Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question

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The Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, also known as the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine Question or just the Ad Hoc Committee was a committee formed by a vote of the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September 1947, following the issuance of the 1947 United Nations Special Committee on Palestine report.

The Committee was chaired by H. V. Evatt, who was later to write in his memoirs: "I regard the establishment of Israel as a great victory of the United Nations."[1]

The vote of formation was won by 29 to 11, with 16 abstaining. The creation of the committee was strongly opposed by Arab states, who wanted the question referred to the UN Political Committee, since according to Lebanon's Charles Malik, an Ad Hoc Committee would be more susceptible to the influence of “certain pressure groups”.[2]

Two subcommittees were created on 22 October to assess the majority and minority proposals. These committees were broadly mutually exclusive, and the second committee, composed primarily of Arab states and with the Higher Arab Committee advising, was largely ignored.

The committee[edit]

Dr Abba Hillel Silver, Chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency, made the case for a Jewish State to the Ad Hoc committee on Palestine and announced on behalf of the Jewish Agency acceptance of 10 of the eleven unanimous recommendations of the UN partition plan and rejection of the minority report. Of the Majority report (the Partition Plan areas) Dr Abba Hillel Silver vacillates saying that he was prepared to “recommend to the Jewish people acceptance subject to further discussion of the constitutional and territorial provisions”.[3] While three members endorsed a federal state (the minority report) similar to the Morrison-Grady Plan that had been rejected by both Jews and Arabs and the UNSCOP found that a canton system “might easily entail an excessive fragmentation of the governmental processes, and in its ultimate result, would be quite unworkable.” No members of the UNSCOP endorsed a One-state solution as recommended by the Higher Arab Committee and on 29 September Mr Jamal al-Husayni Vice president of the Arab Higher Committee announced opposition to the UN partition plan.

The Sub-Committees[edit]

On 22 October the Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine formed two sub-Committees, the first responsible for producing a plan of implementation of the UNSCOP majority report and the second a plan for a single Palestinian state. [4][5]

The reports of sub-committee 1 [6] and sub-committee 2 [7] were delivered on 19 November.

Sub-Committee 2 wanted the International Court of Justice to be asked for an advisory opinion on relevant legal questions. At the request of the representative of France, two votes were taken, one on the first seven questions, the other on the eighth question which read as follows:

       “Whether the United Nations, or any of its Member States, is competent to enforce, or recommend the enforcement of, any proposal concerning the constitution and future government of Palestine, in particular, any plan of partition which is contrary to the wishes, or adopted without the consent, of the inhabitants of Palestine”. 

In respect of the seven questions, this was rejected by a vote of eighteen in favour, twenty-five against, with eleven abstentions and in respect of the eighth eighth question this was rejected by a vote of twenty in favour, twenty-one against, with thirteen abstentions.[8][9]

The Ad hoc committee rejected the sub-committee 1 resolution to constitute an unitary Palestinian state and accepted the proposed partition plan of sub-committee 2.[10]

Subsequent events[edit]

Britain was unwilling to implement a policy that was not acceptable to both sides and so refused to share with the UN Palestine Commission the administration of Palestine during the transitional period and on 20 November 1947 British Government informed the UN of a timetable for evacuating Palestine. On the Termination of the Mandate, Partition And Independence. Britain as the Mandatory Power was to use its best endeavours to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration, was to be evacuated at the earliest possible date and in any event not later than 1 February 1948.[11][12][13]

On 29 November 1947 the UN General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of a plan substantially in the form of The Plan of Partition with Economic Union in CHAPTER VI: PROPOSED RECOMMENDATIONS (II), as Resolution 181(II).

Further reading[edit]

  • Ben-Dror, Elad (2015). Ralph Bunche and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Mediation and the UN 1947–1949,Routledge. ISBN 978-1138789883.
  • Daniel Mandel (2004). H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist. Psychology Press. pp. 116–. ISBN 978-0-7146-5578-9.


  1. ^ Norman Rose (10 July 2014). 'A Senseless, Squalid War': Voices from Palestine; 1890s to 1948. Random House. pp. 173–. ISBN 978-1-4481-6333-5.
  2. ^ U.N. Assembly Establishes Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine; Will Start Meetings Thursday, JTA, September 24, 1947
  3. ^ UN Doc Archived 2008-12-18 at the Wayback Machine Dr Abba Hillel Silver address to the Ad Hoc Committee
  4. ^ H. Eugene Bovis (1971). The Jerusalem Question, 1917-1968. Hoover Press. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-0-8179-3293-0.
  5. ^ Michael J. Cohen (14 July 2014). Palestine and the Great Powers, 1945-1948. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-5357-1. On October 22, 1947, the Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine, chaired by Dr. Herbert E. Evatt of Australia, set up two subcommittees, to study the majority and minority reports and to bring forward detailed proposals to the full assembly. Subcommittee One, with nine members, all supporters of partition, was deputed to work on the majority report; Subcommittee Two, composed of six Arab delegates and three supporters of the minority plan, was to work out the details of the unitary state scheme. A third subcommittee was set the task of exploring the possibility of a settlement by conciliation. Subcommittee One, on which the United States and the Soviet Union both sat, received the most publicity and was the scene of the most important negotiations. Subcommittee Two was not really taken seriously, and the unitary state scheme was never considered at any length by the assembly. Evatt found his freedom of choice severely limited by the right of delegates to opt out of subcommittees, but nevertheless he was criticized severely for composing them exclusively of delegates who already supported the schemes they were called upon to consider. The mutual exclusivity of the two reports was underlined by the fact that the Jewish Agency exploited to the full the opportunity afforded it to give evidence to Subcommittee One, while the HAC, which boycotted the first committee, was continually consulted by Subcommittee Two.
  6. ^ 11 November 1947 UN Doc A/AC.14/34 Sub-committee 1
  7. ^ 11 November 1947 UN Doc A/AC.14/42 Sub-committee 2
  9. ^ John B. Quigley (2005). The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective. Duke University Press. pp. 35–. ISBN 0-8223-3539-5.
  10. ^ H. Eugene Bovis (1971). The Jerusalem Question, 1917-1968. Hoover Press. pp. 46–. ISBN 978-0-8179-3293-0.
  11. ^ UN Resolution 181 Avalon Project Archived 2006-10-29 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question : report of Sub-Committee 1
  13. ^ Press Release of Ad Hoc Committee