501.BB Palestine/12–1047

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

top secret

Ambassador O’Neal at Manila has asked1 that you be informed of a conversation which he had on November 30, 1947 with President Roxas concerning the Philippine vote in the United Nations on the Palestine partition question.

As you will recall, the Philippine Delegate to the United Nations, Ambassador Romulo, in an address before the General Assembly [Page 1306] of the United Nations on November 26, 1947 indicated that the Philippines would vote against Palestine partition. When the vote was taken, however, on November 29, the Philippines voted in favor of partition.

In his telegram, Ambassador O’Neal reports that President Roxas stated that he had instructed the Philippine Delegation to change its position and vote in favor of partition because of his fear, based on a report from Ambassador Elizalde and a telegram from some ten United States Senators, that a vote against partition would have an adverse effect on United States-Philippine relations.

A statement of the substance of Ambassador O’Neal’s telegram2 and of the Department’s reply3 thereto is attached.

Robert A. Lovett

Ambassador O’Neal’s telegram is to the following effect:

President Roxas stated that he was greatly disturbed over the position in which he had been placed with regard to the Palestine question. He had received a report from Ambassador Elizalde that a “United States representative” had intimated that failure to support the United States position on the Palestine question might have an adverse effect upon Philippine-American relations. President Roxas had also received a “high-pressure telegram” signed by some ten United States Senators.

When queried by President Roxas, Ambassador Romulo had replied that he had been in close touch with the United States representatives at the United Nations, that these representatives had never intimated a desire that he support the United States position, that his instructions were to use his own judgment and that to reverse his position at that time would be extremely embarrassing and would be certain to renew the charge that the Philippines was a mere puppet of the United States.

President Roxas said that the Palestine question was important to him because of the considerable Mohammedan population in the Philippines. He added that he had never been approached by the American Embassy at Manila with regard to the subject. Nevertheless, fearing a Senate hostile group, he was wiring Ambassador Romulo to reverse his position and asked Ambassador O’Neal to write to the President explaining the situation.

Ambassador O’Neal added that he was sure President Roxas feels that he has been placed in an unfair and damaging position and that he desires to cooperate in full with the United States on all major questions.

In reply to this telegram, the Department has requested Ambassador O’Neal to inform President Roxas that this Government had supported Palestine partition as the best answer to the problem on the basis of a majority recommendation by the United Nations Special [Page 1307] Committee on Palestine; that the Department considered that United Nations Members had a right to their own convictions on the subject and had a right to vote in accordance with those convictions; that the way in which a Member voted was not so important as the maintenance of the freedom to vote in accordance with belief; and that it was important that the solution reached should have the genuine support of a majority of the Assembly of the United Nations. The United States Delegation at the United Nations had accordingly publicly stated that: this Government favored the proposed partition of Palestine but had not sought to bring pressure in the matter on any Government and does not regard failure by any Government to support the plan as an indication of unfriendliness to the United States. These views had been expressed to the representatives of the various Governments at the United Nations, The Department was not able to understand the report from Ambassador Elizalde concerning the attitude of a “United States representative” referred to by President Roxas and desired additional information and an indication of the identity of the person involved.

The Department has also requested Ambassador O’Neal to inform President Roxas of this Government’s surprise that he should have entertained any doubt with regard to the effect which a vote on the Palestine question would have on United States–Philippine relations. He was also requested to indicate this Government’s appreciation of the Philippine Government’s known desire to cooperate with the United States on major problems.

The Department added for Ambassador O’Neal’s confidential information that Ambassador Elizalde’s attitude might reflect in part his own estimate of the possible effect which an adverse Philippine vote on partition might have on the extension of additional financial assistance to the Philippines by the United States Congress.4

  1. In telegram 1550, December 4, 7 p. m., not printed.
  2. Infra.
  3. Telegram 1273, December 9, 7 p. m., not printed.
  4. Department of State files indicate additional charges by Arab sources that the United States exerted pressure on various countries to support partition. They also contain an explanation by the Greek Ambassador that Greece had voted against partition “as part of a deal which the Greek representatives had made with the representatives of the Moslem states. In return for Greek support on the Palestine issue the Moslem states agreed to give full support to Greece in the future on Greek questions arising before any UN organ.” (memorandum of conversation by John D. Jernegan, Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, December 3, 501.BB Palestine/12–347)