501.BB Palestine/1–648

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Fraser Wilkins of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Participants: Mr. Epstein, Jewish Agency1
Mr. Eban, Jewish Agency
Mr. Henderson, NEA
Mr. Rusk, SPA2
Mr. Merriam, NE3

Mr. Wilkins, NE Mr. Epstein and Mr. Eban called on Mr. Henderson, Mr. Rusk and Mr. Merriam separately today for the purpose of reporting current developments with regard to Palestine and eliciting the further support of the United States Government in implementation of the recent UN recommendation to partition Palestine.

Mr. Eban said that he had accompanied UNSCOP during its investigation last summer and that more recently had been acting as a liaison officer for the Jewish Agency with the UN in New York. Mr. Eban pointed out that the Jewish Agency was particularly concerned with two aspects of the UN recommendation at the present time: (1) immigration; (2) security. Mr. Eban said that the Jewish Agency hoped that the British authorities would be able to provide a seaport by February 14 in order that immigration might commence at once but that unless the UN Commission was able successfully to negotiate with British authorities, it did not appear that immigration would take place as soon as hoped.

With regard to security, Mr. Eban expressed the view that two matters might be considered under this heading: (1) action by the Security Council; (2) action by the militia authorized in the UN recommendation. With regard to the first, Mr. Eban recalled that the American representatives at the UN had remarked during recent UN consideration of the Palestine problem that the U.S. would play its part. For this reason, Major Eban hoped that the United States would support such action relating to security as the Security Council might deem it appropriate to take. Mr. Eban said that he understood the [Page 538] Syrian representative and the Polish representative on the Security Council might raise the Palestine question as a threat to international peace and security and observed that this might be appropriate time for the U.S. Government to make known its views. With regard to militia forces in each of the proposed states in Palestine, Mr. Eban said that he hoped that the members of he UN including the United States would be in a position to arm and equip these forces. Major Eban said that at the present time, the Haganah, which would be the armed militia in the proposed Jewish State, was adequately manned but poorly equipped and that it was essential that supplies be obtained.

Mr. Eban expressed the view that current newspaper reports and information being received from Palestine indicated that the Arabs hoped the UN recommendation to partition Palestine would not be implemented and that the Jews feared no action would be taken to put it into effect. Mr. Eban thought that this basic approach to the problem on the part of the Arabs and Jews was one of the major factors in the present situation and expressed the belief that strong support by the U.S. for partition in the Security Council and the provision of equipment for the Jewish militia would indicate American determination and would thus have a stabilizing effect on the situation in Palestine.

Mr. Henderson said that he had been following recent developments in Palestine closely and was very much concerned with the type of incidents which were now taking place in Palestine. Mr. Henderson recalled the recent attack at the Consolidated Refinery in Haifa in which Jews bombed Arabs and Arabs in reprisal killed some 30 to 40 Jews in spite of the fact that both Jews and Arabs had worked in harmony previously. Mr. Henderson pointed out that a continuation of terroristic activities which resulted in the killing of innocent people would have a brutalizing effect and would cause many to have serious doubts as to whether either the Arabs or the Jews were sufficiently mature to govern themselves. Mr. Henderson asked Mr. Epstein and Mr. Eban whether they thought the issuance of a statement by the UN or possibly by the US deploring such activities and pointing out the inevitable consequences would have a salutary effect. Both Mr. Epstein and Mr. Eban were of the opinion that the issuance of a statement of this type would be helpful and said that, as far as the Jews were concerned, they were making every effort to conduct themselves with restraint. Mr. Epstein stressed the fact that the Jews were desirous of acting in accordance with the UN recommendation and hoped that the UN would support their activities.

Mr. Rusk remarked in reply to Mr. Eban’s statements regarding immigration and security that he believed the establishment of a modus vivendi between the Jews and the Arabs was the most important question for consideration at this time since all other matters [Page 539] were of necessity corollary to it. Mr. Eban said that he agreed but that it was essential that actual steps be taken regarding the commencement of immigration and the establishment of security forces in advance of the departure of the British from Palestine. Mr. Rusk said he understood the members of the UN Commission had now been appointed and that it would meet on January 9 or 10, and that he hoped that the Jews would shortly initiate conversation with the Commission, the British authorities and the Arabs. Mr. Rusk said the successful implementation of the UN recommendation hinged on the working out of details with these three groups. Mr. Rusk said that he stressed this aspect of the situation because he believed that Mr. Epstein and Mr. Eban were well aware of the many legal difficulties attendant on further consideration of the Palestine problem in the Security Council. Mr. Rusk said that, for this reason, it was extremely important that both the Jews and the Arabs should attempt to settle the problems with regard to Palestine as well as they could by themselves and should only fall back on UN action as a last resort.

Mr. Epstein and Mr. Eban expressed their appreciation for the various views expressed and said that Mr. Shertok5 was returning to the US from Palestine via London toward the end of this week and that he would undoubtedly call at the Department for the purpose of presenting further information with regard to current developments in Palestine.

  1. Eliahu Epstein, Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Agency for Palestine.
  2. Dean Rusk, Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs.
  3. Gordon P. Merriam, Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
  4. The partition resolution of the General Assembly had provided that “The mandatory Power shall use its best endeavours to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration, shall be evacuated at the earliest possible date and in any event not later than 1 February 1948.” (Appendix, p. 1711.)
  5. Moshe Shertok, Head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency.