Who is responsible for the partition of Palestine? What governmental bodies or individual governmental actors were the driving force behind the action? If there were non-governmental actors that played a role in this I would like to know that too.

  • First of all, welcome to the site. The reason your initial post was rejected was most likely because it was too short. We prefer that the questions asked here have considerable substance and are specific about the information being requested. I would suggest modifying your question to make it a little more robust, while also removing the irrelevant content that permitted you to make it through the filter. :) Dec 19, 2012 at 20:45
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    I helped you out by adding some relevant details that seemed inline with your quesiton
    – ihtkwot
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:48
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    I think that wikipedia or a simple google search could answer this question.
    – MCW
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:53
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    As Mark stated, if you framed your post as "I read this Wikipedia article, and such-and-such points are unclrear", it would become a much better question.
    – DVK
    Dec 19, 2012 at 21:01
  • Titles need to be reflective of the question as often that is what people will first see, please keep them consistent and not a two word placeholder. This is an ok question but you could easily find this elsewhere and in some of the other answers on Israel, I think I touched on this once on another answer.
    – MichaelF
    Dec 20, 2012 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


TL;DR: Responsibility for the existence of "Israel, East Jeruaslem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip" instead of just "Palestine" or "Eretz Israel" can be attributed to: the British Mandatory authorities, the Zionist movement, local Arab populations, the leadership of the nascent Palestinian Arab movement, and the Jordanian and the Egyptian governments.

The region known historically to Europeans as Palestine was divided among a number of villayets or districts of the Ottoman empire until World War 1.

When Britain and France had defeated the Ottomans they divided up the spoils, and assigned a chunk of territory to British suzerainty as the British Mandate for Palestine. The British decided to support the Zionist movement among European Jews and, for a time, favoured Jewish immigration to Palestine and national claims.

British policy however was two-faced and as time passed their support was flagging and inconsistent. By the immediate post-WW2 period the British were exhausted by years of total war and multiple colonial crises. The Mandate was due to expire in 1948 and there was no remotely graceful British "exit strategy." They punted the question to the United Nations General Assembly, which issued a non-binding recommendation for partition into Jewish and Arab states.

The majority leadership of the Zionist movement accepted the partition plan, although right-wing Revisionist Zionists openly demanded more territory, and it is probably fair to say that Ben Gurion et al. anticipated having to "normalize" the new state's borders by military means. Almost all Arabs rejected the partition. Aside from flat opposition to the establishment of any Jewish state in Palestine, they also objected to the proposed borders, which would have entailed a very large population of Arabs living as minority citizens within the new Jewish state.

In the end the impending British exit and the contemplated partition led to a civil war between Jewish and Arab militias within Palestine (mostly local Palestinian Arab militias, with some involvement of volunteers from Jordan, Syria, etc.) The Zionist forces rapidly gained the upper hand and consolidated their territory. Atrocities and expulsions magnified by rumour and confusion led to a mass exodus of Arabs from Jewish-held zones.

After the formal termination of the Mandate the civil war became an international war with the intervention of multiple Arab armies in May 1948, almost simultaneous with the Jewish community of Palestine's declaration of independence as the State of Israel. The situation was initially very difficult for Israel as a powerful Egyptian offensive moved up the coast from Gaza and a large Jordanian army besieged Jerusalem. However their better co-ordination allowed them to stabilize the situation, and diplomatic support gained them a series of cease-fires and an arms embargo which in practice they could circumvent while the Arab forces could not.

By wars end the Egyptian forces has been almost entirely expelled, except for a narrow strip of territory around Gaza City and Rafah which became known as the Gaza Strip. The Jordanians fared somewhat better, holding the Jordan Valley, the Old City of Jerusalem and a broad re-entrant around the western approaches thereto, and most of the rough hilly territory in between. This became known as the West Bank (including East Jerusalem, which is also sometimes discussed as a separate territory still.)

Later, in 1967, Israel captured these territories from Egypt and Jordan. These occupied territories have been de facto integrated into Israel proper in many ways, and an expanded Israeli-defined East Jerusalem has been de jure annexed, although pretty much every country in the world defines this as an illegal and unrecognized claim.

So, roughly speaking:

"Palestine" is not an entirely well-defined area, and all the myriad political entities that have existed on its territory have been sliced, diced, and partitioned every which way since time immemorial, just like most places on Earth.

