501.BB Palestine/3–1549

Memorandum by the Coordinator on Palestine Refugee Matters (McGhee)1 to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)


Attached are policy recommendations with respect to Palestine refugees, together with a supporting policy paper which contains on page 20 a statement of recommended planning objectives.2 These have been approved by Mr. Rusk, who hopes that they can be discussed at your regular staff meeting at the earliest opportunity.

Since I plan to leave for Beirut the morning of March 17, I would like to discuss this paper with you tomorrow, together with proposed plan of action and planning with respect to the refugee problem which are dealt with in papers attached.

After you have given consideration to these papers, I hope then to be able to discuss them with the Secretary, who has indicated his willingness to do so and to advise me of the President’s views with respect to this matter.3

[Annex 1]

Memorandum by the Coordinator on Palestine Refugee Matters (McGhee) to the Secretary of State


Policy Recommendations

It is recommended that:

It be recognized as in the national interest of the United States that an early and effective solution be found to the problem of the Palestine refugees. Such solution should make possible their repatriation or resettlement in such a manner as to minimize present and potential political and economic tensions prejudicial to United States interests in the area affected.
The United States be prepared to contribute such technical and financial assistance to the solution of this problem as it considers necessary, while at the same time refusing to accept sole responsibility for solution of the problem and seeking to confine U.S. financial assistance thereto within limits consistent with its national interests.
A plan be developed as a matter of urgency for the implementation of this policy, including proposals for relief, rehabilitation, and long-range resettlement projects, estimated costs, and expected sources of funds, and operational procedures, including the part to be played by the U.S., the governments in the affected area, other interested governments, and the United Nations.4

[Annex 2]

501.MA Palestine/3–1749

Policy Paper Prepared in the Department of State5


Palestine Refugees

the problem

The problem is to determine the nature and extent of United States interest in the question of some 725,000 Arab refugees from the Palestine hostilities, and in the light of the findings, to make recommendations concerning United States policy towards the long-range disposition of this question.


(1) Background: As a result of hostilities in Palestine preceding land following the termination of the British Mandate and establishment of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, almost the entire Arab population of Palestine fled or was expelled from the area under Jewish occupation. These Arabs, now estimated at 725,000, took refuge in Arab-controlled areas of Palestine and in the neighboring Arab states. The present distribution of the refugees is approximately the following: [Page 829]

Lebanon 100,000- an addition of 10– 10.5% to the normal population
Syria 85,000– 3.5– 4%
TransJordan 85,000 21%
Iraq 5,000 0.1%
Egypt 8,000– 0.04– 0.05%
 North 230,000 } areas under Egyptian, Iraqi, and Transjordanian military occupation
 South 225,000

No accurate statistical breakdown of the refugees exists. However, the International Children’s Emergency Fund considers 425,000 or 58% of the refugees eligible for assistance under its program: this group consists of infants, young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. Approximately 15% of the refugees are aged, sick, and infirm. It would appear that the able-bodied men and women amount to a maximum of 25 percent of the total, or 180,000.

The condition of these refugees, dependent upon their own slender resources and upon those of the neighboring states, rapidly became acute. Since the Government of Israel refused to permit repatriation of Arab refugees into Israeli territory while a state of war existed, and since relief assistance enlisted by the United Nations Mediator for Palestine in August was wholly inadequate to meet a problem of this magnitude, the Mediator referred the problem to the General Assembly in September, with a renewed appeal for assistance. This appeal was reiterated by the Acting Mediator in a report to the United Nations on October 18, 1948,6 in which he made recommendations for the establishment of a United Nations relief program for assistance to the refugees.

(2) Action taken up to present.

In response to the Mediator’s initial request in August for emergency supplies, the Department’s only recourse, in the absence of authorized public funds, was to appeal to American voluntary agencies. As a result of this action, funds and supplies exceeding $1,500,000 have been contributed by American voluntary sources as of March 1, 1949.

