Celebrating Kaf-Tet b
Jews in Tel Aviv celebrate following the UN General Assembly vote to partition Palestine, Nov. 29, 1947.
(Photo: Courtesy of the Israel's GPO, Photographer: Hans Pinn).

Celebrating Kaf-Tet b'November (November 29): Anniversary of UN partition vote

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for Palestine to be partitioned between Arabs and Jews. It set into motion the birth of the state of Israel.

"The Partition marks the foundation of Israeli membership in the international community by providing recognition by the highest body in international law of the right of the Jewish people to an independent state." - Visiting Lecturer Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

The 72nd anniversary is approaching of a seminal event in modern Israeli history – the United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution 181, adopted November 29, 1947.

The Partition Resolution, as it is known, approved the division of Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into two states, Jewish and Arab. Another part of the plan was to place Jerusalem under international control. 

The partition plan vote was a momentous occasion for Jews. People huddled around radios to hear the UN members vote, and newsreels of the time showed pictures of Jews celebrating in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv when the General Assembly voted, 33-13, in favor of Resolution 181. Ten UN member states abstained, including Britain.

"The Partition marks the foundation of Israeli membership in the international community by providing recognition by the highest body in international law of the right of the Jewish people to an independent state," said Dr. Shaiel Ben-Ephraim, a political scientist and Visiting Lecturer with the Y&S Nazarian Center for Fall 2019. "A state is defined by its territory, citizenship, and capacity for governance but in practice recognition has been perhaps the most indispensable element of statehood, and once provided it is highly difficult to revoke."

The United States supported the 1947 Partition Resolution and then recognized Israel when it declared independence six months later, on May 14, 1948. But Arabs and Palestinians opposed the partition plan, and in 1948 a coalition of Arab states, including Egypt, Syria and Jordan, attacked Israel.

The First Arab-Israeli War ended with cease-fire agreements brokered by the UN. Israel’s founder, David Ben-Gurion, led the Jewish state to victory in the war and also served as the first Prime Minister.

Meantime, some Arab leaders now view the partition plan rejection as a lost opportunity for the Palestinians. Acceptance of the plan could have led to Palestinian statehood in the 1940s and ushered in a new era of peace and prosperity in the war-torn region.

In 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conceded in an interview on Israeli TV that Arabs erred when they rejected the partition plan.

"It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole," Abbas remarked on Israel’s Channel Two Television.