80. At last… Israel achieves International recognition

The attention of the whole world had by now focused on the decision that the United Nations would give on the plan of Palestine’s partition submitted by the special committee appointed by it (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine’ or the UNSCOP) for handling the Palestine issue.

A Haganah machine gun post

However, the Israeli leaders, especially David Ben-Gurion, were not to sit ideal till then as they were very sure that irrespective of the decision, for the Jews the final battle was unavoidable and just around the corner. As a result, they had begun intensely with the program of amassing weapons and war munitions. The Jewish diaspora, the friends of the Jews and the Jewish sympathizers, spread across the world were working tirelessly for the cause.

Arms and war equipment were being purchased from all the available sources. Importantly, all the weapons that were being amassed were done by appropriately paying for them. They were handled as proper dealings, and no unnecessary philosophical or religious excuses or reasoning was attached to them.

A Haganah M4 Sherman tank leading a convoy

The Jewish sympathizers and the diaspora in the United States managed to purchase three ‘B-17’ bomber planes, some C-46 and C-54 transport aircraft. In addition to this, a few dozen half-track vehicles were purchased under the guise of ‘agricultural equipment’ and also painted accordingly. At the same time, the Haganah agents in Western Europe purchased French 65 mm Mountain Guns, twelve 120 mm Mortar Guns, H35 light tanks, M4 medium tanks, half-tracks, etc. By the mid-1947, the Jews had made large purchases from Czechoslovakia which included Avia S-199 fighter aircraft, 200 Heavy Machine Guns, more than 5 thousand Light Machine Guns, 25,400 rifles, more than 50 million rounds of bullets. Of course, Ben-Gurion, who had a fair idea about the impending conflict, considered even these preparations to be inadequate.

Israeli Avia S-199 shipped from Czechoslovakia

The only issue that remained now was about secretly delivering these weapons and resources to the Jewish people in Palestine. A plan to use the air route to deliver the war munitions to Palestine once the last of the British forces stepped out of the land was being prepared. It was code named ‘Operation Balak’.

In the meantime, Ben-Gurion diplomatically worked out to reach a mutual peace agreement with King Abdullah of Transjordan. Abdullah’s British-trained army was officered, disciplined and the largest fighting force in the Arab world then. Hence, in the face of war, if Transjordanian forces were to fight the Jews, it would have significantly added to their difficulties. However, King Abdullah and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husseini were not at good terms with each other, in fact, Abdullah nursed a hatred for him. King Abdullah disapproved of al-Husseini as he considered himself to be the supreme leader of the Arabs just for just being the ‘Mufti’ of Jerusalem, the city that housed places of high religious importance for the Muslims. However, it was Abdullah who was looked upon in all the Arab states with respect and his army was the largest among the Arab countries.

A Douglas C-54 Skymaster, one of the airplane types used for ‘Operation Balak’

Taking advantage of the discord between Abdullah and al-Husseini, Ben-Gurion planned a very different move.

Golda Meir, then Head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, met King Abdullah on behalf of Ben-Gurion. The meeting took place in a house at the city of ‘Naharayim’ on the banks of River Jordan, where the ‘Palestine Electric Corporation’ ran a hydro-electric power station. During the meeting, Meir and Abdullah agreed that they had a common foe – al-Husseini. Abdullah further gave his unambiguous word to Meir that they would not join in any Arab attack on the side of al-Husseini, that is against the Jews. The outcome of the meeting was a major victory for the clever and mature diplomacy of Ben-Gurion.

In September 1947, the United Nations began preparations to table to the Palestine partition plan. The most important and critical task was to define the borders of these two nations. The United Nations formed a few committees for the task.

In the meantime, for the plan to get approved as it gets tabled and the Palestine issue is resolved once and for all, several Jewish and Jew-friendly lobbies and pressure groups from various countries, especially those from the United States and Europe, were working hectically and trying to influence their respective governments.

Behind the scene meetings between the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and other countries had caught the pace. At the start of it, the United States and the Soviet Union had emerged as ‘global superpowers’ after the world war, but actually were considered bitter enemies of each other. However, they too had reached secret consensus on the issue. As a result, the two superpowers were trying to make the countries in their sphere of influence as well as the non-aligned nations aware of the facts and persuade them to vote in favour of the plan, and their efforts were seen to get gradual success. However, the use of ‘all’ means, that is the carrot and the stick policy being adopted in this persuasion was a topic hotly discussed everywhere.

Those were the days when the attention of the whole world was like focused on the ‘United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine’.

On 25th November 1947, as per the recommendation of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, the ‘United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine’ was tabled. The plan is well-known as the ‘UN Resolution 181’. In the plan, the UNSCOP proposed to partition the land of Palestine into three parts – an ‘Arab’ state, a ‘Jewish’ state and Jerusalem along with its sensitive neighbourhoods under the UN.

However, the Arabs, who from the very start were opposed to any plan that proposed partition of Palestine, were opposed to this plan as well and were only waiting for it to get officially tabled. Though the Charter of the United Nations lays down the directives and guidelines for making the intergovernmental rules and regulations, it does not have the rights to create or form a nation. Taking the support of this principle, the Arab nations argued that an ‘external organization’ should not be unilaterally deciding on the future of Palestine and they presented a counter resolution in the United Nations which directly challenged the very validity of the Resolution 181. However, it did not succeed.

29 November 1947! This was the day when the resolution was placed before the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The untiring efforts of the Jewish people and their friends and allies met with success as the historic resolution was passed with 33 votes in its favour and 13 against it. 10 nations abstained from voting.

A ‘Jewish homeland in Palestine’, a concept that was there for three millenniums was finally becoming a reality with the international support! (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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