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Jewish World Review
How the Palestinians got here
Richard. Z. Chesnoff
On Nov. 30, 1947, Jews in Tel Aviv celebrate after the UN's decision to partition Palestine
Since Arab rejectionism in 1947, the prospects for a state of Palestine have shrunk dramatically
Understanding last week's bizarre resolution granting the West Bank of Palestine status as a "nonmember observer" of the United Nations requires a look at the past.
Sixty-five years ago, the same General Assembly of then-nascent UN offered the Palestinian people their best chance ever for a viable state of their own: the hotly debated 1947 Palestine Partition Plan. That historic scheme was conceived as a solution to the growing fight between Arabs and Jews over who would control Palestine when the British mandatory government left the region.
The UN's plan would divide the Holy Land into two independent states one Arab and one Jewish eventually linked by economic and other ties. It won a majority vote.
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The Jews, for the most part, enthusiastically accepted the idea. The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states who controlled them angrily turned it down. Instead they immediately launched a "war of extermination," in which they swore to throw their Zionist neighbors into the sea.
For Palestinian Arabs, it's been downhill ever since.
The original 1947 UN plan accorded the Arabs some 43% of Mandatory Palestine.
It included almost all of Palestine's aquifer-rich high-lands, the fertile northern Galilee as well as a third of the Mediterranean coastline.
The Jewish state, which anticipated a major immigration of European Holocaust survivors, was accorded 56% of Palestine's total land mass. It included most of the fertile lowlands the Zionist pioneers had developed since the 19th century. But the majority of the Partition Plan's future Jewish state consisted of arid desert lands, then considered unsuitable for either agriculture or urban life.
Sacred Jerusalem was to become an international city shared by all.
In the brutal war that ensued, the Jews surprised everyone especially the Arabs. They won. The independent Jewish State of Israel was born.
Roughly 650,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees. Some were forced out of their homes during the fighting. Most simply fled in fear or because they believed the Arab armies would easily win and they would soon be able to return and claim what was theirs not to mention what the soon-to-be-defeated Jews would leave behind.
It did not exactly work out that way. Today, many of these same Palestinians, their children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren continue to claim "refugee status." Today, Palestinian refugees and their descendants reportedly number close to an astounding 5 million people.
Most live near-captive lives in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Almost all are sustained by international handouts. And thanks to a steady stream of full wars, mini-wars and terrorist wars, Palestinians are not only no closer to a Palestinian Arab State of their own, they have far less land available to them for that state than they were initially offered in 1947.
So what must be done? No doubt Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas needed to play political theater at the UN this week to strengthen his hand in his struggle with his Hamas rivals in Gaza. But even as the Palestinian Authority receives the non-member observer status it sought at the UN, it will still be no closer to an internationally recognized independent state.
Be smart, Mahmoud Abbas. Get yourself to a negotiating table, without preconditions, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Work out a deal with U.S. and European help. Better 65 years late than never.
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JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff was Senior Correspondent at US News & World Report, and is now a columnist at the NY Daily News and the Huffington Post. A two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. The paperback edition of his critically acclaimed book, "Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews & Committed the Greatest Theft in History" is now on sale. (Click on cover above to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.
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© 2012, Richard. Z. Chesnoff