On November 19, 1948, the General Assembly unanimously passed a joint US-UK-Belgian-Dutch resolution calling for a United Nations program for the relief of Palestinian refugees. This resolution declared that a sum of $32,000,000 would be required for a nine months’ program, to be raised by voluntary contributions, and authorized an immediate advance of $5,000,000 from the UN working capital fund.

[Page 830]

This Government granted a leave of absence to Stanton Griffis, American Ambassador to Egypt, to enable him to accept the appointment as Director of United Nations Belief for Palestine Refugees.

On December 7, President Truman announced his intention of recommending to the Congress that the United States contribute 50 percent of the amount called for in the United Nations resolution, or $16,000,000.7 The authorizing legislation for this appropriation has been passed by the Senate, and is now pending in the House of Representatives.

The General Assembly resolution of December 11, 1948, establishing a Conciliation Commission far Palestine resolves “that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible”. A machinery for implementing these objectives is provided by the resolution, which “instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations.” We strongly supported the resolution of December 11, and have instructed the American member of the Conciliation Commission to be guided, with respect to the refugee question, by its terms.

With respect to the attitude of the Israeli Government towards the question of repatriation, we have undertaken and are undertaking action on the diplomatic level in two respects: (1) with the underlying purpose of safeguarding Arab absentee property interests in Israel against application of the Israeli ordinance of December 12, 1948 authorizing sale of such property, we are urging Israel not to take unilateral action which would prejudice achievement of an agreed settlement on the return of refugees to their homes and return of property to refugee owners; (2) we are urging Israel to implement the purposes of the December 11 resolution, as a means of facilitating political settlement of the Palestine problem and preparing the way for a modus vivendi with the Arab states.

If Israel indicates agreement in principle with the December 11 resolution, or expresses its willingness to cooperate in resolving the refugee question, we also contemplate making representations to the [Page 831] Arab states, with a view to their adoption of a more realistic attitude towards the question of accepting a share of the refugees on a permanent basis and with a view to stimulating them to make constructive plans to this end.

(3) Assumptions that can be made with respect to the problem.

Failure to liquidate or materially reduce the magnitude of the Arab refugee problem would have important consequences. The Arab states presently represent a highly vulnerable area for Soviet exploitation, and the presence of over 700,000 destitute, idle refugees provides the likeliest channel for such exploitation. In addition, their continued presence will further undermine the weakened economy of the Arab states, and may well provide the motivation for the overthrow of certain of the Arab Governments. Moreover, failure to liquidate the problem would adversely affect the possibility of a permanent settlement in Palestine, and would create a permanent source of friction between Israel and the Arab states.

Conversely, speedy action looking to the equitable solution of the refugee problem would further the restoration of peace and security and contribute to the stabilization of the Near East. It would prevent the exploitation of the refugee problem by foreign interests inimical to the best interests of the peoples of the Near East.

In view of the stated position of Israel towards the question of repatriation, and the large-scale preemption of Arab lands and housing by Jewish immigrants, who are entering Israel at the rate of 25,000 monthly, it would be wholly unrealistic to expect Israel to agree to the repatriation of all those so desiring. Although the Jews originally accepted the partition resolution of November 29, 1947, under which the Arab population of the Jewish state would have numbered 500,000, it is doubtful that the State of Israel would now permit more than a small number of refugees to return to Israel. If Israel could be persuaded to accept any substantial number, it is probable that it would request financial assistance in carrying out their repatriation.

It is reasonable to assume that as many as 600,000 refugees will have to be permanently settled in the Arab states. The Arab states, however, will be unable to accomplish the resettlement of this number without adverse economic and political repercussions, unless material assistance is forthcoming.

It can also be assumed that any machinery and resources which are placed at the disposal of the Conciliation Commission to implement its task will be inadequate to deal with a resettlement problem of this magnitude. Moreover, the resources of the United Nations and its specialized agencies are presently inadequate to handle this problem and, to judge from the response of the member states to the appeal for funds to implement the November 19 resolution establishing a relief [Page 832] program, the member states would not be willing to contribute the material resources required to carry out a mass resettlement program if such action were proposed in the United Nations.

