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History of the State of Palestine Unraveling the Mysteries of Jerusalem: Deep Dive into the City's Fascinating Past

 History of the State of  Jerusalem



The history of the State of Palestine describes the creation and evolution of the State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

  • Since then there have been proposals to establish a Palestinian state. In 1969, for example, the PLO proposed the establishment of a binational state over the whole of the former British Mandate territory. This proposal was rejected by Israel, as it would have amounted to the disbanding of the state of Israel. The basis of the current proposals is for a two-state solution on either a portion of or the entirety of the Palestinian territories—the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967.

Ottoman era

At the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, the victorious European states divided many of its component regions into newly created states under League of Nations mandates according to deals that had been struck with other interested parties. In the Middle East, Syria (including the Ottoman autonomous Christian Lebanon and the surrounding areas that became the Republic of Lebanon) came under French control, while Mesopotamia and Palestine were allotted to the British.

  • Most of these states achieved independence during the following three decades without great difficulty, though in some regimes, the colonial legacy continued through the granting of exclusive rights to market/manufacture oil and maintain troops to defend it.[citation needed] However, the case of Palestine remained problematic.

Arab nationalism was on the rise after World War II, possibly following the example of European nationalism. Pan-Arabist beliefs called for the creation of a single, secular state for all Arabs.

Mandate Period

  • In 1917 the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration which declared British support for the creation of Palestine as a "national home for the Jewish people". The declaration was enthusiastically received by many Jews worldwide but was opposed by Palestinian and Arab leaders, who later claimed that the objective was a breach of promises made to the Sharif of Mecca in 1915, in exchange for Arab help fighting the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Many different proposals have been made and continue to be made to resolve the dilemma of the competing objectives, including an Arab state, with or without a significant Jewish population, a Jewish state, with or without a significant Arab population, a single bi-national state, with or without some degree two states, one bi-national and one Arab, with or without some form of federation, and two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with or without some form of federation.

  • At the same time, many Arab leaders maintained that Palestine should join a larger Arab state covering the imprecise region of the Levant. These hopes were expressed in the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement, which was signed by soon-to-be Iraqi ruler Faisal I and the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann. Despite this, the promise of a Pan-Arab state including Palestine was dashed as Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan declared independence from their European rulers, while western Palestine festered in the developing Arab-Jewish conflict.

In light of these developments, Arabs began calling for both their own state in the British Mandate of Palestine and an end to the British support of the Jewish homeland's creation and to Jewish immigration. The movement gained steam through the 1920s and 1930s as Jewish immigration picked up. Under pressure from the rising nationalist movement, the British enforced the White Papers, a series of laws greatly restricting Jewish immigration and the sale of lands to Jews. The laws, passed in 1922, 1930, and 1939, varied in severity, but all attempted to find a balance between British sympathies with the Jews and the Arabs.

McMahon–Hussein Correspondence (1915–16)

In the early years of World War I, negotiations took place between the British High Commissioner in Egypt Henry McMahon, and Sharif of Mecca Hussein bin Ali for an alliance of sorts between the Allies and the Arabs in the Near East against the Ottomans. On 24 October 1915, McMahon sent Hussein a note that the Arabs came to regard as their "Declaration of Independence". In McMahon's letter, part of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, McMahon declared Britain's willingness to recognize the independence of the Arabs, both in the Levant and the Hejaz, subject to certain exemptions. It started on behalf of the Government of Great Britain that

With the above modification, and without prejudice to existing treaties with Arab chiefs, we accept those limits.

As for those regions lying within those frontiers wherein Great Britain is free to act without detriment to the interest of her ally, France, I am empowered in the name of the Government of Great Britain to give the following assurances and make the following reply to your letter:

Subject to the above modifications, Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.

The Arabs, however, insisted at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference at the end of the war that "Damascus" meant the city of Damascus – which left Palestine in their hands. However, in 1915, these problems of interpretation did not occur to Hussein, who agreed to the British wording.

  • Despite Arab objections based in part on the Arab interpretation of the McMahon correspondence noted above, Britain was given the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. The Mandate was administered as two territories: Palestine and Transjordan, with the Jordan River being the boundary between them. The boundaries under the Mandate also did not follow those sought by the Jewish community, which sought the inclusion of the east bank of the Jordan into the Palestinian territory, to which the objective of the Mandate for a homeland for the Jewish people would apply. It was made clear from before the commencement of the Mandate, and a clause to that effect was inserted in the Mandate, that the objective set out in the Mandate would not apply to Transjordan following the passing of the Transjordan memorandum. Transjordan was destined for early independence. The objective of the Mandate was to apply only to territory west of the Jordan, which was commonly referred to as Palestine by the British administration, and as Eretz Israel by the Hebrew-speaking Jewish population.

