501.BB Palestine/2–348

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

top secret

The resolution of the General Assembly recommending the partition of Palestine, which was adopted on November 29, 1947, has placed the problem of implementation on the doorstep of the Security Council. The Council yesterday was given the first monthly report of the Palestine Commission, the accumulative effect of which is to highlight the almost insurmountable difficulties of carry[ing] out partition without the use of force and the very pointed lack of cooperation shown the Commission by the Mandatory Power in Palestine, the United Kingdom. In particular, the refusal of the British Government to permit the Commission to proceed to Palestine before May 1 and the intention of the British authorities to pull out of Palestine two weeks after the arrival of the Commission served to make the task of fulfilling the Assembly’s resolution almost insuperable. The United States is directly involved in this problem since on November 30 it agreed to the proposal of Foreign Secretary Bevin to support the British timetable of withdrawal whereby the Commission would not arrive in Palestine before May l.2

While the problems of the Palestine Commission are but one facet of the broader issue of Palestine partition, the Commission’s report will certainly bring to a head and promptly the main issue before the Security Council: whether force should be employed by the United Nations or condoned by the United Nations to carry out the partition of Palestine against the will of a majority of its inhabitants and the pronounced policy of six members of the United Nations, comprising the members of the Arab League.

[Page 588]

[The Office of] United Nations Affairs recommends:

That the United States do everything possible to see that the resolution of November 29, 1947 be placed into effect by any measures falling short of the use of armed force.
That the United States make immediate representations to the United Kingdom pointing out that the indifference of the United Kingdom to its responsibility as Mandatory Power and as a member of the United Nations morally bound by the resolution of November 29 will cause us to revise our position regarding support of the timetable of withdrawal unless the United Kingdom manifests a more conciliatory attitude. Since our position is stated in (1) above the United Kingdom should have no illusions as to the determination of this Government to make the partition plan succeed if it is possible to do so without the use of force.
Should the constitutionality of the resolution of November 29, 1947, be challenged and an attempt be made to refer Charter interpretation of the resolution to the International Court of Justice, this Government should not oppose such reference, provided that meanwhile the carrying out of the provisions of the resolution were not placed in abeyance while the Court was deliberating on its advisory opinion.
Should, as seems almost inevitable, it prove impossible to carry out the resolution of November 29 by peaceful measures, the Security Council will be faced with decisions regarding the use of force
Within Palestine itself,
A force external to Palestine directed against the Jewish State,

the United States should take the position that it is not incumbent on the Security Council to apply force within Palestine to carry out partition by armed strength. As for the threat of external aggression against Palestine which would come from the Arab States contiguous to that territory, the United States should support any measures falling short of the use of armed force by the Security Council to restrain such aggression. It should not, however, support the sending by the Council of an international armed force to give battle to the Arab States in an attempt to quash such aggression.
When all measures falling short of the use of force to carry out the partition of Palestine have proved fruitless the United States should support the calling of a Special Session of the General Assembly to reconsider the entire problem, with the probable outcome that a special United Nations trusteeship for Palestine would be proposed and terminable at such future date when the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Palestine were able to agree on a modus vivendi either for a unitary federated state or for partition.

Technical papers have been prepared in UNA on the possible measures which might be taken by the United States to implement the Palestine partition plan by measures falling short of the use of force [Page 589] and also by forceful measures adopted by the Security Council. Studies have been made of the possibility of arming the militias of the Jewish and Arab States; of the recruiting of the international police for the trusteeship of Jerusalem; of the problem of Arab aggression; of conciliatory measures which might be adopted seeking to bring the Arab and Jewish parties to an agreement; and of the question of submitting the legality of the Palestine decision to the International Court of Justice. It is proposed to retain these studies for reference at your call, depending of course upon developments in the Security Council and elsewhere.

  1. Mr. Rusk did not initial this memorandum and there is no evidence that it was actually sent to Mr. Lovett.
  2. For the British timetable of withdrawal, see telegram Martel 12, November 28, 1947, from London, Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, p. 1289. Mr. Lovett, on November 29, authorized New York to inform the British of Departmental agreement concerning the timetable; see first footnote 1, ibid., p. 1290.