60 Years Later, UN Partition of Palestine Still A Heated Topic

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Sixty years after the United Nations voted to divide British-ruled Palestine into two states -- a Jewish state and an Arab state -- the Palestinians still have not accepted that decision.

On Thursday Hamas released a statement urging the United Nations to admit its mistake. The group said, "Palestine is Arab Islamic land, from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem... there is no room in it for the Jews."

Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman, on the other hand, is scheduled to address the General Assembly, He will say that the Palestinians would have had a state long ago if they had accepted the partition plan, the Jerusalem Post reported.

On November 29, 1947, the U.N. voted 33-13, with 10 abstentions, to approve General Assembly Resolution 181 (partition plan) to divide the area that currently includes Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip into two states.

The decision led to the establishment of the State of Israel six months later. But the Arabs of Palestine and in surrounding nations opposed the so-called "partition." They wanted instead a single Palestinian state, in which Jews would be a minority population.

"The partition plan is the only U.N. document that affords legitimacy to this country [Israel]. Not that this country needs legitimacy from the U.N.," said historian Michael Oren, senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

"I think that the fact that the Palestinian delegation has come out flat and said that they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish State indicates their continued refusal to accept the partition resolution," Oren said in an interview.

Prior to and during this week's U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian summit in Annapolis, senior Palestinian officials said that they would never recognize Israel as a Jewish State.

Doing so would effectively end the claims of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees (and millions of their descendants), who insist that they have a right to return to homes they fled in present-day Israel when the state was created in 1948.

Israeli officials say that Israel is a Jewish State -- whether the Palestinians like it or not --and any agreement the Palestinians sign will be with that Jewish State.

Following the one-day summit in Annapolis this week, President Bush formally renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at a brief White House ceremony on Wednesday.

The renewed talks are intended to lead to a final status accord between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of next year, establishing a Palestinian state "living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security," President Bush says.

During his speech at the opening of the Annapolis gathering, Bush acknowledged Israel's Jewish character.

He called for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that "will establish Palestine as a Palestinian homeland, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people," Bush said.

The comment angered some Palestinians.

Because Israel's Jewish character is a controversial issue "at the heart of the disagreement" between Israel and the Palestinians, Bush should never have included it in his speech, said Ghassan Khatib, a former P.A. minister and negotiator.

States are not formed on the basis of religions. They are formed on the basis of nationalism, therefore there cannot be a Jewish state, Khatib told Cybercast News Service.

Khatib rejected any comparison to Iran and to Arab nations that have majority Muslim populations and abide by Islamic law.

Calling Israel a Jewish State jeopardizes the status of Israeli Arabs, putting them at risk of discrimination and it has political implications regarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees, said Khatib.

Many Jews and Christians around the world see the State of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical promise. They believe that the land here was given to the Jewish people by God as an eternal inheritance.

Any person with at least one Jewish grandparent from anywhere in the world is welcome to immigrate to Israel and become a citizen of the state with full rights and privileges, according to Israeli law.

But when the U.N. resolution was written, it referred only to the Jewish people already in Palestine, Khatib argued, not to Jews all over the world.

In fact, at the time, hundreds of thousands of Jewish war refugees and Holocaust survivors were seeking admittance to Palestine, which was controlled by the British.

Gidi Grinstein, founder and president of the liberal Reut Institute, in Tel Aviv said it is not so important for the Palestinians to recognize the character of Israel as a Jewish State. Rather, they should recognize Israel's right to determine what kind of state it would be, whether Jewish or not, he said.

"It is very important for the Palestinians to acknowledge that the Jews have a right to self-determination in Israel," Grinstein told Cybercast News Service. Likewise, the Palestinians from all over the world need to recognize that they have the right to "self-determination" only in their future state, Grinstein said.

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