501.BB Palestine/9–148: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Special Representative of the United States in Israel ( McDonald )

top secret
us urgent

72. For McDonald. I have carefully considered your No. 70, Aug. 24,1 and have discussed it with the President.

Re Section 1, urtel, it would appear that PGI may be making several issues out of an integral problem, professing its desire for immediate peace negotiations but maintaining its disinclination to carry out certain essential preliminary steps which you cite as “partial measures”, including maintenance of truce, demilitarization of Jerusalem, and alleviation of Arab refugee problem.

The maintenance of truce is indispensable to successful peace negotiations. We do not, as member of UN, intend to see solution of Palestine problem by force of arms and accordingly if there is any sincere desire for peace negotiations on either side, they must be carried out while strict truce is maintained.

[Page 1367]

As for demilitarization of Jerusalem, this was in response to Security Council resolution of July 15, which reflected worldwide concern for fate of this holy city and determination of international community that sacred shrines of Jerusalem should not further be desecrated by conflict.

Arab refugee problem is one which, as you quote PGI as saying, did develop from recent war in Palestine but which also began before outbreak of Arab-Israeli hostilities. A significant portion of Arab refugees fled from their homes owing to Jewish occupation of Haifa on April 21–22 and to Jewish armed attack against Jaffa April 25. You will recall statements made by Jewish authorities in Palestine promising safeguards for Arab minority in areas under Jewish control. Arab refugee problem is one involving life or death of some 300,000 people. The leaders of Israel would make a grave miscalculation if they thought callous treatment of this tragic issue could pass unnoticed by world opinion. Furthermore, hatred of Arabs for Israel engendered by refugee problem would be a great obstacle to those peace negotiations you say PGI immediately desires.

In the light of the foregoing I do not concur in your conclusion that “Jewish emphasis on peace negotiations now is sounder than present US and UN emphasis on truce and demilitarization and refugees”.

Nevertheless, this govt has for months past been seeking possible bases for a settlement which, if not agreed to, might be acquiesced in, and has made several efforts to bring about negotiated settlement. Some efforts failed because of Arabs, some because of Jews. When you state that Jewish emphasis on peace negotiations now is sound, do you mean that PGI has any assurance that there is any Arab govt with which it can negotiate? Please telegraph on this point.

Provided Arab govts as a group can be induced to participate in peace conversations with Israel, which at the moment seems most improbable, or provided that PGI can initiate private peace talks with one Arab govt such as Transjordan, which seems more within limit of possibility, we feel that PGI would be wise in not insisting on too much. We had reluctantly derived impression from recent developments that PGI desired to obtain all that was recommended in GA Resolution of November 29, 1947 (and which they formally accepted by public proclamation in requests for recognition) plus such additional territory as is now under military occupation by Israeli forces, including the rich area of western Galilee and a portion of Jerusalem. We are aware of the problem presented by Extremists and internal political complications presented thereby. However, we would appreciate some indication of the true intentions of PGI in respect to their territorial claims.

For your own info, the US feels that the new State of Israel should have boundaries which will make it more homogeneous and well integrated [Page 1368] than the hourglass frontiers drawn on the map of the November 29 Resolution. Perhaps some solution can be worked out as part of any settlement with Transjordan which would materially simplify boundary problem. Specifically, it would appear to us that Israel might expand into the rich area of Galilee, which it now holds in military occupation, in return for relinquishing a large portion of the Negev to Transjordan. This would leave the new State with materially improved frontiers and considerably enriched in terms of natural resources by acquisition of Galilee in return for the desert Negev.

Since Jerusalem is such a bone of contention between Arabs and Jews and is focal center of Christian interest in Palestine, we believe that it should form international enclave along lines recommended by GA resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, or by Trusteeship Council in its meetings in April and May, 1948. Any other arrangement satisfactory to both Jews and Arabs would, however, be acceptable to us, provided guarantees were given for access to and safety of holy places.

Please discuss foregoing suggestions with Ben Gurion and Shertok, making clear that although tentative and in the nature of “trying on for size” they are offered in an earnest desire of this govt to assist Israel to become a permanent factor for economic development and maintenance of peace in Middle East.

You should make clear to Shertok and Ben Gurion that we feel that demands in excess of foregoing suggestions would prejudice the possibility of a permanent peace in Palestine.

If authorities of PGI show any constructive response to these suggestions US is willing to present them to Mediator, in its role as member of SC Truce Commission, as being proposals which commend themselves to very serious consideration, and will take similar line with UK which can be expected to exert considerable pressure on Arab govts.

Adverting to concluding paragraph of reference telegram you should make very clear to Israeli leaders that this govt in Security Council will be zealous in advocating that Council apply measures, if necessary, under Chapter VII of Charter, to restrain resort to arms, whether by Arabs or by Israel. Leaders of PGI should be quick to see that non-military sanctions voted by SC as, for example, a ban on any financial transactions with aggressor state or modification of arms embargo, would have immediate consequences in such a state as Israel. In fact we are hopeful that wise counsels in Israel will perceive that new state cannot exist except by acceptance of international community and that PGI, of all new govts, should be most responsive to this fact.

We believe that leaders of Israel stand at moment of greatest opportunity for showing true statesmanship and thus to establish their [Page 1369] republic on impregnable moral basis which will lead to sound political and economic development. US stands ready to give Israel its assistance to this end.2

  1. Sent 10 a.m., p. 1337.
  2. A marginal notation indicates that telegram 72 was approved by President Truman on September 1. No. 72 was repeated to London the same day in telegram 3469.