(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
As Hamas officials called for the United Nations to rescind the partition plan that was adopted in 1947, UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman on Thursday urged it to stop "eternalizing the past" and work toward a better future.
"It is possible to bring the spirit of Annapolis also to the halls of the UN - a coalition of moderates in favor of peace, instead of the spirit that currently blows through the halls that brings hatred and eternalizes the past," he said in an address to the General Assembly.
On November 29, 1947, the UN voted for Resolution 181, which recommended an end to the British Mandate in Palestine and a partition plan that called for the creation of two states - one Jewish and one Arab.
There are those today who claim a state that is both democratic and Jewish is a contradiction in terms, but the resolution 60 years ago vouched that such a state could indeed exist. In that decision the word Jewish appeared no less than 25 times. And still the plan insisted that the large Arab minority that would live within Israel's borders be guaranteed full civic equality. More so, it required that both states grant full religious freedom.
The 1947 plan was welcomed by Jews but rejected by Arabs. It created the idea of dividing what was then British-ruled Palestine between the two peoples. This week, the "two-state solution" was at the center of efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts at the US-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
At the summit, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to reach a peace deal by the end of next year.
While the 1947 "partition plan" was never implemented, it paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel the following year. After rejecting the plan, local Arabs spent the next six decades under Jordanian, Egyptian and Israeli rule or became refugees in neighboring countries.
For Palestinians, November 29 is a day of regret. Since 1977, this day is earmarked at the UN as an annual day of "Solidarity with the Palestinian People," and is typically commemorated as a day of mourning. Part of the discussion in Thursday's General Assembly meeting was reserved for the "Question of Palestine," an annual ushering-in of several anti-Israel resolutions.
Israel sees it as a happy occasion and streets in several Israeli cities are named after the date.
"The 29th of November is a reason for celebration," said Gillerman, who spent the last few days at the conference in Annapolis. "On this date, the world got a gift: a state which contributes to humanity more than all the countries in the UN that mourn on this day."
The plan contained in General Assembly Resolution 181 proposed dividing what is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It would have put Jerusalem and its holy sites under international control because of competing claims that are still at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The territory offered to the Arabs then was significantly larger than what the Palestinians are seeking now.
"Israel recognized two states for two peoples already 60 years ago," Gillerman said. "If the Arabs would have agreed to the historic partition plan, the Palestinians would have had a state for 60 years. What would a 60-year-old Palestinian state look like? Look at what Israel has accomplished in 60 years, where we are and where those who tried to destroy us and who continue to try to destroy us are today."
The UN and the world need to bridge the gap between what is happening in "the real world" and what happens in these halls, he said.
"Let us bring the spirit of Annapolis to the halls of the UN, and let us build also here a coalition of moderates against the extremists," Gillerman said. "Let us build also here, in this glass building, a coalition in favor of peace and against violence and extremism." AP contributed to this report.
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