Finally, it can be assumed that Great Britain is the only major foreign power whose degree of interest in the liquidation of the refugee question is sufficient to insure any significant participation in its solution. (Attention should be called in this respect to Great Britain’s close treaty relations with Egypt and Iraq, and to her special position with respect to Transjordan, the latter two of which would probably be heavily involved in any mass resettlement program.)

(4) United States interests and policy in the Near East.

The Near Eastern area, which consists of Israel and the Arab states, is an area of vital strategic importance, a communications center, and a major source of petroleum. As such, it is an area of special concern to all the great powers and to certain lesser powers. During recent years our chief objective in the Near East was to prevent inherent rivalries and conflicting interests in that area from developing into conditions which might lead to a third world war, an objective dictated by our primary interest in safeguarding the security of the United States.

Because of the special significance of Palestine, the conflicting interests and aspirations of the Near East as a whole have had a primary focus in that country and, during the past year, found expression in open hostilities. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, this Government took a leading part in seeking a solution of the Palestine problem which would be acceptable to the interested parties. Since the failure of these attempts, we have been active in supporting measures designed to end the conflict, and to achieve a permanent settlement of the Palestine problem. These efforts, carried on within the framework of the United Nations, have been governed by our desire to support in the Near East the principles of the United Nations, and to put an end to the threat to international security and to American strategic interests in the Near East which the present situation represents.

In conjunction with our efforts to achieve the permanent settlement of Arab-Jewish differences with respect to Palestine, we are striving to promote the establishment of cooperative relationships between Israel and the Arab states, as a condition to the stabilization and peaceful development of the area.

On a regional basis, it is our policy to assist the Near Eastern countries in maintaining their independence, to strengthen their orientation towards the West, and to discourage any tendencies towards the development of authoritarian and unrepresentative forms of government. Such efforts are designed both to minimize the debilitating [Page 833] effects of internal discontent, and to strengthen the determination of these states to resist external pressures and intervention.

(5) Effect of the refugee problem upon United States interests and policy.

From the political point of view, the stabilization of the Near East is a major objective of American foreign policy. The refugee problem, therefore, as a focal point for continued unrest within the Arab states, a source of continuing friction between Israel and the Arabs, and a likely channel for Soviet exploitation, is directly related to our national interests.

From the strategic point of view, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on September 22, 1948, with specific reference to the Arab refugee question, characterized the Near Eastern area as an area of critical strategic importance, and emphasized the necessity, from a military standpoint, of maintaining the Arab world oriented towards the United States and the United Kingdom. They therefore recommended that, as a measure to strengthen our military position, the United States should make provision for generous assistance to the Arab refugees from Palestine.8 The Secretary of Defense on January 25, 1949, charterized the presence of the refugees in the Near East as a serious threat to the political, economic and social stability of this region, and a serious danger to the health and welfare of the peoples of the Arab states and Israel.9

Our present policy with respect to Palestinian refugees, as set forth in the Secretary’s Policy Problem Book, is the following:

We should use our best efforts, through the Conciliation Commission and through diplomatic channels, to insure the implementation of the General Assembly resolution of December 11, 1948;

We should endeavor to persuade Israel to accept the return of those refugees who so desire, in the interests of justice and as an evidence of its desire to establish amicable relations with the Arab world;

We should furnish advice and guidance to the governments of the Arab states in the task of absorbing into their economic and social structures those refugees who do not wish to return to Israel.

(6) Attitudes of UN, individual governments, and refugees themselves toward the problem.

(a) Attitude of the UN.

Count Bernadotte, the slain Palestine Mediator, very early established the principle of UN responsibility for the Palestine refugees. In [Page 834] Conclusion (G) of his report, dated September 16, in Part Three (Assistance to Refugees), he said:

“So long as large numbers of the refugees remain in distress, I believe that responsibility for their relief should be assumed by the United Nations in conjunction with the neighbouring Arab States, the Provisional Government of Israel, the specialized agencies, and also all the voluntary bodies or organizations of a humanitarian and non-political character.”