The current division between pre- and post-1967 Israeli-controlled territories -- I and most of the world would prefer to say, between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories -- resulted from the 1948 international war between Israel and the Arab states. This war resulted from the 1947-48 civil war between Zionist and Arab militias, which resulted from the mismanagement of the British Mandatory authorities, the territorial ambitions of the Zionist movement, the intransigence of local Arab populations in the face of Jewish settlement, and the incompetence and anti-Semitism of the men the British had promoted as Palestinian Arab leaders. So all of the above bear responsibility.

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    This is basically a very good answer. I'd like you to clarify a point, though: you referring to "atrocities and expulsions". What atrocities are you referring to? The only major one I know of is Deir Yassin (a complicated case, there is controversy as to what exactly went on there and who is to blame, but it does count as atrocity). I'd suggest perhaps removing the "atrocities" from the answer unless you can argue that (a) there were many Jew-on-Arab atrocities (b) they contributed significantly to the Arab flight, more so than the other factors. What do you think? Dec 21, 2012 at 14:07
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    Deir Yassin is obviously the biggie, but Benny Morris counts twenty-four distinct massacres. The events and Lydda/Ramleh for instance probably took more lives than Deir Yassin. Obviously attribution of responsibility for the '48 Palestinian exodus is a still a thorny historical issue. Dec 21, 2012 at 16:06
  • " there was no remotely graceful British "exit strategy" " : This line applies well to 1948, but it also proved to be an accurate premonition of 2018-19 !
    – Evargalo
    Mar 24, 2020 at 11:29
  • The british army had a number of jewish auxiliaries in the 20 and 30s which made themself impossible. Basically they had to much fun while breaking arab's homes. Mar 24, 2020 at 15:28

Most recently the borders were mandated by the United Nations after WWII. A two state solution was proposed and essentially forced on the Israelis and Palestinians. Since then there has been near constant fighting and the borders have moved as a result of successful military campaigns by Israel most notably the Six-Day War.

The area has been in a near constant state turmoil though for hundreds of years and truth is really a matter of perspective of what time frame and side you want to focus on.

  • Major downvote: sorry, this answer is very wrong. Dec 20, 2012 at 10:31
  • UN are responsible for the de jure, Israeli military success for the de facto, seems like a decent answer even though it does lack neutrality. Please explain your objections.
    – Nathan
    Dec 20, 2012 at 10:43
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    @NathanCooper: Gladly. (1) The opening phrase "Most recently..." is confusing - there was only one partition and Raythal's wording (inadvertently, I guess) implies that there were others before it. (2) The "two state solution" (an anachronistic term in itself) was NOT "forced on the Israelis and Palestinians" since the Arabs did not accept it and opted for war instead. (3) The answer totally neglects to mention the 1948 war. (4) "Military campaigns" is again misleading - the 1956 war made no territorial changes and the 1967 war was a one-off event, not part of some campaign. Dec 20, 2012 at 11:32
  • (5) The coda about "truth [being] really a matter of perspective" etc. really got under my skin - as a wise man once said, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts. Dec 20, 2012 at 11:33
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    The UN certainly did not force a two-state solution on anyone. The UN general assembly passed a non-binding resolution that was essentially dead on arrival, and it became clear that the fate of the two communities would be decided on the battlefield. By the time the international phase of the 1947-49 war got well underway, both sides were aiming for a "one-state solution", ie, conquering all of the former Mandate territory. The partition happened because the Arab armies were defeated, but managed to hang on to some rump territories. The UN was basically left to pick up the pieces afterwards. Dec 21, 2012 at 2:08

Who is responsible for the partition of Palestine? What governmental bodies or individual governmental actors were the driving force behind the action? If there were non-governmental actors that played a role in this I would like to know that too.

It can be traced to a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. The text of the declaration was published in the press on 9 November 1917 and said:

His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

As the above letter makes clear, the driving non-governmental force was Zionism, on the one hand; and colonialism on the other; since Zionism, by latching onto Britains Imperial ambitions - it still had an empire then - was able to secure itself a commitment by the British Imperium for a 'homeland' in Palestine, at that time a province in the former Ottoman empire.

It's worth noting that the first official recommendation that Palestine be partitioned and that both Jewish and Palestinian states be established was in the report of the Peel Commission in 1937 which was supported by the British Colonial Office and as it signaled the end of attempts to create a shared legislative body in Palestine.

However, when a decade later Britain officially ended its mandate for Palestine and so referring the future of Palestine to the UN, the hope by Bevins administration was that a binational state would ensue, which would mean an unpartitioned Palestine but the eventual UN decision was for partition with Jerusalem declared an international city under a corpus separatum.


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