Britain to Seek U.N. Help on Palestine UNSCOP’s proposed map of partition. Map: Public Domain

February 18, 1947

British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin announces that after a quarter-century of holding the mandate for Palestine, the British government will ask the United Nations to address the question of what to do about the territory, in which 1.2 million Arabs and 600,000 Jews seem locked in an intractable conflict.

In addition to battling each other, the Arab and Jewish populations are fighting the British to force changes to their Palestine policy, resulting in a spiraling three-way civil war since World War II. Guerrilla attacks and reprisals have gone back and forth while the British have tried to maintain control and have policed immigration of Jewish refugees from Europe

The fighting was punctuated by the King David Hotel bombing in July 1946, in which Jewish militants destroyed the Jerusalem headquarters of the British civilian and military administrations in Palestine. Jewish attacks throughout 1946 and early 1947 answered British raids on Jewish houses, administrative buildings and even synagogues to suppress the insurrection.

The decision to turn the whole situation over to the United Nations follows years of British debate over Palestine, capped by the public embarrassment of Jewish militants capturing a high-ranking army officer and a judge. The announcement does not stop the anti-British violence, which the Irgun and Lehi continue until the British army’s withdrawal 15 months later.

A special U.N. commission takes up the question of Palestine’s future in April, but only the Jewish leadership actively participates in the process. The commission recommends a partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem as an international city. The Jews accept the plan, and the Arabs reject it. After the U.N. General Assembly approves the partition plan Nov. 29, 1947, Arab-Jewish violence spikes into open communal warfare. A provisional Jewish government led by David Ben-Gurion declares Israel’s independence May 14, 1948, and the War of Independence starts the next day as Arab armies invade and the British withdraw.