One of the PLO’s major excuses for its current appeal for UN recognition is what
it describes as “the tragic events” of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence – a
depiction of the events of 1947-1948 that doesn’t match what I know to be
November 29, 1947, was a special day for Eretz
Israel, the Land of Israel, or Palestine as it was then called by the
The Jewish population in Israel at that time
numbered approximately 600,000, most of them refugees from the Nazi hell whose
escape route to a safe harbor had been obstructed by British navy
THE UN General Assembly held a special session regarding the
Sometime before 1947, a UN committee suggested a
two-state solution called “The Partition Plan,” which called for the creation of
a Jewish state for the Jews and an Arab state for the Arabs. Safed, for example,
the city in which Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas was born, was
included in the Jewish state. Voting on the plan took place on November 29,
David Ben-Gurion, the leader of Israel at that time, was not
satisfied with plan; the Jewish state had been allotted insufficient land, he
felt, without territorial continuity or logical borders. However, Ben-Gurion had
to weigh 2,000 years of history and a promise from God against the stark reality
of having to save the nation, to build a national shelter.
Ben-Gurion decided to accept the two-state solution.
The Jewish population
of Israel followed the events unfolding in the UN on a radio broadcast.
two-thirds majority was required for the passage of the plan. Thirty-three
countries, headed by the United States, voted in favor. Thirteen countries,
mostly Arab, voted against. Despite the small territory and the geographic
limitations, the Jewish population erupted in joyful, celebratory dancing in the
streets of Israel. The Arabs rejected the UN resolution and set the land on
They tried to dismantle the Partition Plan via military occupation.
Immediately following the UN resolution to create two states, the Arabs attacked
Jewish population centers in at attempt to drive Jews from their
On November 30, 1947, a Jewish bus (Egged bus No. 2094) was
attacked by Arab forces and five of its passengers killed. Conventional armies
and militias from seven Arab countries, joined by local Palestinian Arabs,
attacked small, isolated Jewish towns as well as cities with mixed Jewish-Arab
Defense was very difficult. The Arab attacks were brutal.
Jewish neighborhoods in Safed (the city were I, too, was born), Tiberias, Haifa
and Jerusalem were targeted.
The Arab leadership attempted to occupy
these cities and neighborhoods as the first step toward violently “cleansing”
them of Jews.
At the same time, many local Palestinian Arabs followed the
calls of their leadership to temporarily abandon their homes and get ready for
an eventual takeover of all the areas populated by Jews, who were to be chased
away and their property confiscated.
This, the Arab leadership contended,
would only be until the forthcoming victory.
Neither the superior numbers
of the Arab forces, their abundance of armaments, nor their military training
determined the outcome of the struggle, however. Objectively, those elements
clearly favored the Arab aggressors. It was the historical justice, willingness
to compromise and sheer faith of the Jews that tilted the scale.
attempt at conquest failed. The effort to torpedo the UN resolution
The wish to forcefully impose one Arab state, rather than accept
the two-state solution, failed.
We, the Jews, paid a steep price for our
independence. One percent of our population fell in battle, and many thousands
were wounded. But the aggressors were defeated.
Unfortunately, the Arabs,
too, paid dearly – for their aggression, their obstinacy, for blindly following
At the same time, a Jewish state was forged in the land of
Israel. A new democracy was born. The war did not delay the establishment of
democracy by a single instant. The violence against us, coupled with Arab
obstinacy, did not diminish our wish for peace.
The obstacles did not
dampen our spirit. The Arab public proclamations against us did not dishearten
us, did not diminish our resolve.
Time and again, we clenched our teeth
at the sight of the injuries inflicted on our citizens.
We were steadfast
in our quest for a partner in peace, in our search for a breakthrough.
gave back territory, oil fields and airports to achieve peace with
We gave back territory and water resources to Jordan so that we
could achieve peace.
We have retreated from Lebanese territory to a line
set by the UN. Three Israeli prime ministers have deposited with the US
government written commitments for a peace agreement with Syria.
governments have repeatedly shown willingness to make painful concessions to the
Palestinians. We dismantled settlements and removed settlers by
The essence of Israel policy, in my opinion, is to ensure both our
own security and the independence, respect and economic development of our Arab
The moral compass of our nation was bestowed upon us by the
Bible, which is our guide. We did not liberate ourselves from slavery in ancient
Egypt in order to become slave-masters in our own land.
Most of us do not
want to continue the occupation or rule over another nation.
dedicated to Ben-Gurion’s vision of dividing the land. In my opinion, every
nation is entitled to self-determination, independence and sovereignty. These
are basic, universal values that are the cornerstone of our belief
One has to look to the future. Dwelling on the past – and
certainly distorting it – will not contribute to the resolution of the conflict.
The Palestinian mistake of 1947 was very costly, and there is no rhyme or reason
in repeating it. We, too, have erred in the past. The time has come to
transcend. The time has come to talk.
The time has come to compromise.
This is the time for peace.The writer is a senior adviser to President
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