Memorandum by Mr. Dean Rusk 1 to the Under Secretary of State (Lovett)

top secret
The attached Policy Planning Staff Paper2 recommends a reversal of the Palestine policy supported by the United States in the recent General Assembly. A few minor suggestions of detail are contained in Annex A3 which might round out the paper on points of [Page 557]fact, although in general the paper appears to be accurate from the factual point of view.
Obviously a major change in our Palestine policy would require the approval of the President as well as of leading Members of Congress. The Planning Staff Paper does not appear to be complete enough to serve as the basis for such reconsideration. Specifically, it would need to deal with the following questions which would inevitably arise at an early stage of any reconsideration:
What events have occurred which create a “new situation” with respect to the action taken by the General Assembly on Palestine? Were not the considerations discussed in the attached paper known at the time of the decision to support the plan of the UNSCOP majority? At what point or points can it be reasonably concluded that the situation in Palestine will render impossible the implementation of the General Assembly resolution?
What has been, done thus far by the Department of State, either within or outside the United Nations, to increase the chances of success for the solution approved by us and by the General Assembly?
What steps could now be taken by the Department of State, either within or outside the United Nations, to ensure maximum opportunity for the successful execution of the General Assembly recommendation on Palestine? Are such steps of such a serious character as to require us to reconsider our Palestine policy as being prohibitively costly?
If it is concluded that the recommendations of the General Assembly resolution are unworkable, what alternative solution or solutions should the United States support and what procedures must be followed to bring about a change in our present commitments on Palestine?
A “New Situation”? Neither the United States nor the United Nations should consider political recommendations as sacrosanct, to be pursued at all costs despite new or unforeseen conditions or the disappointment of hopes and expectations upon which the initial recommendations were based. On the other hand, the mere revival of earlier objections does not state a “new situation”. It is suggested that a reconsideration of the Palestine problem would be justified by a turn of events which either (a) clearly demonstrated the impossibility of continuing further with the present solution, or (b) clearly demonstrated that the costs of proceeding further with present policy are prohibitive and cut across more fundamental policies.
The following are samples of what might be considered a “new situation” with respect to the General Assembly resolution on Palestine:
A refusal by the Mandatory Power to offer the degree of cooperation essential to the success of the plan;
A refusal by the Security Council to accept the responsibilities toward Palestine envisaged for it by the General Assembly resolution [Page 558](it is very doubtful that there is a working majority of seven votes in the Council favoring partition);
An advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice that an important part of the Assembly resolution is illegal under the Charter;
A refusal of Member Governments to provide the necessary support for the international regime planned for the City of Jerusalem;
A scale of civil war inside the proposed Jewish state of Palestine which would be clearly beyond the capabilities of the new Jewish Government to handle (there is serious doubt that there is legal authority for the United Nations to impose a recommendation of the General Assembly by force upon the Arab inhabitants of the proposed Jewish state);
A refusal by Member Governments to meet their obligations to prevent aggressive acts by neighboring Arab States designed to frustrate the recommendations of the General Assembly (armed intervention by the Arab States would clearly be aggression).
It is doubtful that events have indicated as yet any “new situation” of the character which would itself justify a basic reconsideration of the Assembly resolution. The most significant approaching date in this regard is April 1, 1948. If by that date there shall not have been established in the proposed Jewish and Arab states the Provisional Councils of Government which, under the resolution, would take over authority from the United Nations Commission, the Security Council is called upon to consider the situation thus created. The importance of this date has been underlined by the British plan to terminate the mandate shortly thereafter, on May 15. It is entirely likely, therefore, that by mid-April the possibilities of proceeding with the execution of the Assembly resolution will be greatly clarified.
Armed Interference with the General Assembly Resolution. The question of “enforcing” the General Assembly resolution on Palestine must be broken into component parts if the situation is to be accurately assessed. Armed interference in Palestine by the Arab States to prevent the implementation of the Assembly’s resolution would clearly be aggression contrary to the obligations of those states under the Charter. If such interference takes the form of furnishing arms and assistance for guerrilla action in Palestine, the character of the aggression is similar to that now going on in Greece. The United States cannot avoid its responsibility as a permanent member of the Security Council to act within the limits of the Charter to prevent this type of aggression from outside Palestine. There is already considerable evidence that the Arab States are as directly involved in Palestine as are Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in Greece. The question may shortly be raised in the Security Council whether there does not now exist a threat to the peace or breach of the peace with respect to Palestine.
The “enforcement” of the General Assembly resolution within Palestine itself presents a different problem. Specifically, there is a serious question as to whether the United Nations (or its Members) are entitled to use armed force to carry out a recommendation of the General Assembly against the resistance of the people directly concerned (where aggression is not involved). If the resistance of the Arabs of the proposed Jewish state is greater than can be handled by the Jewish state, the Security Council might have to intervene to maintain the peace of the Middle East, but in doing so it would not be bound to carry out the resolution of the General Assembly. It might arrange a truce, pending reconsideration of the matter by the General Assembly.
The Role of the Mandatory Power (United Kingdom). The Policy Planning Staff Paper does not go into the present irresponsible attitude of the United Kingdom toward the Palestine question, nor the extent to which United States embarrassment is directly due to the British desire to shift the Palestine problem to the United States and to replace [herself with?] the United States as the leading influence in the Middle East. The United Kingdom placed the question of Palestine before the General Assembly for recommendations but during the course of United Nations consideration it offered no suggestions whatever about the character of an appropriate solution. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom Delegation discouraged the adoption and the implementation of the UNSCOP majority plan by every means not involving acceptance of public responsibility therefor. Although it can be understood that this course of action may have stemmed from the great personal irritation of Mr. Bevin, the result has been to multiply the difficulties for the United States and the United Nations. British noncooperation amounts to a rejection of the Assembly resolution and there should be no hesitation on our part in stating that this is the case. If a reconsideration of the Palestine question is taken up by the United Nations, one of our objectives might well be to turn back to the United Kingdom the responsibility which they have sought to saddle upon the United States.
Measures Designed to Increase the Chances for Success of the Partition Plan. In assessing our present Palestine policy, it would appear to be obligatory upon the Department of State to determine what steps could be taken to support the General Assembly resolution, if for no other reason than to understand its cost and the procedural problems involved. These comments do not purport to deal adequately with measures of support, since intensive study by all interested elements of the Department would be required. However, it is believed [Page 560]that some or all of the following measures would be normal action to support an important United States policy:
Bilateral Talks with the United Kingdom. Such talks should attempt to uncover the elements of the Assembly resolution to which the British object, their purpose in placing the matter before the United Nations, their idea of a solution with which they would be willing to cooperate, and their attitude toward joint diplomatic action to obtain the cooperation of the Arab States.
Multilateral Diplomatic Talks. As the threat of violence in Palestine persists, consideration might be given to consultations with the permanent members of the Security Council, with other Members who voted for the Assembly resolution, and with more moderate Moslem governments such as Turkey and Pakistan directed toward diplomatic pressures upon the Arab States to persuade the Arabs not to use their influence to frustrate the Assembly resolution.
Action by the Security Council. If evidence continues to build up and Arab officials are assisting in armed resistance to the Assembly resolution, the Security Council may be required to use such powers as it has under the Charter to bring such aggression to a close.
Active United States Participation in the Establishment of the International Territory of Jerusalem. It will be difficult for the United States to avoid a substantial share of responsibility for the international territory of Jerusalem. The idea that the “United Nations” might undertake such a responsibility, separate and apart from its Members, is quite unrealistic. Under the Assembly resolution, it will be necessary for the United States to assist in providing necessary security in Jerusalem, whether by United States units within an international force or by United States volunteers in the constabulary employed by the Government of Jerusalem.
Exploitation of Differences of View Among the Arabs. There is considerable evidence that the Arabs are not of a single mind about the right line of action on Palestine. Important differences are known to exist among the several Arab Governments. Greater attention might be given to the possibilities of turning Arab differences into a “hands-off” attitude on their part toward Palestine.
Alternative Lines of Action. In considering lines of action alternative to the present partition scheme, it must be realized that partition will be strongly opposed by the Arabs, that the conversion of Palestine into an Arab-dominated state would be violently opposed by the Jews, and that if no solution is reached the British would withdraw and large-scale fighting would likely occur in Palestine. In light of the above, consideration should be given to the following alternative lines of action if the matter is opened again in the United Nations:
General Assembly to call upon the United Kingdom to consult with the Arabs and the Jews in the light of the unanimous recommendations of UNSCOP and to seek a solution agreeable to both parties. [Page 561]
Establishment of a United Nations trusteeship for the whole of Palestine, with the United States taking its fair share of the fiscal and security responsibility for the trust territory.
United States Responsibility. The United States will not be able to avoid responsibility for a Palestine solution. A completely hands-off policy (even if politically possible from the domestic point of view), coupled with British determination to withdraw from Palestine, would leave Palestine in a state of violence which would inevitably come before the Security Council. If we shirk our responsibility as a member of the Council, having declined to take an active part in the settlement of the Palestine question, we would be subject to a loss of prestige from which we could not readily recover. Unless the present partition plan is reconsidered, the United States already has substantial obligations under it. If an alternative plan is considered, it would be frivolous not to suppose that the United States must play a leading role in the execution of such alternative.

