867N.01/5–348: Telegram

The Consul at Jerusalem (Wasson) to the Secretary of State

secret   urgent

530. [1] ReDeptel 340, May 2[1] following is appreciation present position in Palestine. Palestinian Government has generally ceased to function and central public services no longer exist. In Jewish areas Jews have taken effective control and are maintaining public services within those areas. Preparations for establishment Jewish state after termination mandate are well advanced. Confidence in future at high peak and Jewish public support for leaders overwhelming. In Arab areas only municipal administration continues without any central authority. In Samaria food and gasoline are in very short supply. Morale following Jewish military successes low with thousands Arabs fleeing country. Last remaining hope is in entry Arab regular armies spearheaded by Arab Legion. Jerusalem is quiet with enforced 48-hour cease-fire in Katamon suburb. Brit maintains status quo having warned Arabs and Jews further disturbances will not be tolerated. Both sides regrouping for battles in areas not affecting British lines of communications. Unless strong Arab reinforcements arrive, we expect Jews overrun most of city upon withdrawal British force. British bringing in heavy reinforcement troops, tanks and armor to keep both sides under control until withdrawal to Haifa enclave completed. British Army expected pursue tougher policy.1

[2] GOC British troops in Palestine informed me categorically last night that Arab Armies have not entered Palestine. He called recent reports re Arab invasion “complete moonshine.” Stated RAF had made full air reconnaissance morning May 2 of northern area and found nothing except three Jewish light planes on Rosh Pinna airstrip. He said Arab irregulars and volunteers are still dribbling in and estimated present strength “Yarmuk Army of Liberation” at 7,000 (other estimates have placed number at 10,000). Fact that they are trained and equipped by government neighboring states is well known but they do not form component regular armies.

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[3] When asked whether Jewish Agency was disseminating this and similar untrue reports as propaganda [and?] was part of war of nerves or as planned psychological warfare for purpose hoodwinking, UN”, GOC replied that he thought that it was simply because Jews wished detract attention from recent Jaffa operation that if they keep repeating these reports, they might one day become true and British would be blamed for failure take action.

4 Re Arab Legion GOC stated that approximately 1500 men in Palestine at present under his command. They have been involved in certain incident without authority and GOC has reprimanded Glubb Pasha, Commanding Officer Legion. All Arab Legion but two companies will leave Palestine by May 12. Remaining companies will depart May 14.

5 Replying to inquiry as to reason for return to Palestine of British troops and armor, GOC said general situation had deteriorated seriously and that IZL (Irgun Zvai Leumi) might attempt aggression before termination mandate. Bef erring to enforced truces in Jaffa and Katamon suburb of Jerusalem, GOC said his patience was exhausted with both sides. He made significant remark which he repeated that he would attack relentlessly any regular force entering Palestine before May 15.

Main Jewish operations carried out by Haganah which were trained and equipped with automatic weapons and mortars. Relations with British satisfactory and GOC states “Jewish Agency and Haganah determined not to attack British”. Jewish operations at beginning were defensive against Arab attacks. However, have now changed to defensive offensive with main object improve defense positions and liquidate Arab interference. Up to present Haganah has not attempted seize territory outside partition boundaries for motives territorial aggrandizement. Full mobilization man and woman power Jewish community still in progress. Haganah leadership good with most leaders trained in British Army. Irgun Zvai Leumi and Stern gang continue aggressive and irresponsible operations such as Deir Yassin massacre and Jaffa. Until recently Irgun started such operations; if successful were continued by Haganah; if not were repudiated by responsible Jewish quarters. This more difficult now with signature agreement between Haganah and Irgun providing for Irgun to be under Haganah but retain identity and have representation in Haganah High Command. Recent Jaffa battle undertaken by Irgun with Haganah taking over in midst of battle. Irgun stated objective was capture Jaffa while Haganah stated objective was defense Tel Aviv against Arab attack. British Army went into action killing over 70 Irgun members. According GOC this action has given Haganah [Page 891] courage to combat Irgun and in Haifa Haganah has succeeded in disarming majority Irgun. Stern gang undertakes joint operations with Irgun but less active. GOC stated that while Irgun ready attack British “Stern gang wants to murder British”. Estimated strength Irgun and Stern 8000.

We believe that Haganah operations will remain defensively offensive until May 15 after which they will go on all-out offensive to secure frontiers new Jewish state and improve lines of communication. So far Arab resistance has been ineffective and GOC and others believe Jews will be able sweep all before them unless regular Arab armies come to rescue. With Haifa as example of Haganah military occupation, possible their operations will restore order.

  1. The rapid deterioration of the general situation in Palestine was underscored in a cablegram of April 30 from the Chairman of the Palestine Truce Commission to the President of the Security Council; for text, see SC, 3rd yr., Supplement for May 1948, p. 38.