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IO Files: US/A/C.1/685

Memorandum by Mr. John E. Horner 1


Future of Palestine

At the present stage, trusteeship as a concept for the solution of the Palestine problem seems virtually to have been abandoned by almost all delegations. Present thinking appears largely to be limited to the possibility of realizing a truce in all of Palestine, a minority also believing in the feasibility of accompanying such a truce with the establishment of a “neutral regime” of an undefined nature. With the exception of some Latin American delegations, little hope presently is held for implementing a UN regime through the use of armed forces.

Many delegations, particularly those from Western Europe and the British Commonwealth, remain distrustful of US policy with respect to Palestine. They see our policy as oscillating between one based upon considerations of our own long-term interests in the Near and Middle East and a policy deriving its force from the requirements of the domestic political situation. Thus these delegations feel it unwise to commit themselves to support us lest we should suddenly commit an about-face, leaving them in an untenable position.

Obviously, an ideal US policy on Palestine would seek to reconcile our long-term Near East interests, which may best be defined as keeping that area out of the Russian grasp, with domestic political considerations, namely the necessity for the administration not unduly to antagonize the Jewish minority in the US. In seeking to find such a policy, we thus far seem to have succeeded only in antagonizing both Arabs and Jews, creating mistrust for our consistency in the minds of thinking European nations, and in placing ourselves, only eleven days prior to the scheduled ending of the British mandate, in a position where we have no tenable solution to offer.

The advantages of a partition scheme for Palestine, recommended by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947 are various. If it could have been carried out by peaceful means, that is, had it been acceptable to both Arabs and Jews, it would have offered a relative permanent solution to the problem. Furthermore, it is in consonance with domestic political requirements, and has the added advantage of meeting the humanitarian feelings of those persons who have been concerned with the sorry plight of disseminated Jewry. However, partition, as it was developed last November, seems most unlikely to be acceptable to the Arab League and hence cannot be regarded as promoting the stabilization of the Near East.

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Similarly, the establishment of a unitary state in Palestine, even on a cantonal basis, would meet with adamant refusal of the Jews to cooperate. Its advantages include the fact that it is acceptable to Arabs and in general would promote US objectives in the Near East.

The third solution up to yesterday promoted by the US delegation at the Special General Assembly, was that of a temporary trusteeship. That solution was not only absolutely unacceptable to the Jews but is basically contrary to the aspirations of the Arabs. Furthermore, it could not even be regarded as a solution, since it would merely postpone the day of reckoning. In any event, as yesterday’s events seem clearly to have shown, trusteeship, as a concept, has met with little active support on the part of other delegations, including many wholly friendly to American objectives in general.

The British proposal put forward in a speech yesterday by Creech Jones was little more than a vague call for a “neutral administration”, designed to hold the fort in Palestine. It is difficult to appraise it since it is couched in such vague terms as to hardly be a proposal at all. Whether it is intended to provide for administration by the UK, the US and France, the remaining allied and associated powers, it is not yet clear. If it is, and France and the UK are preparing to join with the US in sending armed forces to Palestine, it may offer a way out. On the other hand, such a regime would suffer from the disadvantage of being outside the UNO system, and its implementation undoubtedly could be accomplished only with a certain amount of bloodshed. In general, it is hard to see wherein such a regime would offer any material advantages over the trusteeship proposal already in effect rejected.

There is one further possibility of a Palestine solution which, I understand, already has been considered and, for reasons with which I am not familiar, rejected by the Department. That proposal in effect calls for the annexation by the Kingdom of Trans-Jordan of that part of Palestine which the November 29 scheme had intended to be a separate Arab state. Its most obvious advantages would seem to be (1) that it would be acceptable to the Jews, (2) that it probably would be acceptable to King Abdullah, (3) that it is not basically incompatible with the November 29 recommendation, (4) that it offers a relatively permanent solution, (5) that it would create a viable Arab state in the enlarged Trans-Jordan thereby achieving the objectives of the economic union proposal of November 29, (6) that it would effectively eliminate the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his followers, and, most important, it would face up to the inescapable fact that a Zionist State already is in being in Palestine.

