Statement Made by the United States Representative at the United Nations (Austin) Before the Security Council on March 19, 1948 1

[Extract]

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The Security Council now has before it clear evidence that the Jews and Arabs of Palestine and the Mandatory Power cannot agree to implement the General Assembly plan of partition through peaceful means. The announced determination of the Mandatory Power to terminate the Mandate on 15 May 1948, if carried out by the United Kingdom, would result, in the light of information now available, in chaos, heavy fighting and much loss of life iii Palestine. The United Nations cannot permit such a result. The loss of life in the Holy Land must be brought to an immediate end. The maintenance of international peace is at stake.

The United States fully subscribes to the conclusion reached by the four permanent members that the Security Council should make it clear to the parties and Governments concerned that the Security Council is determined not to permit the situation in Palestine to threaten international peace and, further, that the Security Council should take further action by all means available to it to bring about the immediate cessation of violence and the restoration of peace and order in Palestine.

Under the Charter, the Security Council has both an inescapable responsibility and full authority to take the steps necessary to bring about a cease-fire in Palestine, and a halt to the incursions being made into that country. The powers of Articles 39, 40, 41, and 42 are very [Page 743]great, and the Security Council should not hesitate to use them—all of them—if necessary to bring about peace.

In addition, my Government believes that a temporary trusteeship for Palestine should be established under the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations to maintain the peace and to afford the Jews and Arabs of Palestine, who must live together, further opportunity to reach an agreement regarding the future government of that country. Such a United Nations trusteeship would, of course, be without prejudice to the character of the eventual political settlement, which we hope can be achieved without long delay. In our opinion, the Security Council should recommend the establishment of such a trusteeship to the General Assembly and to the Mandatory Power. This would require an immediate special session of the General Assembly, which the Security Council might call under the terms of the Charter. Pending the convening of the special session of the General Assembly, we believe that the Security Council should instruct the Palestine Commission to suspend its efforts to implement the proposed partition plan.

I shall now read three propositions which are being submitted by the United States. I am not making any representation for any other one of the permanent members. The United States propositions are contained in a paper entitled “Additional conclusions and recommendations concerning Palestine”, which has been circulated to the members. It reads as follows:

“1. The plan proposed by the General Assembly is an integral plan which cannot succeed unless each of its parts can be carried out. There seems to be general agreement that the plan cannot now be implemented by peaceful means.

“2. We believe that further steps must be taken immediately not only to maintain the peace but also to afford a further opportunity to reach an agreement between the interested parties regarding the future government of Palestine. To this end we believe that a temporary trusteeship for Palestine should be established under the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. Such a United Nations trusteeship would be without prejudice to the rights, claims or position of the parties concerned or to the character of the eventual political settlement, which we hope can be achieved without long delay. In our opinion, the Security Council should recommend the establishment of such a trusteeship to the General Assembly and to the Mandatory Power. This would require an immediate special session of the General Assembly, which the Security Council should request the Secretary-General to convoke under Article 20 of the Charter.

“3. Pending the meeting of the proposed special session of the General Assembly, we believe that the Security Council should instruct the Palestine Commission to suspend its efforts to implement the proposed partition plan.”

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Draft resolutions which would give effect to the above suggestions will be circulated shortly for the consideration of the Security Council.2

  1. Reprinted from SC, 3rd yr., Nos. 36–51, pp. 157, 167.
  2. At 3 p. m., shortly before Ambassador Austin delivered the above statement, Mr. Kopper met with Paris el-Khouri, Camille Chamoun, and Mahmoud Fawzi, representatives of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt at the United Nations, and Isa Nakleh. He informed them of the position the United States had decided to take on the Palestine question and read the three conclusions in the Ambassador’s statement. Although the Arab representatives were guarded in their comments, Mr. Kopper gained the impression that “they were pleased with this latest turn of events, but they did not gloat.” (Memorandum of conversation, March 19, by Mr. Kopper, 501.BB Palestine/3–1948)

    Mr. Henderson discussed Ambassador Austin’s statement with representatives of the British Embassy on March 20. For the substance of their conversation, see Mr. Henderson’s memorandum of March 27 to Mr. Lovett, p. 767.

    According to Trygve Lie’s memoir, In the Cause of Peace (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1954), the Secretary-General felt that the new United States position was a rebuff to the United Nations and to him personally. He recalls (p. 171) his suggestion to Ambassador Austin on March 20 that the two resign as a measure of protest against the Ambassador’s instructions. The Ambassador was said to have replied that he would not resign and to have advised the Secretary-General not to do so either. Shortly after, Soviet Ambassador Gromyko expressed to the Secretary-General his hope and that of his Government that he would not resign.