501.BB Palestine/12–947

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)1

Participants: Mr. Moshe Shertok—Jewish Agency
Mr. Eliahu Epstein—Jewish Agency
Mr. Henderson—NEA
Mr. Merriam—NE
Mr. Mattison—NE
Mr. Wilkins—NE
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Moshe Shertok called on me this afternon for the purpose of discussing current developments with regard to Palestine. Mr. Shertok’s remarks were centered around three main points:

Immigration. Mr. Shertok observed that when immigration was under consideration at the UN, the Jewish Agency formed the definite opinion that the UN had provided for the evacuation by the British before February 1, 1948 of a port and hinterland in Palestine to receive immigrants and that the UN Commission, which was expected to leave for Palestine in December 1947 would have general control of immigration. Mr. Shertok said that, according to the Jewish Agency’s present information, the UN Commission had not as yet officially been appointed and that it appeared that there would be some delay in its departure for Palestine. Mr. Shertok concluded that unless a seaport were available in the near future and unless the UN Commission arrived in Palestine at an early date, it would probably be difficult for the Jewish Agency to restrain illegal immigration into Palestine.
Security Council. Mr. Shertok requested the Department to consider the issuance of an instruction authorizing the United States Mission to the United Nations to make a statement at the next meeting of the Security Council in support of the UN recommendation on Palestine with particular reference to recent activities by sections of the Arab population and statements by some of the Arab States in opposition to the UN decision to partition Palestine. Mr. Shertok was of the opinion that an American statement of this character would reinforce the decision of the UN and would have the effect of indicating that the United States was still behind the UN recommendation.
Military Supplies and Advisers. Mr. Shertok stated that he desired tentatively to express his thoughts with regard to this question and observed that it would be essential for the Jewish authorities to be prepared militarily to take over gradually from the British authorities as the latter withdrew their armed forces. Mr. Shertok said that they turned to the US for assistance in the first instance but that if it should not prove possible to obtain such assistance in the United States the Jewish authorities would perforce be obliged to turn elsewhere. Military supplies were considered by Mr. Shertok to include reasonable quantities of all types of small arms plus heavier equipment including planes, machine guns, mortars, anti-aircraft and tanks. Military advisers were necessary, according to Mr. Shertok, in order that the Jewish authorities might best utilize the forces, equipment and territory at their command. Mr. Shertok added that it was necessary to discuss and act on these matters now in order that the Jewish state would be able to take care of itself on the actual date of British withdrawal; it being understood, of course, that use would not be made of such military supplies prior to the British withdrawal.

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I asked Mr. Shertok whether the questions of immigration and military supplies had been discussed with the United Kingdom Delegation and with the UN Secretariat in New York and whether Mr. Nahum Goldmann had as yet had an opportunity, as planned, to discuss these matters with the British authorities in London. Mr. Shertok replied that the Jewish Agency proposed to go into these matters further with the UN Commission as soon as its members had been appointed and that Mr. Goldmann was proceeding to London tomorrow and would raise these and other questions there.

I pointed out the unfortunate consequences which might follow if further illegal immigration into Palestine were to take place at this time and was assured by Mr. Shertok that the Jewish Agency would take all steps in its power to prevent such illegal immigration; but that the provision of a seaport and an increase in the present rate of legal immigration would be essential to accomplish this purpose.

I also explained that the recently announced policy of the US Government prohibiting the export or disposal abroad of military supplies to Palestine and neighboring Arab countries was not a new policy having been established by the Secretary prior to his departure for London in November. I stated that it had been given publicity in the press recently because of other press statements to the effect that some $36,000,000 worth of military supplies had been transferred to the Arab States since the war. I pointed out that this latter statement was not correct and that, as a matter of fact, less than $8,000 consisting of light arms for internal security or police forces had been transferred to the Arab States.2 I said that the Arab States had received other supplies since the conclusion of the war but that they were of a non-military character similar to the surplus supplies received by many other countries in this period.

I told Mr. Shertok that I would bring all of his remarks including his request with regard to an American statement in the Security Council to the attention of Mr. Lovett and Mr. Armour.3

Mr. Shertok expressed a desire to pay his respects to Mr. Lovett and Mr. Armour prior to his proposed departure for Palestine on December 16 or 17. I told Mr. Shertok that I would inquire whether the Acting Secretary and the Assistant Secretary would have an opportunity to see him during the next few days and, if so, that I would communicate with him accordingly.

  1. Drafted by Mr. Wilkins.
  2. For a breakdown of these figures, see the Department’s statement of December 5, cited in 23 footnote 2, p. 1300.
  3. Mr. Henderson transmitted this document to Messrs. Lovett and Armour in a memorandum of December 9. He made the following recommendations: “1. Immigration: No further action by the Department at this time.

    “2. Security Council: No recommendation is made as I do not know what the policy of the U.S. Government is on this subject.

    “3. Military Supplies and Advisors: No recommendation is made pending further clarification of Mr. Shertok’s tentative views.” (501.BB Palestine/12–947)