501.BB Palestine/9–2948

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

top secret

Mr. Clark M. Clifford called me at 4:30 from Tulsa1 and said that the President was deeply concerned by an apparent over-emphasis by the Secretary on the necessity for accepting the Bernadotte Plan in its entirety. He said that the pressure from the Jewish groups on the President was mounting and that it was as bad as the time of the trusteeship suggestion. The line of attack was that the position taken in Paris by this Government was contrary to that of the Democratic National Platform.

The President first had instructed Clifford to send a telegram to the Secretary in Paris.2 I told Clifford that the consequences of a telegram indicating a reversal of the President’s clear approval of a program discussed with him by the Secretary on September 1 and formally signed by the President on that date3 would put the Secretary in an intolerable position and, because of the agreements made with other countries in the light of the agreed policy, would label this country as violating its agreements and as completely untrustworthy in international matters. The consequences could be absolutely disastrous to us in the United Nations and elsewhere.

After prolonged argument, Clifford agreed to use his best efforts to have this approach to the matter cancelled when I read to him the memorandum4 specifically approved by the President on September 1 [Page 1431] which set out in detail the possibility of a swap of Western Galilee for portions of the Negeb. I also called his attention to the fact that a message sent to the President through the White House Signal Center5 and dispatched at 4:18 p. m. on September 18 telling the President of the Secretary’s proposed statement and asking for instructions if the President were not in agreement produced no reply to date. At 6:20 on Monday evening, September 20, the White House Signal Center was checked with and again on Tuesday morning the 21st. No reply had been received in any form.

Clifford said this was all news to him and that he would take the matter up promptly.

The conversation was interrupted and some time later Clifford told me that an alternative suggestion had been made that the President reply to a telegram from Rabbi Wise, apparently in connection with the Jewish New Year but timed for release during the period of registration in New York. The telegram seemed reasonable except for a sentence which read, “It seems to me that the Bernadotte Plan might well serve as a basis of negotiation for such a settlement.” I pointed out that this was an obvious weakening of the position taken by the Government in Paris and in reliance on which Bevin made his subsequent public statement before the House of Commons. Clifford agreed to take the matter up with the President and to call me back at the next stop.

At 6:50 p. m. a telecon message came in suggesting alternate language to replace the sentence quoted above. The new language read: “It seems to me that the Bernadotte Plan offers a basis for continuing efforts to secure a just settlement.” As this approximated the statements made in Paris, it seemed acceptable to me. Before replying, however, I communicated with Satterthwaite and checked with others in the Department, who said that they saw no objection to this language. Accordingly, at about 7:00 p. m. I replied to Clifford’s message via the Signal Center at the White House stating that the new language was acceptable.

It was my understanding that the President proposes to release his wire to Wise Thursday or Friday in an effort to offset the full-page advertising campaign of the American Zionist Emergency Council directed against the Bernadotte Plan.

Attached is the reply given me by telephone which the President expects to send to Rabbi Wise.

Robert A. Lovett
[Page 1432]

Proposed Telegram by President Truman, to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise

In answer to your telegram, there is no question but that my action on May 14, 1948, constituted an unconditional recognition of the State of Israel. In addition, at that time, a provisional government had been established and de facto recognition was given the provisional government. When a permanent government is established, I have no reason to doubt but that it will promptly be given de jure recognition.

I sincerely hope it will be possible to find a peaceful settlement of the distressed conditions in Palestine which can be accepted with honor by all the interested parties. It seems to me that the Bernadotte Plan offers a basis for continuing efforts to secure a just settlement. Already substantial progress toward peace has been achieved and, with these more stabilized conditions, this Government is now in a position to give further consideration to making loans immediately available for productive projects within the State of Israel.6

  1. Mr. Clifford was aboard the Presidential train.
  2. The Clifford Papers contain a draft message from President Truman to Secretary Marshall at Paris in the President’s handwriting. The editors are of the opinion that this message was intended to be the “telegram to the Secretary in Paris”. It reads as follows:

    “Your statement that the Bernadotte report should be used as a basis for negotiation in the settlement of the Palestine question requires clarification.

    “The government of the United States is on record as having endorsed the action of the United Nations General Assembly of November 1947 as to boundaries. As President I have so stated officially. The Democratic Platform endorsed the findings of the General Assembly.

    “I shall have to state that my position as to boundaries has not changed.

    “You should know that my statement will be made on October first.”

    At the end of the draft telegram is a note that the message was to be sent immediately, with a copy to Acting Secretary Lovett at Washington.

    Mr. McClintock’s memorandum of September 30, p. 1437, which gives a further account of the Clifford–Lovett telephone conversation, states that the draft telegram was not sent.

  3. See footnote 2, p. 1369.
  4. The memorandum of August 31, p. 1363.
  5. Copy not found in Department of State files.
  6. There is no record in the files of the Department of State of the proposed telegram having been sent. A copy in the Clifford Papers contains the word “elected” instead of “established” in the penultimate sentence of the first paragraph.