However, at the Third Session of the General Assembly in Paris, the United States Delegation was careful to insist in conversations with other Delegations that there was no legal responsibility for refugee relief devolving upon the United Nations. The United States Delegation succeeded in eliminating from the United Kingdom draft of the Preamble of the resolution before the Third Committee providing for an emergency relief program, a paragraph which would have established United Nations responsibility for this problem. The issue was placed before the Third Committee and the Assembly on its own merits as a question involving humanitarian as well as political elements which would have to be met on an ad hoc basis without establishing a precedent for similar United Nations action in other cases.

Nevertheless, in the eyes of the refugees themselves and to an even greater extent in the view of the Arab Governments, there is a United Nations responsibility for the care of the refugees only slightly less than an imagined United States responsibility, since the Arab Governments are prone to insist that Israel would not have come into existence without United States support and, had there been no Israel, there would have been no refugees.

Subsequent to the passage of the resolution, the UN in the field, under the directorship of Ambassador Stanton Griffis, has undertaken primary responsibility for the emergency phase of refugee relief. There is no doubt that the Secretary General, Mr. Trygve Lie, feels convinced that the United Nations must continue to show effective leadership in meeting this problem. However, in essence, the continuing participation of the United Nations in dealing with the interim and long-range phases of the matter will depend on the attitudes of the Governments who compose the United Nations.

(b) Attitudes of Governments.

It was significant that when the Palestine refugee problem was considered by Committee 3 in Paris last autumn, support was more verbal than valuable in tangible terms. Mr. Mayhew of the British Delegation, at the very commencement of the session, insisted that the Third Committee should immediately devise measures to meet the refugee problem. When asked, however, what measures the United Kingdom [Page 835] had in mind or even if its delegation had a draft resolution, Mr. Mayhew confessed that they had neither ideas nor the embodiment of ideas in resolution form. The British attitude seemed to be one of viewing with great alarm, but most of the spade work in developing the resolution which was finally adopted by the Assembly was done by the United States Delegation. It is probable, however, that it was due to British influence that the Netherlands and Belgium associated themselves with the United Kingdom, and the United States, in jointly sponsoring a resolution. Unfortunately, however, the interest of these governments in contributing to the refugee relief in more tangible terms than sponsorship of a resolution has not proved to be very great. Although the Belgian Government has contributed approximately one-half a million dollars, the Dutch have given nothing, while the French contribution still awaits Parliamentary approval. The British contribution totals one million pounds.

The response of other governments has been even less enthusiastic. In fact, the great brunt of relief expenditures has been borne, perforce, by the Arab States, on whom these refugees are quartered. Dr. Bayard Dodge estimates that from the time the first refugees escaped from Haifa and Jaffa in the spring of 1948, to December 1 in that year, the Arab Governments contributed $11 million in cash or kind to their sustenance. This sum, in light of the very slender budgets of most of these Governments, is relatively enormous.*

The conclusion seems inescapable, therefore, that even though the United Nations should formulate a program for the interim and long-range relief periods, its constituent Governments cannot be relied upon for very effective contributions with the possible exception of the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom has definitely indicated its mounting concern at the refugee problem, realizing as it does how the presence of 700,000 demoralized and hungry people can threaten the entire stability of the strategic Middle East in which the United Kingdom has a vital interest. Thus, the British Foreign Secretary on March 2 spoke to Ambassador Douglas in London of the depth of his concern regarding the plight of the Arab refugees. Mr. Bevin felt that this was a problem of alarming proportions which “deserves the utmost efforts of the United States and United Kingdom as well as the United Nations”, to say nothing of being a political problem of the first magnitude for the reestablishment of peace in the Middle East (London telegram 787, March 310).

[Page 836]

Although this was the attitude of the British Foreign Secretary, his Foreign Office has as yet not formulated concrete proposals for meeting the problem. Nevertheless, British Missions in the Middle East have been circularized with a questionnaire and the Foreign Secretary, who displays a keen personal interest in the matter, in the last week of February directed that the views of the Commonwealth Governments regarding the refugee problem be ascertained, as they might be helpful not only in a material way but also in the United Nations. Mr. Bevin thought that India and Pakistan, which have wide experience in handling refugee problems, might be of particular help. He felt also that the French Government should be consulted because of its wide Moslem responsibilities. (London telegram 742, March 111).

