Pre-State Partition Plans

Key Facts

  • Under the auspices of the British, there were numerous attempts to settle the conflict and create two states for two people.
  • Following the Balfour Declaration which expressed the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland, the Arabs rejected any efforts to partition the land.
  • The Arab rejectionist approach led to the refusal of partition offers and the absence of a Palestinian state.

Leading up to the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948, there were numerous attempts to demarcate the land and create two states; an Arab state and a Jewish state. On more than one occasion, the Jewish community in the region accepted partition proposals, which were overwhelmingly rejected by the Arab leadership.

The vision of a Jewish national home in the region was explicitly endorsed in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which stated that “his Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. After a series of Arab riots and mounting attacks against Jews (in which hundreds were murdered), the British – which now controlled the territory under a Mandate of the League of Nations – assembled the Peel Commission in 1937.

The Commission was given the following mandate: “To ascertain the underlying causes of the disturbances which broke out in Palestine in the middle of April; to enquire into the manner in which the Mandate for Palestine is being implemented in relation to the obligations of the Mandatory towards the Arabs and the Jews respectively; and to ascertain whether, upon a proper construction of the terms of the Mandate, either the Arabs or the Jews have any legitimate grievances on account of the way in which the Mandate has been or is being implemented; and if the Commission is satisfied that any such grievances are well-founded, to make recommendation; for their removal and for the prevention of their recurrence.”1

Lord Peel sought to abolish the British Mandate in Palestine, and partition the land in hopes of creating two states for two peoples. The Jewish community was of mixed opinion, but ultimately accepted the proposal. The Arab leadership outright rejected the offer.

A second attempt at partition took place in 1947 with the Partition Plan. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 called for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a “Jewish” state and an “Arab” state. It passed on November 29, 1947 with 33 votes in favour (including Canada’s vote), 13 against, and 10 abstentions (see list).2

The Jews living under the British Mandate accepted the decision to partition the land, despite the plan involving significant concessions (including key holy sites being located outside the proposed Jewish state). The Arab leadership adamantly rejected partition.

Click here to view a map of the proposed boundaries under the 1947 Partition Plan.3

Further Reading






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