Palestinian leaders periodically try to resurrect U.N. General Assembly resolution 181 – also known as the Partition Plan -- in support of their demands for territory and control over Jerusalem.
In a statement released by the PLO’s Department of Culture and Information, PLO executive member Hanan Ashrawi said resolution 181 “represent[s] the basis of any solution in the future,” and he accused Israel of failing to adhere to it.
As part of the Partition Plan, Jerusalem would belong to neither of the envisaged states but would fall under U.N. administration and be demilitarized.
Unmentioned in Ashrawi’s statement was the fact Arab and Palestinian leaders rejected the proposal at the time. Jewish leaders accepted it – reluctantly, since the prescribed Jewish statehood area was made up of three segments of territory, the largest comprising arid and sparsely-inhabited desert.
Violence erupted after the resolution was passed. And immediately after Jewish leaders declared statehood the following spring, five Arab armies attacked the new state in what Arab League head Azzam Pasha described as “a war of annihilation.”
The ensuing war ended with Israel’s territory larger than that envisaged by the Partition Plan – essentially present-day Israel excluding the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights, which were under Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian control, respectively.
Ashrawi also did not refer in her statement Tuesday to the fact that Arab and Palestinian leaders for decades continued to reject the legality of resolution 181. (Article 19 of the PLO Charter still declares that “the partitioning of Palestine, which took place in 1947, and the establishment of Israel are illegal and null and void, regardless of the [passage] of time.”)
After Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza during the Six Day War in 1967, a new U.N. Security Council resolution, 242, called on Israel to withdraw from land captured in 1967, and for all states in the region “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.”
Resolution 242 did not refer to resolution 181, and its reference to “secure and recognized boundaries” effectively nullified 181 – since the Partition Plan boundaries for the Jewish state clearly were not “secure,” as evidenced by the 1948 Arab invasion.
Resolution 181 also was not referenced in subsequent Mideast peace initiatives, including the 1991 Madrid peace conference, the Oslo accords in the 1990s and the 2003 Middle East “roadmap.”
Ashrawi’s invoking of resolution 181 in Tuesday’s statement was in line with PLO and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ recent application for U.N. recognition and membership. In his formal request to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 23, Abbas wrote that the application was based on resolution 181 (although he also referred to the “1967 borders.”)
Palestinian leaders first attempted to revive resolution 181 as a legal basis for statehood in 1999, and quickly found support from the top U.N. human rights body.
A resolution passed by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva that April called for Palestinian self-determination on the basis of resolution 181. Of the UNCHR’s 53 members, only the United States opposed the measure. (The UNCHR was replaced by the Human Rights Council in 2006).
At the time, Israeli ambassador the U.N. Dore Gold wrote to U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, arguing that the Arab parties had nullified resolution 181 through their actions back in the 1940s.
“The fundamental act of international illegality was the invasion of the nascent State of Israel and the attempt to overturn a resolution of the General Assembly with armed force,” he wrote. “[I]n fact, resolution 181 was made irrelevant by the actions of the Arab states and the Palestinian leadership in 1948, whose refusal to accept the resolution altered the circumstances in the Middle East on which it was originally based.”
Gold called the attempt to resurrect 181 “a transparent effort to belatedly derive benefit from a resolution which the Palestinian leadership itself violently rejected 50 years ago.”
Each year on November 29 – the anniversary of the day resolution 181 was adopted – the U.N. marks the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”
In a statement marking the day this year, Richard Falk, the U.N.’s controversial “special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories,” accused Israel of pursuing “invidious schemes to permanently empty Palestine of Palestinians. This prolonged human catastrophe must be brought to an end once and for all. Only then can the rights of Palestinians can be realized.”