On the basis of this evidence, therefore, there would seem to be ground for considerable spade work with the British. Through the British Middle East Office the United Kingdom has extensive economic contact with the Arab Governments and an immense reservoir of experience on which to draw. Furthermore, in very concrete terms the British should be able to tap the resources of such great engineering firms as Gibbs and Cox, who, it is understood, have prepared detailed engineering plans for river development projects and land improvement schemes in Transjordan and other areas where Palestine refugees might be settled.

Since the British and American Governments are in concert as to their strategic requirements in the Middle East, it would seem absolutely essential that any program for that area in regard to refugee relief which would be sponsored by this Government, either in the United Nations or as a separate project, should be accomplished in the closest accord with the United Kingdom Government.

(c) Attitude of the Refugees Themselves.

All reports from the field—i.e., those of Dr. Bayard Dodge and Mr. Colin Bell of the Friends Service Committee, recently returned from Gaza, and of Mr. St. Aubin, the Field Director in the Near East of the American Red Cross, plus reports from United States Missions in that area—confirm that the great bulk of the refugees wish to return to their homes and cling to the illusion that it will be possible to do so.

The danger point will come when the refugees realize that it will be impossible for the majority to return home. It is true that Mr. Stanton Griffis in Cairo’s airgram A–254, March 1,11 expresses the opinion that, once peace is restored, large numbers of refugees will infiltrate across the Israeli border and return to their former abode. Nevertheless, [Page 837] the Representatives of the Provisional Government of Israel have very clearly indicated that Israel has no intention of taking back more than a portion of the refugees. The Israeli Representative in Washington, Mr. Eliahu Elath, told Mr. Mark Ethridge that he thought that maybe the Christian Arabs might be permitted to return but that the Moslem Arabs would be an intractable element who could not assimilate in Israel. Furthermore, Israeli authorities have followed a systematic program of destroying Arab houses in such cities as Haifa and in village communities in order to rebuild modern habitations for the influx of Jewish immigrants from DP camps in Europe. There are, thus, in many instances, literally no houses for the refugees to return to. In other cases incoming Jewish immigrants have occupied Arab dwellings and will most certainly not relinquish them in favor of the refugees. Accordingly, it seems certain that the majority of these unfortunate people will soon be confronted with the fact that they will not be able to return home. Unless some alternative is prepared and some hope offered them of an improved life in the future, it is certain that the political, to say nothing of the social, repercussions of this discovery will be very great.

If a proper program can be devised and implemented promptly, it is to be anticipated that the refugees will cooperate in carrying out the program, especially since they will in any case have no alternative. These people, for the most part, have long been inured to hardship and to life on a subsistence level. Although they have a very natural desire to return to their local fig tree and vine, to use Ambassador Griffis’ phrase, it should be possible, if they had a reasonable prospect of acquiring some other fig tree and vine elsewhere, to maintain their morale and to put tools in their hands for their own salvation. The danger will be, if through lack of a proper program or adequate funds, they find themselves, on one hand, cut off from a hope of return to their former homes and, on the other hand, bereft of hope in establishing a new life for themselves elsewhere. If this should transpire it seems almost a foregone conclusion that the ensuing conditions of unrest and despair would provide a most fertile hotbed for the implantation of Communism, and we should in that moment expect to see in the vitally important strategic Middle East a reproduction of the present debacle in China.

(d) Attitude of the Arab states.

It is the present policy of the Arab states to insist upon the repatriation of all the Palestinian refugees, and none of the Arab states with the exception of Transjordan contemplates the permanent settlement of any refugees within its own territory. It can be assumed that the most virogous efforts will have to be exerted by the Conciliation Commission [Page 838] and by interested governments if the Arab states are to be persuaded to adopt a more realistic and cooperative attitude towards this question. Moreover, it can be assumed that their active cooperation could only be obtained under the following circumstances:

they would require evidence that substantial material assistance would be forthcoming from outside sources to aid in solving the refugee problem:
they would require assurances that such aid would be of material benefit to their countries and populations, as well as to the refugees themselves;
they would require assurances that the administration of such aid would involve no derogation of sovereignty; and
they would require evidence that Israel was prepared to cooperate effectively in the liquidation of the refugee question.

