United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine

1947 UN General Assembly proposal to divide British Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and Arab state

The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a proposal by the United Nations, which recommended a partition of Mandatory Palestine at the end of the British Mandate. On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted the Plan as Resolution 181 (II).

The resolution recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States linked economically and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem and its surroundings. The Arab state was to have a territory of 11,100 square kilometres or 42%, the Jewish state a territory of 14,100 square kilometres or 56%, while the remaining 2%—comprising the cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the adjoning area—would become an international zone. The Partition Plan, a four-part document attached to the resolution, provided for the termination of the Mandate, the gradual withdrawal of British armed forces and the delineation of boundaries between the two States and Jerusalem.


  • In 1947, the U.N. formally partitioned Palestine and allotted 55 per cent of Palestine’s land to the Zionists. Within a year, they had captured 76 per cent. On the 14th of May 1948 the State of Israel was declared. Minutes after the declaration, the United States recognized Israel. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan. The Gaza strip came under Egyptian military control, and formally Palestine ceased to exist except in the minds and hearts of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people who became refugees.
  • By 1947, as the colonial powers made their way out of the Middle East and the horrors of the Holocaust came to light, the call for a Jewish homeland, a safe haven, took on a new urgency. Tens of thousands of Jewish survivors from the Nazi death camps were refugees in Europe; their former communities had been destroyed, and third countries had closed the door to Jewish immigration during the Holocaust. A new iteration of a partition plan first put out in 1937 was put forward at the UN, creating two states: one Arab and one Jewish. A new UN census determined that the Jewish population of Palestine had grown to one-third, with the other two-thirds a mix of Muslim and Christian Arabs, but the plan divided the land in half between Jews and Arabs. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly approved the Partition Plan. On May 14, 1948, as the last British troops departed, Jewish leaders declared the creation of the State of Israel on the land apportioned to them by the UN plan. But Arab countries had rejected the Partition Plan, declaring they would continue to fight for an undivided Palestine. On May 15, they went to war, sending thousands of troops and tanks across the border. The new nation of Israel was already mobilized. Within a year, Israel controlled 78 percent of former British Mandate Palestine, including West Jerusalem, while Jordan now administered the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and its walled old city, and Egypt had control of the Gaza Strip.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)