Donald Trump’s Partition Plan and Its Precursors

January 30, 2020 | Martin Kramer
About the author: Martin Kramer is a historian at Tel Aviv University and the Walter P. Stern fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He served as founding president at Shalem College in Jerusalem.

At its heart, the peace proposal the White House unveiled on Tuesday is a scheme for dividing the Land of Israel into a Jewish state and an Arab state—much like the one put forth by the British government in 1937 and another approved by the UN in 1947. Martin Kramer examines the similarities and the differences:

The most striking consistency in these three partition plans is that the Zionist or Israeli side has helped to fashion them so as to say “yes,” while the Palestinian Arabs have refused to help prepare them, and have ended up saying “no.”

But while there’s consistency in the way these plans have been received, there are major differences in their authority. The most legitimate partition plan was that of 1947, because it was put together by an international commission and it enjoyed the overt support of the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. On that basis, it garnered two-thirds support in the UN General Assembly.

A partition plan, to make history, doesn’t need Palestinian backing, as 1947 showed. But it can’t go very far if it doesn’t have what the 1947 plan had: some degree of international endorsement. Russia, Europe, the Arab states—all of them could advance or retard the plan. Wooing them is especially important for Israel, since it seeks recognition for what it’s possessed for half a century.

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