(7) United States Public Attitude Toward the Problem.

The American public, generally is unaware of the Palestine refugee problem, since it has not been hammered away at by the press or radio. Aside from the New York Times and the Herald Tribune, which have done more faithful reporting than any other papers, there has been very little coverage of the problem. With the exception of a Sunday feature article by Max Boyd, the wire service stories, if filed, have not been used. Editorial comment is still more sparse. Freda Kirchwey in Nation, a few editorials in America (Catholic), an editorialized article in the New Leader and one editorial each in the Baltimore Sun and the Des Moines Register nearly exhausts the list. Most of the news articles and editorials have had a friendly slant, except for the New York Post, which was violently opposed to helping the Arabs. While some of the articles have addressed themselves to the question of the nature of the settlement as regards repatriation or resettlement, none of them have raised the question of continuing aid. Consequently one may conclude that, barring any dramatic developments which would arouse prejudices or create new issues, a continuing but not spectacular aid program would probably be supported by the enlightened few, and would not, in all likelihood, run into strong opposition.

Congressional Attitude.

In considering the authorizing legislation for the U.S. contribution of $16,000,000, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was chiefly concerned with the fact that the U.S. Delegation at Paris had taken action which appeared to commit the U.S. morally, if not legally, to a contribution thus placing Congress in the position of being a rubber stamp. It was also concerned about the establishment of a precedent under which the United States might undertake other programs of this character which would not be supported by all UN Members on the basis of the regular scale of contributions. There was no challenge [Page 839] of the thesis that the contribution was in the national interest, an argument which, though valid, is apparently tiresome because over-worked.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs readily accepted the Senate action on the U.S. contribution but raised questions concerning the possible application of the matching principle as a condition for the U.S. contribution. The point was not pressed in this instance but is one which should be borne in mind in connection with any further program.

Neither the Senate nor the House Committee probed the problem of continuing assistance. The Department rested its case on the need for relief over a limited period of time on the basis that aid was essential to contribute to the peace settlement and stabilization in the Near East. It also stressed the General Assembly resolution declaring that the right of refugees to return to their homes should be recognized, and the role of the Conciliation Commission in facilitating the economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees. An aside remark by one of the senators in the hearings that the program might go on for three or five years was not taken up. This was the only intimation that Congress might expect to be faced with a request for some kind of continuing program. The fact that it was not picked up is probably more significant in connection with the lack of opposition to the present program than in relation to the possibility of a continuing program. No statement has been made at any time that no further assistance would be needed.

The Senate adopted the joint resolution without objection after the presentation of the report of the Senate Committee (which was also adopted unanimously) had been presented by Senator Connally. The House Committee was unanimous in the adoption of its report to the House. The only hitch thus far has been in the House Rules Committee which postponed action on the rule to report the measure because its members had, with one exception, never heard of the Arab Refugee problem.

It is perhaps not unreasonable to conclude from the foregoing that a reasonable program for continuing aid would not meet with strong opposition in Congress. However, the form of such aid, the question of whether it is multilateral or unilateral, and its bearing upon other aid programs, are matters on which the success or failure of continuing aid may hinge.

(8) Attitude of Individuals and Groups Interested in the Problem.

The private groups interested in the Palestine Refugee problem consist primarily of the following: (a) the oil companies (ARAMCO, Standard of N.J., Socony Vacuum, Gulf Oil Company, American Independent Oil Company, Standard of California, Standard [Page 840] of New York, and the Texas Company, all of whom have varying degrees of interest; (b) Church groups, particularly the American Friends Service Committee, the Church World Service Committee, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the Lutheran World Relief and several small denominations all of whom are associated directly or indirectly with welfare or religious projects in the Near East; (c) lay groups such as the Near East Foundation, the Near East College Association, Middle East Relief, Inc., Middle East Union, Committee for Holy Land Appeal (an over-all body comprising most of the aforementioned groups for the purpose of raising emergency funds) and the American Red Cross. A number of interested individuals, some of whom are closely identified with one or more of the above groups include the following: Winthrop Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller, Bayard Dodge, Kermit Roosevelt, Harold Hoskins, Lowell Thomas, Barclay Acheson, Dr. Patton, Edward Miller, Col. Eddy, Terry Duce, and Garland Hopkins.

