x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Campaigners for Palestinian state look to 1947 UN resolution that created Israel

What has come to be known as UN Resolution 181 was the trigger for the 1948 war between Jews living in then Palestine and surrounding Arab countries that eventually led to the creation of Israel. Palestinians say the UN should complete the mission of resolution 181 to create two states.

TEL AVIV // At times in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, what goes around comes around.

That is at least how some veteran observers of the decades-long conflict view the bid by the Palestinian Authority to seek United Nations recognition of its statehood, despite fierce Israeli and American opposition.

Indeed, the Palestinians appear to prefer to bypass Israeli recognition of their future state and opt for drawing international legitimacy instead - which is pretty much what the Israelis did to get their own state in 1947.

Indeed, the night of November 29, 1947 is one that Israelis of an older age recall being glued to their radios.

That day, the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a resolution dividing Palestine into two states - one Jewish and one Arab. The vote followed escalating violence between Arabs and Jews over the fate of Palestine and between Jewish militants and the British army, whose country ruled over Palestine at the time.

The resolution was never implemented because it was not widely backed by the Arabs, partly out of anger that more than half of Palestine - some 56 per cent - was given to the Jews despite the fact that their population was only half that of the Palestinians, who numbered some 1.2 million.

But what has come to be known as UN Resolution 181 was the trigger for the 1948 war between Jews living in then Palestine and surrounding Arab countries that eventually led to the creation of Israel.

For Jews, the 1947 UN vote represented the international legitimacy that the Zionist leadership had sought for decades in order to establish a sovereign state. Indeed, some analysts credit the division of Palestine into two states - despite the Jews being a minority - to the fact that the Jews had co-operated with the UN committee that had recommended the partition while the Arabs did not.

In May 1949, the Israelis won what the Palestinians are now hoping to get - the Security Council voted to admit Israel as a full UN member.

The UN votes appear to illustrate the influence that the international body could have in the birth of a new country.

Oddly, some opponents of the Palestinians' recognition quest seem to be overlooking precisely that major role that the UN resolutions had played in the establishment of Israel in their arguments against the Palestinian bid.

Barack Obama, the US president, who has threatened to veto the Palestinian bid should it come up for a vote in the Security Council, said during his speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday: "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN."

Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, said yesterday that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, had lobbied for the statehood recognition quest partly on the premise that the UN should complete the mission of resolution 181 to create two states.

"The Palestinians were divided over the partition at the time of the vote, although Israel likes to say that they clearly rejected it," Mr Khatib said. "Now we are going to the UN, hoping that this same international agency will fulfil its obligations by creating the second state mentioned in that resolution."

foreign.desk@thenational.ae