One of the most popular conceptions, repeated in the media, is the statement that the Palestinians, by agreeing to accept only Judea, Samaria and Gaza for their state, have ceded 80% of their lands to the Israelis. The historical facts are completely different – but that doesn't seem to bother anyone.
The first modern geopolitical entity in this area was the British Mandate for Palestine. The Mandate was created by the League of Nations in 1920, following the defeat of Turkey and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. The Mandate was granted to Britain for the purpose of "establishing in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people."
The area of the Mandate was 118,000 square kilometers or 45,000 square miles.
In 1921, Britain separated 91,000 square kilometers of the Mandate from Palestine and created Jordan. The British did not allow Jews to live in Jordan.
In 1923, Britain ceded the Golan Heights (1,176 square kilometers) to the French Mandate of Syria. Jews were also barred from living in these areas. Jewish settlers on the Golan abandoned their homes and relocated inside the reduced area of the British Mandate.
The total remaining area of the Mandate of Palestine, after these land deductions was 27,000 square kilometers (a little over 10,000 square miles). The southern part of the Mandate – the desert of the Negev – was closed by the British to Jewish settlement. The area was inhabited by 15,000 roaming Bedouins, and had no Jewish or Arab settlements in it.
The rest of the Mandate, the inhabited part of Palestine was 14,000 square kilometers. On the eve of the creation of the State of Israel 1.8 million people lived this area: 600,000 Jews and 1.2 million Arabs. Following the war between the Jews and the Arabs in 1948, the inhabited areas of Mandatory Palestine were divided between Israel and Jordan. 8,000 square kilometers, or 57% of the area, became Israel. The rest, 5,700 square kilometers, was annexed by Jordan – and renamed the West Bank, and 360 square kilometers were occupied by Egypt and called the Gaza Strip.
The 1948 war created a massive population shift among Jews and Arabs. Approximately 500,000 Arabs fled from the areas of the British Mandate that became Israel. Most of them to the Jordanian held areas of the Mandate and the Gaza Strip – a part of the Mandate conquered by the Egyptians. The majority of the rest fled to Lebanon. These refugees and their children have been forced, by their Arab brethren to remain in refugee camps for 52 years. In 1993, the UN claimed that there were 2.5 million Palestinian refugees. Today this number has been raised to 3.6 million refugees. Nearly a 50% increase over 7 years!
Following the war in 1948, the Arab countries expelled 870,000 Jews. The majority of these refugees, together with hundreds of thousands of European Jews uprooted from their homes during World War II, were absorbed by Israel. In the first years of its existence, Israel accepted over 1,500,000 Jewish refugees.
Today approximately 9 million people live on the 14,000 square kilometers of inhabited Palestine. Six million in Israel, three million in the Palestinian territories. The three million people in the Palestinian territories, all of them Arabs, who constitute just 33% of the combined Jewish and Palestinian populations, have been offered a chance to create their homeland on 43% of the land. The Israelis, who are 66% of the combined population, including over one million Arab Israelis, inhabit only 57% of what was once the inhabited areas of Mandatory Palestine.
These are the facts. The statement that "the Palestinians are giving up 80% of their land" is a myth.
© 2001 Eretz Weekly