The first partition of Palestine took place in 1922, when the British government excluded Transjordan from the area to which the provisions of the *Balfour Declaration would apply. The Zionist Executive reluctantly acquiesced in this decision. The *Revisionist movement, established in 1925, hotly opposed the separation of Transjordan; its basic slogan was "a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan." The idea of partitioning western Palestine between Jews and Arabs was first broached officially in 1937 by the Palestine Royal Commission (see *Palestine, Inquiry Commissions, Peel Commission) as a method of enabling each nation to exercise sovereignty and achieve its principal national aims in part of the country while maintaining a British foothold centered in Jerusalem. The proposal was at first approved by the British government and accepted in principle, after a vigorous controversy, by the majority of the yishuv and the Zionist movement. The British withdrew their support, however, after the Palestine Partition Commission (the Woodhead Commission, see below) had failed to produce a "practicable" partition plan, and instead adopted in 1939 the *White Paper policy, which would ultimately have created an independent Palestinian state with a permanent Arab majority.
The abortive Morrison-Grady scheme of 1946 (see below), which would have left more than two-fifths of the country in British hands and given neither Arabs nor Jews more than limited autonomy, was rejected by both sides, and it was not until Britain put the problem before the United Nations that a new partition plan was evolved. This was done by the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP, see below), which recommended the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state joined in an economic union, with Jerusalem and its environs as a separate international enclave. This proposal was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs, while the British refused to play any part in implementing it.
The partition of western Palestine was not merely a theoretical proposal, but one of the possibilities inherent in the situation created by two generations of Zionist settlement before and during the British *Mandate. Jewish land purchases, mainly by the *Jewish National Fund, and the establishment of Jewish towns and villages had created areas of contiguous Jewish settlement, with a self-reliant and economically viable community that was prepared and able to defend itself and institutions of self-government based upon the voluntary allegiance of the Jewish population. Without such a yishuv, fortified by the moral, political, and financial support of Jews around the world, no decision by any external body could have been implemented. Ultimately, the partition of western Palestine was the result of two forces: the capacity of the yishuv to hold its own by force against the attacks of Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab states on the one hand, and the inability of the yishuv to gain control of the whole of western Palestine, on the other. The following are the details of the partition plans presented by the various commissions and committees.
Palestine Royal Commission
(See *Palestine, Inquiry Commissions). This commission, often referred to as the Peel Commission, published its report on July 7, 1937. It came to the conclusion that partition was the best solution for both sides. Although this proposal meant neither Jews nor Arabs would get all they wanted, the commission believed that it offered many advantages to both sides. The Arabs would obtain national independence and finally be delivered from fear of ultimate subjection to Jewish rule. By converting the Jewish National Home into a Jewish state, the Jews would not only be free of the fear of Arab rule, but they "will attain the primary objective of Zionism – a Jewish nation, planted in Palestine, giving its nationals the same status in the world as other nations give theirs. They will cease
The commission therefore proposed that Palestine be divided into
(1) a Jewish state, comprising the whole of Galilee and the Jezreel Valley, most of the Beth-Shean Valley, and the Coastal Plain from Ras el-Nakura (Rosh ha-Nikrah) on the Lebanese border to Be'er Tuviyyah in the south;
(2) an Arab state comprising Transjordan, the hill country of Samaria and Judea, and the Negev;
(3) a British zone under permanent Mandate, consisting of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and their environs, a corridor to the coast at Jaffa, and Nazareth. British treaties of alliance with the Jewish and the Arab state would guarantee the protection of minorities, facilities for British forces, etc., and the Jewish state would pay a subvention to the Arab state. (For details of proposed boundaries, see *Israel, Land of: Geographical Survey.)
The 20th Zionist Congress (Zurich, Aug. 3–17, 1937) declared that the Peel Commission's scheme was "unacceptable," but empowered the Executive to negotiate with the British government on "precise terms" for the establishment of "a Jewish state," provided that any scheme that might emerge would be submitted for approval to a newly elected Congress.
