The Two Previous “Two State Solutions”


The concept of a “two state solution” is often proposed as a means to resolve the ongoing tensions between Israel and the ‘Palestinians’, however few people are aware that there have already been two “two-state solution“.  The first “two-state solution” was when the Arab-Palestinian state of Transjordan (later renamed Jordan) allocated  75% of the land that was to be part of the reconstituted homeland for the Jewish people to the Arabs, and excluded it from Jewish settlement – leaving only 25% for a Jewish homeland.  The second “two-state solution” was created under UN Resolution 181 in November 1947 – where the remaining 25% of the land of the former British Mandate for Palestine was partitioned into two states (again) — with 43% of the land set aside by the British for the Jewish homeland being given to this second Arab state under the Partition Plan — which Israel accepted in exchange for peace with the Arabs, but the Arabs rejected. Jordan is Arab Palestine.

Partitioning of Palestine — Creation an Arab State and the Jewish homeland

Just prior to the creation of the Mandate of Palestine (1920),  the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour committed in an initial draft of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (dated 2 November 1917) “that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people“.  In the final text, the word that was replaced with in to avoid committing the entirety of Palestine to this purpose. The final phrase ‘the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people‘ was intended and understood by British officials at the time of the Balfour Declaration to mean that Palestine would ultimately become a ‘Jewish Commonwealth’ or a ‘Jewish State’;  provided Jews came and settled there in sufficient numbers (i.e when a Jewish majority was achieved). The wording of the Balfour Declaration was later incorporated into both the peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire and the Mandate for Palestine.

A year later, in November 1918 at the parade marking the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a large group of Palestinian Arab dignitaries and representatives of political associations addressed a petition to the British authorities in which they denounced the declaration.  Ongoing tensions between the Jews and the Arabs in the Mandate of Palestine over the creation of the Jewish state became increasingly unpopular with the British public and the government under Winston Churchill sought to disengage the British from the time and cost associated with managing the Mandate of Palestine.

In 1922, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, the British were granted a mandate by the League of Nations to administer the geographic region called Palestine. The British Mandate for Palestine included provisions calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, facilitating Jewish immigration and encouraging Jewish settlement on the land.

In September 1922, the League of Nations and Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River and on 21 March 1923,  Article 25 of the mandate was introduced which designated 75% of the land of the Mandate of Palestine to an Arab state and in August of 1922 the newly created Arab state was named Transjordan and was established east of the Jordan river. The remaining 25% of the land on the west of the Jordan River was designated to be the Jewish national homeland.  Arabs living on the small piece of land earmarked as the Jewish state continued to attack and kill the Jews in an effort to drive them out and claim all of British Mandate of Palestine as Arab land. The Hebron slaughters of 1929 and the 1936-39 Arab Revolt are the most notable of these attacks.

Flag of Jordan – derived from the Pan-Arab flag of Hejaz (adopted April 18 1918)

Transjordan remained under British control until the first-Transjordanian treaty was concluded in 1928 at which time it became nominally independent.  On 17 January 1946, the British government initiated steps to establish Transjordan as an independent and sovereign state which was finally realized when Transjordan’s independence was recognized by the League of Nations during the last meeting of that organization on April 18, 1946 , being renamed the “Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan” in May of that year. In 1949 the country’s official name was changed to the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan“.

Map of Transjordan, now Jordan
Establishing of the Jewish Homeland

Just as thousands of Jews wanted to flee the escalating Nazi violence in Europe and emigrate to Palestine, the British issued a White Paper in 1939 stipulating that a maximum of 75,000 immigration certificates would be authorized by the mandatory power to incoming Jews. The purpose in preventing a mass influx of Jews was a British attempt at resolving the ongoing conflict between Jews and Arabs, leaving the Jews few options.