Peel Commission (1936–37)

  • During the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, the British government formed the Peel Commission, which recommended the formation of a Jewish and an Arab state. It called for a small Jewish state in the Galilee and maritime strip, a British enclave stretching from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and an Arab state covering the rest. The Commission recommended the creation of a small Jewish state in a region less than 1/5 of the total area of Palestine. The Arab area was to be joined to Transjordan. The Arab population in the Jewish areas was to be removed, by force if necessary, and vice versa, although this would mean the movement of far more Arabs than Jews. The Zionist Congress rejected the proposal while allowing the leadership to continue negotiating with the British. The Arab leadership rejected the proposal outright. It all came to nothing, as the British government shelved the proposal altogether by the middle of 1938.

In February 1939, the St. James Conference convened in London, but the Arab delegation refused to formally meet with its Jewish counterpart or to recognize them. The Conference ended on March 17, 1939, without making any progress. On May 17, 1939, the British government issued the White Paper of 1939, in which the idea of partitioning the Mandate was abandoned in favor of Jews and Arabs sharing one government and put strict quotas on further Jewish immigration. Because of impending World War II and the opposition from all sides, the plan was dropped.

  • World War II (1939–1945) gave a boost to the Jewish nationalism, as the Holocaust reaffirmed their call for a Jewish homeland. At the same time, many Arab leaders had even supported Nazi Germany, a fact which could not play well with the British. As a result, Britain pooled its energy into winning over Arab opinions by abandoning the Balfour Declaration and the terms of the League of Nations mandate which had been entrusted to it to create a "Jewish National Home". Britain did this by issuing the 1939 white paper which officially allowed a further 75,000 Jews to move over five years (10,000 a year plus an additional 25,000) which was to be followed by Arab majority independence. The British would later claim that that quota had already been fulfilled by those who had entered without its approval.

The Arab League and the Arab Higher Committee (1945)

  • The framers of the Arab League sought to include the Palestinian Arabs within the framework of the League from its inception. An annex to the League Pact was declared.
  • Even though Palestine was not able to control her own destiny, it was based on the recognition of her independence that the Covenant of the League of Nations determined a system of government for her. Her existence and her independence among the nations can, therefore, no more be questioned de jure than the independence of any of the other Arab States... Therefore, the States signatory to the Pact of the Arab League considers that given Palestine's special circumstances, the Council of the League should designate an Arab delegate from Palestine to participate in its work until this country enjoys actual independence.

In November 1945, the Arab League reconstituted the Arab Higher Committee comprising twelve members as the supreme executive body of Palestinian Arabs in the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine. The committee was dominated by the Palestine Arab Party and was immediately recognized by Arab League countries. The Mandate government recognized the new Committee two months later. The Constitution of the League of Arab States says the existence and independence of Palestine cannot be questioned de jure even though the outward signs of this independence have remained veiled as a result of force majeure.

  • In 1946, Jewish leaders – including Nahum Goldman, Rabbi Abba Silver, Moshe Shertok, and David Ben-Gurion – proposed a union between Arab Palestine and Transjordan. Also in 1946, leaders of the Zionist movement in the U.S. sought the postponement of a determination of the application by Transjordan for United Nations membership until the status of Mandate Palestine as a whole was determined. However, at its final session, the  League of Nations recognized the independence of Transjordan, with the agreement of Britain.
  • In April 1947, during the activity of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, the Arab Higher Committee articulated its demands for the solution to the Question of Palestine:

A complete cessation of the Jewish migration to Palestine.

A total halt to the sale of land to Jews

  • Cancelation of the British Mandate in Palestine and the Balfour Declaration.
  • Recognition of the right of Arabs to their land and recognition of the independence of Palestine as a sovereign state, like all other Arab states, with a promise to provide minority rights to the Jews according to the rules of Democracy.

In 1947, the United Nations created the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to find an immediate solution to the Palestine question, which the British had handed over to the UN. The report indicated that the Arab state would be forced to call for financial assistance "from international institutions in the way of loans for expansion of education, public health and other vital social services of a non-self-supporting nature." A technical note from the Secretariat explained that without some redistribution of customs from the Jewish state, Arab Palestine would not be economically viable. The committee was satisfied that the proposed Jewish State and the City of Jerusalem would be viable. 

