501.BB Palestine/1–1948: Telegram

The United States Representative at the United Nations (Austin) to the Secretary of State


67. Palestine Commission report to SC on February 1 will probably charge UK with failure to observe provisions of GA resolution for progressive withdrawal, and assert that under the conditions laid down by the British the Commission cannot proceed to Palestine, Bunche, Secretary of Commission, said in conversation with member of USUN.

Cadogan’s recent statement to the Commission set forth an exact time table for British withdrawal. Informed Commission it could arrive in Palestine only two weeks before the British departure with all British Civil Service personnel. No British subjects would be seconded to the Arab or Jewish Governments and any British member of the Palestine Administrative Service accepting employment with new states would forfeit all pension rights. UK held that to allow British nationals to serve with new states would violate neutrality. Commission was bluntly warned that it must plan to recruit a civil administration ready to take over when British left. Asked how that could be done in two weeks. Cadogan said he did not know, (mytel 59, January 171). Bunche observed that “sheepishness” of Cadogan was greatest in answering that question.

Bunche believes that it will be impossible to govern Palestine unless some experienced top-level British administrators can continue with both new states. Utilities, railroads and other essential services have mixed Arab and Jewish staffs, and few executives and supervisory personnel are available to replace top British civil servants.

The Secretariat is preparing questions for Cadogan to answer at a later session. Bunche says questions will be very sharp and designed to smoke out British implication that they will not cooperate with the [Page 545]Commission in any way. Answers to questions will determine tone and content of February 1 report to SC.

[Here follow six paragraphs dealing with such matters as the relations among the Commission, top Secretariat officers and British specialists on Palestine, and compensation to be paid to Commission members.]

Bundle is a close friend of long standing of USUN officer to whom foregoing told. He has never appeared more upset or more concerned about a problem. He will draft the Commission’s February 1 report to SC. He considers the British position indefensible, that Commission cannot operate under present British plans and would be better advised to refuse to leave New York now than to attempt to implement GA decision under impossible conditions. He has every intention of urging Commission to expose British position in SC and demand that showdown take place in New York before departure. He believes that Commission shares his view. He wryly remarked that he hoped that Department was actively formulating position for first week in February discussion in SC although he had gained impression US had false sense of security as regards its responsibilities in Palestine.2

  1. Not printed.
  2. Ambassador Austin, on January 27, reported information from Mr. Bunche that the Palestine Commission report would not draw conclusions or make charges. The Ambassador advised that “Despite previous indications that the report would severely criticize the British attitude, the commission feels that the British should have an opportunity to answer the questions recently put to Cadogan before any judgment is passed. Cadogan has said that some of the answers had to be cleared at Cabinet level, and certain material gathered in Palestine. Following receipt of these answers, the commission will send a special, confidential report to the SC on the Palestine security problem.

    “However, the February 1 report will point out that it is impossible to meet the April 1 deadline for the establishment of provisional governments because the UK will not allow the commission to arrive in Palestine until two weeks before the British leave.” (Telegram 97 from New York, 501.BB Palestine/1–2748)