince Abdullah I. (The Hashemites were a Bedouin family that came out of the region of Saudi Arabia — the current king, Abdullah II, is from that line.)
Great Britain, however, never fulfilled the charge of its Mandate, and — contrary to its terms calling for immigration of Jews and their close settlement on the land –actually blocked Jewish entry into Palestine at the time of WWII.
Even prior to this, Britain had deferred heavily in its policies to the Arabs of the region, who were protesting Jewish presence. Bartley Crum, a member of the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry on Palestine in 1945, wrote in 1947 in his book, Behind the Silken Curtain, that "I trust I will not shock the reader if I say that fully seventy percent of the British colonial officials whom I met in Palestine either were, at worst, openly anti-Semitic or, at best, completely unsympathetic and even resentful towards Jewish hopes in Palestine."
After WWII, Britain let it be known that it was surrendering the Mandate and withdrawing from the area. The partition proposal of 1947 was an attempt to resolve the issue of Arab objections to a Jewish state in Palestine, and in fact was not the first such proposal. (The British Peel Commission made a similar proposal in 1937.)
In March 1948, David Ben Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency (established via the Mandate) declared that a provisional Jewish state had been established. When Britain pulled out on May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence and the League of Nations declared war on the new state. When the war was over in 1949, Armistice lines were established that extended somewhat beyond what was envisioned by the proposed Jewish state according to the Partition plan. But those Armistice lines were NOT final borders and it was even understood in the Armistice agreement with Jordan that the Armistice lines would not prejudice final borders.
And the area between the river and the sea that was not included within the Armistice lines? It was and still is legally Mandate land, as this has never been superseded in international law.
It’s ours, guys!
This is why the charge that we are occupiers is essentially fallacious. Gaza and Judea & Samaria are simply unclaimed Mandate land. We cannot "occupy" what was meant to be ours in the first place. "Occupation" takes place only when one sovereign state moves into the territory of another sovereign state. This is flatly not the case here.
When we acquired eastern Jerusalem in 1967 , and were able to reunite Jerusalem as our capital, we subsequently applied Israeli civil law to this area. We did not "annex" it. Why? Because it was already legally ours and there was no need to annex it.
No Israeli government has yet had the courage to apply Israeli civil law to all of Judea & Samaria — although it has been applied to the Golan — but the same principle applies in these areas.
Just as we are not "occupiers" neither are the settlements illegal under international law.
If we decide to give this unclaimed Mandate land for other purposes, we can do so. But we have no obligation to do so. All this talk about our being "required" to return to the pre-’67 lines is essentially nonsense that has become an Arab litany repeated so consistently that it is believed widely.
I am consistently irked by the suggestion that the Palestinians have a "right" to a state in our land. There is no such right. What is more (and this can be dealt with in greater detail at another time), in the early years of Israel’s founding there was no talk at all of an independent state for Palestinian Arabs in Judea & Samaria and Gaza. Jordan controlled one and Egypt the other from 1949-1967. Neither Arab state made the slightest move to give the local Palestinian Arabs a state in these territories, nor did the local Arabs ever petition them to do so. The war between Arabs and Israel in 1948 involved states of the Arab League (many of which are still technically at war with Israel to this day). The Armistice agreements were between surrounding states and Israel, not Israel and local Palestinian Arabs. After the war in 1967, UN Resolution 242 referenced only surrounding states and their relationship with Israel. As late as that resolution in 1967, there was NO mention either of "Palestinians" or a "Palestinian state."
These are fundamental facts. It is in the nature of a tragedy that this history, which provides context
to our current situation, is not broadly spoken of by Jews. It is time for us to stop apologizing and to set the record straight. It is time to stand up proud and speak about our rights to the land.
The Palestinians have no entitlement to this land of ours. If they wish to share it, at a bare minimum, let them petition for it, showing good faith in their acts.
Please see this link for a series of maps:
And these links to articles by the late Eugene Rostow on the legality of settlements:
Eugene W. Rostow, US Undersecretary of State for political affairs between 1966 and 1969, played a leading role in producing Resolution 242.