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View series: The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century

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Failure of the Partition Plan

This map is part of a series of 18 animated maps showing the history of The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century.

At the end of 1947, the UN adopted Resolution 181 which incorporated recommendations by a Commission of Enquiry sent to Palestine to bring an end to the hostilities between Arabs and Zionists.

This Resolution created a Jewish State and an Arab State and established an internationally administered regime for Jerusalem.

The Partition Plan immediately led to an outbreak of Arab hostility.

The Zionists’ reaction was to ensure the security of the future state of Israel, believing that territorial continuity and expansion were the best guarantees. In December 1947, but more seriously in April and May 1948, without waiting for the withdrawal of British troops, they attacked the Arab population living in areas designated to become part of Israel: Tiberias, Haifa, Safed and Jaffa.

The terrorized civilians fled into exile, creating the first wave of Palestinian refugees. Their flight worried neighbouring Arab States, particularly as they feared – correctly – that Jordan had plans for the Arab areas of Palestine.

The proclamation of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 was met by a joint military offensive by Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon. Meanwhile, Jordan occupied the West Bank, as planned by the British and the Zionists. After a series of successful military operations by the Arabs, Israel reversed the situation. They managed to avoid the arms embargo decreed by the international community, exploited Arab divisions over Jordan and forced the enemy to withdraw, while continuing to push the Arab population into exile.

In December, the UN tried to resolve the problem of refugees and organize a truce, but the negotiations failed before reaching an agreement.

The Arab State of Palestine was still-born: Israel had increased its territory by a third, having taken over Arab areas, Gaza was occupied by Egypt, and Jordan had moved into the West Bank which it annexed in 1950.

During the conflicts, 750,000 Palestinians were forced into exile by the Israeli army. Most settled in Gaza, the West Bank and neighbouring Arab countries. Despite UN Resolution 194 (III) which proclaimed the right of refugees to return, the Palestinians could no longer go back to their homes and were left dependent on aid from UNRWA.

The UN Partition Plan was a terrible failure and the 1948 war laid the foundation for later conflicts and the loss of many lives in the Middle East.