  • The majority of the members of UNSCOP proposed certain recommendations for the UN General Assembly which on 29 November 1947 adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of the Partition Plan, based substantially on those proposals as Resolution 181(II). PART I: Future constitution and government of Palestine: A. Clause 3. provided as follows:- Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, outlined in part III of this plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948.

 The resolution noted Britain's planned termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and recommended the partition of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, with the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area being under special international protection, administered by the United Nations. The resolution included a highly detailed description of the recommended boundaries for each proposed state. The resolution also contained a plan for an economic union between the proposed states and a plan for the protection of religious and minority rights. The resolution sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims to the Mandate territory of two competing nationalist movements, Zionism (Jewish nationalism) and Arab nationalism, as well as to resolve the plight of Jews displaced as a result of the Holocaust. The resolution called for the withdrawal of British forces and termination of the Mandate by 1 August 1948, and the establishment of the new independent states by 1 October 1948.

The leaders of the Jewish Agency for Palestine accepted parts of the plan, while Arab leaders refused it.

  • In the October 1947 Arab League conference in Ali, the Arab states rejected the option of establishing an interim Palestinian Arab government, and the Lebanese prime minister Riad Al Solh in particular told Hajj Amin al-Husseini that if a Palestinian Arab government was established, he couldn't be part of it. Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam wanted the Arab League to manage the Arab struggle in Palestine.

King Abdullah I of Jordan met with a delegation headed by Golda Meir (who later became Prime Minister of Israel in 1968) to negotiate terms for accepting the partition plan and rejected its proposal that Jordan remain neutral. Indeed, the king knew that the nascent Palestinian state would soon be absorbed by its Arab neighbors, and therefore had a vested interest in being party to the imminent war.

Civil War 1947–48

Soon after the UN resolution, less than half a year before the expiration of the British Mandate, large-scale fighting broke out between the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine. By the time Israel declared its independence on 14 May 1948, the result of these five-and-a-half months of fighting was, according to historian Benny Morris, a "decisive Jewish victory". On one side, the "Palestinian Arab military power was crushed" and most of the Arab population in the combat zones was fleeing or had been driven out. On the other side, the "Haganah transformed from a militia into an army" and succeeded "in consolidating its hold on a continuous strip of territory embracing the Coastal Plain, the Jezreel Valley, and the Jordan Valley". The Yishuv (the Jewish community and its "state-in-waiting"-type or organizations proved it could defend itself, persuading the United States and the remainder of the world to support it and the "victory over the Palestinian Arabs gave the Haganah the experience and self-confidence to confront the invading armies of the Arab states."

On 12 April 1948, the Arab League announced:

The Arab armies shall enter Palestine to rescue it. His Majesty (King Farouk, representing the League) would like to make it clearly understood that such measures should be looked upon as temporary and devoid of any character of the occupation or partition of Palestine and that after the completion of its liberation, that country would be handed over to its owners to rule in the way they like.


1948 war until 1967

Arab–Israeli War (1948)

Main article: 1948 Arab–Israeli War

  • On May 14, 1948, at the end of the British Mandate, the Jewish People's Council gathered in Tel Aviv and the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry Truman recognized the State of Israel de facto the following day. The Arab countries declared war on the newly formed State of Israel heralding the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

Armies of the neighboring Arab states entered the former Mandate territories the next day starting the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. However, some of the leaders of these countries had plans of their own for Palestine. As the Palestinian writer Hisham Sharabi would observe, Palestine had "disappeared from the map".

  • As a result of the war, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, and in September 1948, formed the All-Palestine Government in Gaza, partly as an Arab League move to limit the influence of Jordan over the Palestinian issue. The former mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was appointed president. On October 1 of that year, the All-Palestine government declared an independent Palestinian state in all of Palestine region with Jerusalem as its capital. This government was re-recognized by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by Jordan or any non-Arab country. However, it was little more than a Facade under Egyptian control and had negligible influence or funding. Egypt did not permit unrestricted entry of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt proper, and vice versa. In 1959, Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, dissolved the All-Palestine government to rule the Gaza Strip directly.

King Abdullah I of Jordan sent the Arab Legion into the West Bank with no intention of withdrawing it following the war. Jordan annexed the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, granting citizenship to the Arab refugees and residents living in the West Bank against the objection of many Arab leaders who still hoped to establish an Arab state of Palestine. The country's name was changed in 1949 from Transjordan to Jordan and Palestinians were given seats in the Jordanian Parliament. A royal decree in March 1949 forbade the use of the term "Palestine" in legal documents, and other measures[clarification needed] were designed to emphasize that there would not be an independent Palestine. He also banned any opinion contrary to the unification of the two territories and outlawed all All-Palestine Government activity within territories under his control.



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