Home   »  Resources  »  Miscellaneous Resources  »  Understanding the Conflict: A ...  »  PART TWO: The Other Players

Didn't the United Nations create the State of Israel? Why didn't it create a State of Palestine too? Why doesn't it now?

After World War II, with the British eager to give up their League of Nations Mandate over Palestine, the United Nations General Assembly took responsibility to figure out what to do in the conflict-riven area. The local population was angry about the influx of European Jewish settlers, whose numbers rose dramatically as the U.S. and Britain refused to allow large-scale immigration of European Jews escaping, or later having barely survived, the Holocaust. Fighting escalated between the indigenous Palestinian population and the European settlers, and the British occupation soldiers became targets of both. The UN Special Commission on Palestine, or UNSCOP, recommended that Palestine be divided into two states, one Jewish, and one Arab.

The November 29, 1947 resolution partitioning Palestine apportioned 55 percent of Mandate Palestine to the new State of Israel, leaving 45 percent for a future Palestinian state. The Zionist leaders accepted partition, though in private several indicated their intention to expand the new state to include all of Palestine. But Palestinians were opposed to the partition. At the time of the UN resolution, Jews in Palestine constituted just about 30 percent of the population, and they owned only 6 percent of the land. Given that, it was seen as a massive injustice for them to be granted more than half the land. In fact, the land the UN identified to become the Jewish state included within it over 450,000 Palestinian Arabs; the number of Jews in the area designated to become a Palestinian Arab state was tiny.

And the Palestinian state never came into existence. The Israeli Jewish state did, of course, and by the end of the 1947-48 conflict, it had absorbed 78 percent of the land, far more than the 55 percent actually allocated to it by the United Nations.

In fact, no one seriously consulted the Palestinians themselves. While most were strongly opposed to partition, the relevant opposition, on the world stage, came not from the Palestinians but from the Arab governments in the region. They were opposed also, though in general they had little interest in defending the rights of the Palestinians. As soon as Israel declared its independence, their armies moved to oppose the unified Zionist militias, but even with a mandate limited to the areas assigned by the UN to the Palestinian state, they were soon defeated.

Once hostilities ended, Israel was recognized as an independent state (though it never officially acknowledged its borders). Egypt and Jordan were in control of the now separate parts of Arab Palestine that remained, and Palestinian independence was not on any international agenda.

Since 1967, when the U.S.-Israel special relationship was consolidated, the U.S. consistently protected Israel diplomatically, including largely preventing the question of Palestinian independence and an end to occupation off the enforceable agenda of the UN, especially the UN Security Council.