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60-Year-Old UN Partition Vote to be Reenacted

This November will mark 60 years since the fateful UN partition vote paving Israel's creation. The Knesset aims to reenact the vote with fanfare.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/16/2007, 12:24 PM

This November will mark 60 years since the famous and fateful UN partition vote that paved the way for Israel's creation. The Knesset plans to reenact the vote with fanfare.

The commemoration is to occur this coming November 29 (Thursday, the 19th of Kislev), when Israel's parliament will festively reenact the UN vote that took place exactly 60 years before.  An invitation has already been proffered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the ambassadors of the 33 countries that voted in favor of the partition will also be invited.

The occasion will mark the kick-off of Israel's official 60th anniversary year, climaxing in May 2008 on the anniversary of the declaration of Israel's independence.

The Fateful Vote
The vote in 1947 took place in the General Assembly of the United Nations. The UN resolved on that occasion to partition western Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state - in place of the British Mandate which had governed the area since World War I.  The rest of Palestine, 78% of it, had earlier become Transjordan, later known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 

Though the Jews had hoped to establish a viable state on all or most of the area that is today Israel, the partition plan granted them only two non-contiguous slivers of land, connected one to another by two single border crossings.  Jerusalem was to be internationalized, and the Israeli territory was more than 75% desert land.  It also included area north, west and south of the Sea of Galilee, a swathe of land a few miles wide from Haifa to Ashdod, and the Lachish region. 

Most of the Galilee, Jezreel Valley and Jordan Valley, parts of the Sharon Plain, and all of Jerusalem and environs, Samaria, Judea, Gaza, Halutza, and Beit Shemesh regions were not included in the area designated for the Jewish state.

Despite this, Jews in the Holy Land and all over the world prayed that the UN resolution would pave the way for the creation of the disjointed Jewish State, while the Arabs were strongly opposed to any arrangement that would grant any land to a Jewish entity. One Arab delegate at the UN said, "The Arab states cannot tolerate this break in their unity, and this menace to their political and economic life. They are entitled to have a decisive say in all matters that affect their regional interests. Thus, they oppose the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine now, or at any future time."

The vote itself, which required a 2/3 majority, was a very dramatic affair, and led to a joyous outbreak of singing and dancing in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere when its results were broadcast publicly. 

The 33 countries that voted in favour of the partition were: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Byelorussian SSR, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, South Africa, Ukrainian SSR, United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

In the end, however, the UN's partition plan never came about.  Six months later, when the British Mandate ended, Israel declared its independence, and was immediately attacked by five Arab countries.  The war for Israel's independence ended in 1949 with borders that were much improved over what the partition plan had granted - including western Jerusalem and a corridor leading to it from the Tel Aviv area.

The Celebration
At the celebration this coming November, the ambassadors of the above 33 countries will be given special seats in the Knesset plenum itself, aside the Knesset Members.  A short film clip of the original vote will be screened, and photos of the spontaneous celebrations at that time will be shown as well.

Speakers at the special session, according to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik's plan, will include President Peres, Speaker Itzik, Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, and Opposition Leader Netanyahu. It is possible that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others will also be invited to take part.