In fact, what actually happened was this: The Arab states and the Palestinian national leadership, headed by Haj Amin al-Husseini, opposed the partition of Palestine, claiming all of Palestine for the Arabs. When the General Assembly voted in favor of partition, on 29 November 1947, the Palestinian leadership rejected the resolution and the Palestinian militias launched hostilities to abort the emergence of a Jewish state. They were aided by money, arms and volunteers from the Arab states. In the course of this first, civil-war half of the 1948 War (roughly from 30 November 1947 until 14 May 1948) the Palestinian militias attacked Jewish traffic and settlements for four months. But eventually the Jewish militias, chiefly the Haganah, went over to the offensive (in early April) and routed the Palestinians, and some 300,000 were displaced from their homes and lands. On 15 May 1948, the day after the Zionist leaders declared the establishment of the State of Israel, the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq invaded Palestine, in defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the partition resolution, and attacked the Jewish state. The army of Jordan, the fourth invading army, occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the core of the territory earmarked in the partition resolution for Palestinian Arab statehood. (The Palestinians failed to declare statehood, and Jordan did not allow the Palestinians to establish a state and subsequently formally annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Egypt emerged from the war in control of the Gaza Strip.) During the weeks and months after 15 May, the Israeli army contained the invading armies and eventually drove them out of most of Palestine. Another 400,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the course of the fighting: Some were expelled by Jewish troops (for example, from Lydda and Ramle in July 1948), some were advised to leave or ordered out by Arab leaders and officers (for example, from Haifa in April 1948 and Majdal in October). But most of the 700,000 simply fled out of fear of being caught up and harmed in the fighting. In summer 1948 the Israeli government decided not to allow the displaced Arabs—most of whom ended up in refugee camps in other parts of Palestine, i.e., the West Bank and Gaza—to return to the area of the State of Israel, deeming them inimical (they had just assailed the Jewish community and tried to destroy the Jewish state) and a potential Fifth Column.
Abbas's twisted history deliberately omits mention of the first half of the 1948 War, the civil war half, in order to portray the Palestinians as innocent victims. In fact, they were primary agents in the events that followed 29 November 1947, and in launching their assault on the Jewish community provoked and generated the Zionist counter-attack that resulted in the collapse of Palestinian society and the creation of the refugee problem. In history, peoples often pay for their aggression and mistakes, and this is what happened in Palestine.
Abbas and his authority have now launched a campaign for international recognition of Palestinian Arab statehood, which he promises will be formally declared in September. This, he tells us, will "pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice."
What Abbas does not tell his readers is that the Palestinians, as in 1947, were offered statehood in a two-state compromise settlement in 2000 and rejected it (and he, Arafat's aide, did not object); and that he, Abbas, was again offered a state, a two-state settlement, by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, and he (again) rejected it. The compromises offered by Barak-Clinton and Olmert were based on a Palestinian state consisting of some 94% of the West Bank, 100% of the Gaza Strip and the (Arab) eastern half of Jerusalem, including half or three-quarters of the Old City. In return, the Palestinians were expected to recognize Israel, give up their demand for a mass refugee return and agree definitively to an "end of claims" and an "end of conflict."
Arafat and Abbas rejected the offered compromises because they do not want a two-state solution, they want all of Palestine. Hence they had, and have, no interest in negotiating a compromise with Israel. (Abbas, in the New York Times, pays lip service to the idea of negotiation: "Negotiations remain our first option"—but this is hogwash. Last year Netanyahu froze settlement activity for ten months, under pressure from Obama and the Arab world—but Abbas failed to actually negotiate. He dragged his feet. Since then, Netanyahu, in refusing to extend that settlement freeze, has played into Abbas's hands, and has contributed enormously to the ongoing delegitimization of Israel in the West. In the Arab countries, of course, it was neither here nor there, as they have never "legitimized" Israel.)
Abbas is now pursuing a Palestinian state without having to pay the price of recognizing Israel or making peace. Once the Palestinians get their West Bank-Gaza state, they will use it as a springboard for their second-stage assault, political and military, on Israel—and they will no doubt lodge claims "at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies, and the International Court of Justice" as part of that assault.