An anonymous comment on a previous article, What Really Happened in Palestine has posed the question, what would you have done in 1947?
I'm not sure I can answer that, but let me start by working backward from 1967. I can't blame anyone for not recognizing, in the heat of the moment in 1967, what seems evident now with 20 / 20 hindsight, from a comfortable desktop in mid-America. But the last half century could have worked out so much better.
In 1967, there was no question that Israel was under attack from at least three nations, backed by the resources of at least a few more. Israel moved pre-emptively, but only when it was blatantly obvious that armies were mobilizing for all out war in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Israel won, hands down. It was the last time in history when Israel could credibly present itself as a scrappy underdog acting in pure self-defense.
Among the territories Israel militarily occupied were the Gaza strip, illegally seized by Egypt in 1948, and the west bank of the Jordan River, illegally seized by the Hashemite monarchy of Jordan in 1948. Both territories had been part of the British Mandate of Palestine, and therefore, if not part of Israel, should have been the land of an indpendent Arab state in Palestine. That's what the UN resolution to partition the mandate had directed.
So, Israel could, at that moment in 1967, have proclaimed itself the liberator of an independent Arab Palestine, in conformance with the UN resolution, from illegal occupation by neighboring kingdoms. The national socialist Arab successors to some of those monarchies would have howled, infiltrated saboteurs, etc. of course. But, if a truly independent self-government had been rapidly developed behind the protection of the victorious Israeli army, the feudal monarchies and national socialist republics might have had to move on to some other pretext for demagoguery.
A Talmudic scholar who fought in the 1967 war, and now lives in America, has suggested that Israel should have outright annexed the entire territory. His personal experience was that Arab civilians told him they were looking forward to Israeli citizenship, after experiencing the Hashemite monarchy and its minions. That would have raised howls of protest at the UN. But, if Israel moved quickly, dissolved the stinking refugee camps, moved the population onto available land or into available industrial work, when feasible even returned traditional family homesteads (where that did not displace people who had been improving the land for themelves for over 20 years), it might have drained the abcess of "resistance" politics.
Either solution would have been better than the stalemate of the last forty-four years, keeping "Palestinians" in limbo, breeding various forms of protest and terror.
Could anything better have been done in 1947? The British had no will at all to do this, but if control had passed to a power that did, it would have been good to delay partition, keeping the entity of Palestine intact. It would also have been good to develop a highly trained military strike force to exterminate the Grand Mufti's most loyal forces, especially the Nazi-trained legions (and kill the Nazi refugee trainers), then either remove or isolate the man himself. Balance would have required taking out the Stern Gang also, and possibly the Irgun.
Then, a period of testing out what worked, slowly and painfully, might have involved dividing the territory into rather small political units of at least five varieties. In places where Jewish Kibbutzim and Arab villages led by Muktars had been getting along, combine them into regional cantons, leaving local self-government unimpaired, with cooperation only on larger projects, like water and irrigation. Were there such valleys? Leon Uris wrote about that in different ways, in Exodus and The Hajj. Absent the Grand Mufti and his allies, either one could have been worked with.
There would also have been overwhelmingly Arab areas, to be left alone and excluded from Jewish settlement, and overwhelmingly Jewish areas, to be administered as such, and open to additional Jewish settlement. There would be some area where various populations were intermixed, and happy to be so. And there would have been vacant lands, which would be designated for development by people from various adjacent areas. Some, but not all, would have been available for Jewish settlement.
Major cities and religious shrines would have had to be handled to provide general access, if that could be done while preserving public order and security. Hard work? Yes. Impossible? Maybe not. The British didn't care to even try. It would have been worth pointing out that, when the mosque on the Temple Mount was built, the rashidun caliphs went to great lengths to assemble as many pieces of the Second Temple as they could find, on the site where the Romans smashed the entire complex, and incorporated them reverently into the walls of the mosque.
In ten or twenty years time, decisions could have been made to partition the territory into two, or three, independent states, or a federation with a common national defense policy. All this assumes that British mishandling set off a racial and religious war that didn't need to happen at all.
Or, perhaps it was inevitable. If enough Arabs were willing to kill all Jews, and all Arabs who didn't join in the campaign, if enough Jews were willing to kill Arabs indiscriminately, then perhaps open bloodletting to set boundaries was unavoidable, however sad. In that case, the next opportunity would have been 1967.