Annex A

Notes on PPS/19

Page 3, paragraph 1.4 A reference to the last-minute move by the Arab States to propose a federal state should take into account the boycott of UNSCOP by the Arab Higher Committee, the boycott of the partition subcommittee of the General Assembly by the Arabs, and the fact that the proposal on November 29 was considered by most Delegations as more favorable to the Arab point of view than even the minority report of UNSCOP. The proposal of November 29 was made by the Representative of Lebanon but was not based upon consultations with the Arab Higher Committee and the Jewish Agency, which would have been prerequisite to a genuine conciliatory move.

Page 3, last half of paragraph 5; page 4, paragraph 9. The problem of aggression by the Arab States needs further consideration at this point.

Page 10, paragraph 22. It is doubtful that the basis for American support of the majority plan can be reduced to the point developed in this paragraph. Many other factors were also involved. Further, American support for the majority report was not made contingent upon the cooperation of the parties concerned.

Page 13, paragraph 30. The only practicable way by which we can “divest ourselves” of leadership in the Palestine problem is to place responsibility fully and squarely upon the British. This does not arise out of our membership in the United Nations but from the policies pursued by the United States toward Palestine since World War I.

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Page 14 paragraph 32(b). The reconsideration of the Palestine question in the United Nations will require an alternative plan which is workable and which will be suported by the Members. Although it would be desirable to reach a plan which would not require outside armed force for implementation, it may not be possible to find such a solution. The alternative to armed force might be large-scale civil war in Palestine in which the United States would inevitably become seriously involved.

Page 14, paragraph 33. It is too early to say how the question of a possible reference to the International Court will arise, but it may come up in such a form as to be difficult to oppose or prevent it. It is suggested that a decision on this point be held in abeyance.

  1. The name of the Office of Special Political Affairs was changed to the Office of United Nations Affairs on January 21, 1948 (Departmental Announcement 943). Mr. Rusk, however, was not formally designated Director of the new office until January 28.
  2. PPS/19, January 19, p. 545.
  3. Printed on p. 561.
  4. The latter half of paragraph 5 of PPS/19, p. 548.