After the liberation of Europe at the end of WWII, many Jewish survivors feared to return to Europe and many who did faced pogroms (violent anti-Jewish riots) where Jews continued to be killed (e.g. Kielce, Poland 1946). With few possibilities for emigration, tens of thousands of homeless Jewish Holocaust survivors migrated westward to other European territories liberated by the western Allies where they were housed in UN-administered refugee centers and displaced persons camps such as Bergen-Belsen in Germany.   In 1947, the Jewish displaced person population of these camps was ~250,000 people. With the United States heavily restricting the number of refugees permitted to enter and many countries around the world having closed their borders to Jewish immigration, the Jews sought to immigrate to the territory remaining for the Jewish homeland under the Mandate of Palestine, however in an effort to maintain order in the area,  the British restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine because of the armed Arab revolts which left the Jews no place to go.

As the crisis with the Arabs wanting control of the land set aside as the Jewish homeland under the Balfour Declaration escalated, the British turned the matter over the United Nations (UN).

In a special session, the United Nations General Assembly voted in Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 to partition the remaining 25% of the land set aside as the Jewish homeland under the British into two states (again); one Jewish and the other Arab.  

UN Resolution 181 – Partition Plan of 1947

Resolution 181 allocated 43% of land that the British set aside for the Jewish homeland to this second Arab state within the land under what became known as the Partition Plan.

The Jews accepted this in exchange for peace with the Arabs, but the Arabs rejected it, wanting all of the Jewish homeland as theirs.


The partition plan of the UN specified borders for new Arab state and the Jewish state and also specified an area of Jerusalem and its environs which was to be administered by the UN.

Palestinian flag – Pan-Arab flag (derived from the flag of Hejaz)

The end of the British Mandate for Palestine was set for midnight on 14 May 1948 and on that day, David Ben-Gurion, president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel“.

flag of the state of Israel

Arab armies invaded the newly created State of Israel the very next day.

War of Independence (“Arab-Israeli War”) – invasion and occupation of Jerusalem

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Transjordan’s Arab Legion attempted to capture the entire city of Jerusalem, shelling it and cutting off its Jewish residents from the coastal plain. In May 1948, Transjordan invaded and occupied Eastern Jerusalem, dividing the city for the first time in its history and driving thousands of Jews whose families had lived in the city for centuries into exile.

After 10 months of fighting, an armistice agreement was signed on April 3, 1949, dividing Jerusalem along the November 1948 ceasefire lines of Israeli and Transjordanian forces, with several areas of no-man’s land. This armistice line served as a temporary border.

Jerusalem – a City Divided

Jerusalem was a divided city. Eastern Jerusalem, including the holy sites was illegally occupied by Transjordan (which in 1949 became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). The Jewish Quarter of the Old City was destroyed and its residents expelled. Fifty-eight synagogues (some hundreds of years old) were destroyed, their contents looted and desecrated.  Some Jewish religious sites were turned into chicken coops or animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews had been burying their dead for over 2500 years was ransacked, graves were desecrated, thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material, paving stones or for latrines in Arab Legion army camps.  The Western Wall (the Kotel) became a slum area.

Western Jerusalem became Israel’s capital city.

Jordan’s Illegal Annexation

In April 1950, Jordan illegally annexed the territories it had captured in the 1948 war–-Eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. 

All nations, including the Arab states rejected Jordan’s annexation — except for Great Britain which recognized only the annexation of the West Bank and never recognized either Jordan or Israel’s sovereignty over any sector of Jerusalem — viewing both Jordan’s 1950 annexation and Israel’s annexation of west Jerusalem as illegal.

Jordan did not permit Jews access to their holy sites or to the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives — in direct contravention of the 1949 armistice agreements.  Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, the Jewish cemetery and all religious sites in Eastern Jerusalem.

Israeli Arabs, were denied access to the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock and they fell into disrepair during this time.

Reunification of Jerusalem in 1967

Jordanian forces fired artillery barrages from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Although Israeli forces did not respond initially, not wanting to open up a Jordanian front in the war, Jordan continued to attack and occupied UN headquarters in Jerusalem. Israeli forces fought back and within two days managed to push back the Jordanian forces and retake Eastern Jerusalem.

On June 7, 1967, IDF paratroopers advanced through the Old City toward the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, bringing Jerusalem’s holiest site under Jewish control for the first time in 2000 years.

[Acknowledgments: Historic facts on Jordanian’s Illegal Annexation of Israel and the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem from “the Six-Day War”, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting]


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