Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson) to the Director of the Office of United Nations Affairs (Rusk)

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Subject: UNA Comments of January 26th on the Policy Planning Staff Paper on Palestine.

I have read with interest your comments of January 26th on the Policy Planning Staff paper on Palestine. While I believe that certain of the suggestions which you have made to Mr. Lovett are most valuable and should add materially to the value of the paper if the Policy Planning Staff decides to incorporate them, nevertheless, there are certain points concerning which I should like to make several informal observations to you.

Paragraph 2 of your memorandum poses certain questions which you believe should be answered in the Policy Planning Staff paper. In general I believe that it would be helpful to have these questions considered in the paper although I think certain factors should be taken into consideration which do not seem to be covered in the succeeding paragraphs of your paper. To begin with I think it is self evident that a “new situation” has existed since the 29th of November when it became no longer a matter of hypothetical speculation but actuality that the Arabs of Palestine would not cooperate in the establishment of the plan recommended by the General Assembly. While there were many who predicted that the Arabs would not cooperate in such a venture, nevertheless, the efforts of the United States were directed toward securing the adoption of a plan which would not require implementation by force and would, therefore, necessitate the [Page 601]cooperation of the parties most immediately concerned i.e. the Arabs and Jews of Palestine. The considerations discussed in the Policy Planning Staff paper were known by many at the time the decision to support the UNSCOP majority plan was taken but that decision rested on the hope that by some chance it would be possible to obtain the cooperation of the Arabs in the plan. In addition it was premised on what was generally considered to be the policy of the United States vis-à-vis the Jewish aspirations in Palestine.

With respect to paragraph 2 (b) of your memorandum it might be said that this raises the whole question of whether the plan for Palestine is to be a United States or a United Nations plan. The extent to which the United States should go in ensuring the success of the Partition Plan is one which must be related to our consistent view that the plan should be a United Nations plan and not a United States plan and one which in the final analysis would be acceptable to the peoples of Palestine themselves. This observation might be made with respect to paragraph 2 (c) also.

I think it would be helpful if the Policy Planning paper could incorporate a consideration of the question raised in paragraph 2 (d) of your memorandum. I do not know how detailed Mr. Kennan wishes to be on this subject. It might be possible to indicate in general terms the alternative courses available.

In paragraph 3 of your memorandum I wonder upon what basis you reached the conclusion “that armed intervention by the Arab States would clearly be aggression”. Would this be aggression against the mandatory power and if so, would not we be in an anomalous position if the mandatory power denied that there was aggression? Supposing after the termination of the mandate of May 15th the Arab population of Palestine invited the Arab States into Palestine, would this be aggression?

I cannot agree that it is doubtful whether events have as yet indicated any new situation. It seems to me that the report received by the Security Council from the five nation Commission on February 1st1 and the situation in Palestine itself clearly demonstrates that a new situation exists which did not exist on November 29th. The Palestine Partition Plan is manifestly unworkable. I think that with each passing day our task will be rendered more difficult and that by mid April general chaos will reign in Palestine. The new situation exists today and the only difference between now and April 1st is that at that time it will be far more acute.

Paragraph 4 of your memorandum draws an analogy between the action of the Arab States vis-à-vis Palestine and those of Albania, [Page 602]Bulgaria and Yugoslavia toward Greece. I think it is quite clear that there is a fundamental difference in the actions and attitude of the Arab States with regard to Palestine from the actions of Greece’s three northern neighbors toward Greece. The Arab States believe that there is a definite inconsistency in the United Nations action on these two questions. They believe, with some justification that the United Nations is endeavoring to protect Greece from being partitioned and the legitimate government from being overthrown whereas in Palestine the United Nations is seeking to invoke partition against the wishes of the great majority of the inhabitants, contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter as set forth in Article 1 (2) providing for the self determination of peoples. In addition the efforts of the three northern neighbors of Greece, of course, have the political objective of establishing a Communist form of Government in Greece under the domination of the U.S.S.R. whereas the objective of the Arab States is the establishment of an independent Palestine. Were the situation in Palestine stabilized, Arab objections would cease.

I do not entirely agree with your conclusions set forth in paragraph 5 with respect to the role of the mandatory power. I think the fundamental objective of the United Kingdom with regard to the Palestine question is to be rid of the responsibility. I have not seen any evidence of a British desire to shift the Palestine problem to the United States. As you know there is general accord between the two governments: with regard to the Middle East. There is the most frequent consultation and interchange of information on the courses of action which the two governments are pursuing. The difficulties presently inherent in the Palestine problem do not stem from the British position but rather from the questionable plan recommended by the United Nations, the adoption of which the United States was most instrumental in obtaining. Whether the British have been noncooperative since November 29th is a matter of considerable speculation. There is considerable evidence to the contrary. In any event it is not in the interest of the United States to commence arguing with the United Kingdom about who should bear the responsibility. It is in the interest of both countries that a plan acceptable to the Arabs and Jews in Palestine be worked out. I believe this is possible of obtaining.

With regard to paragraph 6 (a) I think we are aware of the elements of the General Assembly resolution to which the British object, I believe we should maintain the closest contact with the United Kingdom on this subject with the objective of finding a solution which would be acceptable. I doubt whether at this time the British would join us in diplomatic action to obtain the cooperation of the Arab States, or, if by any chance the British would join us, such action would have any good effect.

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Whether the course of action suggested in paragraph 6 (b) of your memorandum is feasible is questionable. The more unilateral activity the United States engages in, the more the Palestine Partition Plan becomes identified as the United States plan for which we assume more and more responsibility.

The course of action alluded to in paragraph 6 (c) would be against the interest of the United States and the United Nations at this time.

With regard to paragraph 6 (e) I believe that such a course of action is politically most undesirable. If the United States is concerned about establishing a solution based on principle, nothing could be more far removed. To exploit the differences of one segment of the Arab world against the other is not a course of action which would serve the best interests of the United States, or the cause of peace and progress in the Near East. Likewise, I think it would vitiate a solution of the Palestine problem. A stable political situation in the Near East depends on cooperation among the Arab States. Palestine at this point is the most critical problem confronting those states. Should the United States undertake to exploit differences among the Arab States with regard to this question we would be doing incalculable harm to our policy in that area and to the general stability of the Near Eastern situation and finally to the prestige of the United Nations.

I agree with your comments on paragraph 8, however, I think that the course of action which we should follow is now clearly apparent i.e. there should be a reconsideration of the entire question.

  1. See the First Monthly Progress Report of the Palestine Commission and footnote 1, p. 572.