A primary objection to this proposal is that it would tend to break up the Arab League, presumably aligning the Hashemites against the other members. In this regard it is believed that the Arab League [Page 900]essentially is held together only by the Palestine issue and that it would tend to break up in any event. Should Abdullah, supported by Iraq, accept this compromise solution, it seems highly unlikely that warfare would develop since the remaining Arab states do not possess armed forces comparable either to the Arab Legion, or Haganah. I understand that relations between the Jewish Agency and King Abdullah have always been good and thus a solution agreeable to both would be likely to promote a stabilized situation in the Near East.

It may be argued that the accomplishment of such a compromise solution would create increased hostility towards the U.S. on the part of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and The Lebanon. Whether such hostility would be lasting is open to question, firstly, because the regimes in those countries seem largely to be dominated by conservative elements not at all certain to remain indefinitely in power, and secondly, because Moslem aspirations could be at least partially satisfied through the incorporation of Arab-Palestine into Trans-Jordan.

Undoubtedly there would be charges of power politics levelled at the United States. However, these can be expected for almost any solution arrived at and in any event would come mainly from the Soviet bloc.

How to accomplish such a compromise solution, assuming it is considered desirable, clearly is a question of major importance. Whereas the US, before the calling of the present Special General Assembly on Palestine, might have espoused such a solution openly, our best tactics at the moment would seem to be to remain in the background. I understand from Rabbi Silver that in all probability such an arrangement could be made directly between the Jewish Agency and Abdullah. If that is the case, the US would have two principal immediate tasks, (1) to make plain to both parties, in confidence, that we favor such a solution and (2) to make certain of British concurrence. Assuming agreement is reached between Abdullah and the Jewish Agency, and the British are agreeable, Trans-Jordan forces would on May 16 occupy that part of Palestine set aside by the November 29 resolution as an Arab state. A proposal could then be introduced into the General Assembly calling for approval of a plebiscite in the Arab section of Palestine on the question of union with Trans-Jordan. That plebiscite might be supervised by the UN and presumably would result in a victory for Trans-Jordon, since the alternative, a separate Arab state, presumably would have little appeal to Arab nationalists. An additional consideration in this regard is the fact that Trans-Jordan was part of the original Palestine mandate and thus there is a natural bond between the Arabs in Trans-Jordan and those remaining in the present Palestine.

To make this solution more attractive to the Arabs and at the same time more lasting, it is suggested that an exchange of population [Page 901]between Trans-Jordan and the Zionist state should take place, using as a precedent the similar exchange between Greece and Turkey which followed World War I. Obviously this would consist in the main of the movement of Arabs to Trans-Jordan, and generous financial assistance would have to be provided to resettle them there. In addition UNO or the US alone might offer economic inducements such as a Jordan Valley Authority and other long-range and large-scale projects designed to increase the amount of arable land available for settlement. With these additional measures it should be possible to create two ethnically separate states which would have their origin in agreement between the two groups.

There remains the problem of Jerusalem, which might be solved in either of two ways. Preferably this city might be made a condominium of Trans-Jordan and the Zionist state. However, if no agreement could be reached on this point, it would still be possible to establish it as a permanent UNO trusteeship.

It appears to the writer that in the context of present conditions and the short remaining time, the proposal outlined at length above is the only one now capable of settling the Palestine question and at the same time preventing the Soviets from exploiting the present inflamed situation to their advantage. No doubt it will meet with numerous objections, particularly on the part of those in the Department concerned with Near Eastern matters, but it is also true that any solution thus far advanced has serious shortcomings. Unlike these others, the present proposal, if it can be accomplished expeditiously, would effectively keep the Soviet Union out of this vital area, while being satisfactory to Zionists and relatively so to the Arabs.

John E. Horner
  1. Adviser to the United States Delegation at the Second Special Session of the General Assembly; regularly attached to the Office of European Affairs.