Palestine Partition Commission
In 1938 the British government appointed the Palestine Partition Commission (generally known as the Woodhead Commission, after its chairman Sir John Woodhead) "to recommend boundaries for the proposed Arab and Jewish areas and the British enclaves that would (a) afford a reasonable prospect of the eventual establishment… of self-supporting Arab and Jewish states; (b) necessitate the inclusion of the fewest possible Arabs and Arab enterprises in the Jewish area and vice versa; and (c) enable the British government to carry out its 'Mandatory responsibilities.'" The commission, whose report was published in October 1938, found that the Peel Commission's scheme (Plan A) was impracticable. One member favored Plan B, which would have excluded Galilee and a small area in the south from the Jewish state as proposed in Plan A; two others preferred Plan C, which provided for small Jewish and Arab states, with Galilee, a Jerusalem enclave, and the Negev under British mandate; and a fourth rejected all three plans. The commission, therefore, was unable to recommend boundaries that would meet its terms of reference, and the British government came to the conclusion that partition was impracticable.
The Morrison-Grady Scheme
This was a plan evolved in July 1946 by British and American representatives, headed by Herbert Morrison, then lord president of the council, and T. Grady of the U.S. State Department. It purported to be based on the report of the Anglo-American Committee (see *Palestine, Inquiry Commissions), but
actually had little or nothing in common with it. The scheme provided for the division of Palestine into four provinces: an Arab province, consisting of about 40% of the area; a Jewish province, with 17%, and two British provinces – the Jerusalem district and the Negev – covering 43% of the area. A British
defense, foreign relations, and customs and excise would be controlled by the central government, and bills passed by the provincial legislatures would require the high commissioner's assent. The Land Transfer Regulations of the 1939 White Paper would be repealed. The Arab legislature would be free to permit or refuse Jews permission to buy lands in its province, while the Jews would be permitted to buy land in their own area. Final control over immigration would rest with the high commissioner, who would act according to the recommendations of the provincial governments, provided the economic absorptive capacity was not exceeded (see *White Papers). As for the future, the plan left the way open for either partition or for federal unity. The U.S. government declined to accept
UN Special Committee on Palestine
UNSCOP was appointed by the UN General Assembly in May 1947 after Britain had submitted the Palestine problem to the UN (see *Palestine, Inquiry Commissions). The seven-member majority called for the partition of Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state, and a "Special International Regime" for Jerusalem, all three to be linked in an economic union. The minority proposed the establishment of a binational federal state, while the Australian representative abstained.
The majority proposals, with slight territorial modifications, were adopted by a special meeting of the General Assembly on Nov. 19, 1947. The Arab state was to comprise western Galilee, the hill country of Samaria and Judea (excluding Jerusalem), and the Coastal Plain from Isdud (Ashdod) to the Sinai frontier; the Jewish state would include eastern Galilee, the Jezreel Valley, most of the Coastal Plain, and the Negev. Each state was thus to consist of three sections linked at two crossing points. The Jerusalem enclave was to be under UN trusteeship. (See Map: UNSCOP Partition Plan). (For details of proposed boundaries, see *Israel, State of: Frontiers.)
The proposals were accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs, who announced that they would do all in their power to bring about the collapse of the plan, while the British stated that they would do nothing to enforce it. In the end, the United Nations decision was implemented by the *Haganah and the Israel Defense Forces, which repelled attacks against Jewish centers and enabled the yishuv to establish the State of Israel, with its legislature, government, and administration in effective control of its territory. The de facto boundaries of the State of Israel, which were determined by the *Armistice agreements concluded in 1949 with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, were roughly similar to those proposed in the UN resolution, with the addition of western Galilee and a broad corridor from the coast to western Jerusalem. The special international regime for Jerusalem could not be implemented and the city was divided along the cease-fire lines between Israel and Jordan.
The question of partition came to the fore again after the *Six-Day War of June 1967, as a result of which Israel found itself in control of the entire area that had constituted western Palestine. In Israel, some of those (headed by *Ḥerut leaders) who were opposed to any withdrawal from the new cease-fire lines, especially the Palestinian areas, based their attitude on the total negation of any "renewed partition of Ereẓ Israel." The majority of Israel opinion, however, supported the policy of withdrawing from a part of the newly occupied territories in exchange for effective peace treaties with the neighboring Arab states, which would put an end to the Israel-Arab conflict and grant Israel "defensible borders." This policy guided the Israel government in 1970–71 in its negotiations with Egypt and Jordan under the auspices of UN representative Gunnar Jarring, in accordance with the Security Council resolution of Nov. 22, 1967. The issue of withdrawal from territories occupied during the Six-Day War continued to be a divisive issue in Israeli politics in the following decades, though a majority of the Israeli public seemed to become reconciled to the idea despite the ups and downs of the peace process initiated in 1994 with the Oslo Accords.
For bibliography see *White Papers.