JERUSALEM — The black-and-white photos show masses of people yearning for independence, celebrating a vote recognizing a state in Palestine. It was a day that generations of pupils would be taught to remember with reverence: Nov. 29.
The jubilant revelers were Jews, the year was 1947, and the vote was held in the United Nations General Assembly. The Palestinians rejected the partition plan, which called for Jewish and Arab states to be established after the imminent expiration of the British rule over Palestine. The outraged Arabs soon started a war they eventually lost.
Sixty-five years later to the day, the tables are somewhat reversed: Palestinians have turned to the General Assembly for a second chance — and it is the Israelis who have dismissed the vote, which resoundingly upgraded the Palestinians’ U.N. status, as a symbolic trifle.
The irony of the date was not lost on the Israelis.
“We are the best teachers of the Palestinian people in their struggle for independence,” wrote Eitan Haber, a veteran columnist for the Yediot Ahronot daily. “They have studied carefully the history of the Zionist movement.”
While it’s true that Thursday’s vote won’t immediately create a state of Palestine, it will give the Palestinians a boost, elevating their status from U.N. observer to nonmember observer state — like that of the Vatican. The resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status was approved by a vote of 138-9, with 41 abstentions, in the 193-member world body.
Anton Salman, a resident of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, said he hoped international recognition will mark the beginning of a new period that “will begin to build a real state and to recognize our identity as a people with a state and land.”
The vote recognizes a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. This represents far less territory than the Palestinians were offered on Nov. 29, 1947, when the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 181.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a rare moment of candor, admitted in an Israeli TV interview last year that the Arab world erred in rejecting the plan. “It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole,” he said at the time.