501.BB Palestine/5–448

Draft Memorandum by the Director of the Office of United Nations Affairs ( Rusk ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Lovett )1


Subject: Future Course of Events in Palestine

The refusal of the Jewish Agency last night to agree to our proposal for on-the-spot truce negotiations in Palestine on the grounds that they could not accept the “moral obligation” to undertake such conversations rather clearly reveals the intention of the Jews to go steadily ahead with the Jewish separate state by force of arms. While it is possible that Arab acceptance of our proposal might place the Jewish Agency in such a position vis-à-vis public opinion that it would have to go through the motions of looking for a truce, it seems clear that in light of the Jewish military superiority which now obtains in Palestine, the Jewish Agency will prefer to round out its State after May 15 and rely on its armed strength to defend that state from Arab counterattack.

Military operations after May 15 will probably be undertaken by the Haganah with the assistance of the Jewish terrorist organizations Irgun and Stern. Copies of Consul General Wasson’s excellent reports, as set forth in his telegram 530 of May 3, are attached, and provide the estimate of the British General Officer Commanding as to the probable course of military events after British withdrawal on May 15.

If these predictions come true we shall find ourselves in the UN confronted by a very anomalous situation. The Jews will be the actual aggressors against the Arabs. However, the Jews will claim that they [Page 895] are merely defending the boundaries of a state which were traced by the UN and approved, at least in principle, by two-thirds of the UN membership. The question which will confront the SC in scarcely ten days’ time will be whether Jewish armed attack on Arab communities in Palestine is legitimate or whether it constitutes such a threat to international peace and security as to call for coercive measures by the Security Council.

The situation may be made more difficult and less clear-cut if, as is probable, Arab armies from outside Palestine cross the frontier to aid their disorganized and demoralized brethren who will be the objects of Jewish attack. In the event of such Arab outside aid the Jews will come running to the Security Council with the claim that their state is the object of armed aggression and will use every means to obscure the fact that it is their own armed aggression against the Arabs inside Palestine which is the cause of Arab counter-attack.

There will be a decided effort, given this eventuality, that the United States will be called upon by elements inside this country to support Security Council action against the Arab states. To take such action would seem to me to be morally indefensible while, from the aspect of our relations with the Middle East and of our broad security aspects in that region, it would be almost fatal to pit forces of the United States and possibly Russia against the governments of the Arab world.

Given this almost intolerable situation, the wisest course of action might be for the United States and Great Britain, with the assistance of France, to undertake immediate diplomatic action seeking to work out a modus vivendi between Abdullah of Transjordan and the Jewish Agency. This modus vivendi would call for, in effect, a de facto partition of Palestine along the lines traced by Sir Arthur Creech Jones in his remark to Ambassador Parodi on May 2, as indicated on Page 3 of USUN’s telegram [549], May 2,2 which has been drawn to your attention.

In effect, Abdullah would cut across Palestine from Transjordan to the sea at Jaffa, would give Ibn Saud a port at Aqaba and appease the Syrians by some territorial adjustment in the northern part, leaving the Jews a coastal state running from Tel Aviv to Haifa. If some modus vivendi along these lines could be worked out peaceably, the United Nations could give its blessing to the deal.3

  1. Drafted by Mr. Mcclintock; a marginal notation states it was not sent.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Ambassador Austin, on May 4, transmitted to the Department the text of a telegram from King Abdullah to Secretary-General Lie, received the same day in New York. The message vehemently denounced such “unparalleled massacres” as that at Deir Yasin (see telegram 431, April 13, from Jerusalem, p. 817). The King concluded his message with the statement: “We now declare our readiness to give the Jews in Palestine full Arab nationality in a unitary state sharing all that we share while yet enjoying a special administration in particular areas. Thus will end the slaughter and the people will live in peace and security forever.” (Telegram 569 from New York, 501.BB Palestine/5–448)