All of the foregoing would probably give strong support for public assistance measures designed to stabilize the Near East and to promote the welfare of those peoples. Most of these groups are associated with or might be interested in contributing or raising funds from private sources for long-range welfare projects in the area. A campaign is to be launched shortly on the initiative of Kermit Roosevelt and Garland Hopkins to raise funds for a refugee welfare program. Present thinking is that it should extend over a five-year period. The oil companies when approached for relief funds last autumn were reluctant to support a feeding program and indicated, at that time, their greater concern and possible willingness to participate financially in longer range projects which would be of permanent value to the Near Eastern peoples. They will undoubtedly contribute through appropriate channels to private projects of this character. The possibility that some of them might also be induced to finance useful work projects in certain areas should not be excluded in the event that funds from other sources are inadequate. A $5 million figure was tossed about last autumn as a tentative indication of oil company interest in long-range welfare projects, but it would be unwise to accept this figure as even a tentative target until the programs of voluntary agencies are more fully developed.

Welfare programs are needed immediately in the refugee centers and every effort should be made to induce the voluntary agencies to develop and finance such programs. The campaign referred to above is the only major effort being undertaken. However, it is unlikely that any program financed from this source could be developed in the field for many months. Regardless of the time factor it is important [Page 841] that any such program be coordinated with the planning of the continuing aid program.

The first approach to the private groups should probably be made at an early date in order to ascertain in more detail the nature of the projects envisaged. We might wish to encourage in-camp training projects as the best means to enable the refugees to adapt themselves to new conditions. We can reveal our concern about continuing aid, but indicate that it is a difficult and complex problem which cannot be quickly or easily implemented. Moreover, an initial effort on the part of private groups will be of value in urging public assistance as it becomes clear that the magnitude of the problem is too great for them to cope with. Their fund-raising activities and the attendant publicity will call attention to the continuing need and help pave the way for Congressional action.


The following objectives are recommended as a basis for planning with respect to the problem, subject to change as the plan develops:

To stimulate the adoption of plans to expedite the transfer of the problem from its present unproductive relief basis to a basis for a definitive settlement;
To persuade Israel to accept the principle of repatriation of an agreed number or category of refugees, with provision by Israel for appropriate safeguards of civil and religious rights and on condition that those repatriated desire to live at peace within Israel and to extend full allegiance thereto;
To persuade Israel to initiate the gradual repatriation of an agreed number or category as soon as possible;
To urge the Israeli Government to make equitable compensation for the property and assets of those refugees who do not desire to return and of those whose property and assets have been expropriated or otherwise disposed of by the State of Israel;
To provide for the permanent settlement in Arab Palestine in the near future of as large a number of the refugees as appears economically practicable;
Under the assumption that Arab Palestine, or at least a large portion thereof, will be allotted to Transjordan in the final peace settlement, to undertake concerted planning with the British Government with a view to the early integration of a large portion of the refugee population into the economic and political structure of the expanded state as a whole;
To examine the developmental resources common to Israel and the expanded state of Transjordan, with special reference to their water resources, with a view to stimulating cooperative economic development projects, where feasible, for the mutual benefit of both states;
If the repatriation of substantial number of refugees becomes feasible, to give special consideration to those areas having the greatest [Page 842] relative concentrations of refugees, particularly Lebanon, which is undergoing serious economic pressures and facing potential political pressures, and the Gaza area of southwestern Palestine, with its limited developmental potentialities;
With respect to those refugees who cannot be assimilated in Israel or the expanded state of Transjordan, to examine the potentialities for permanent resettlement elsewhere in the Near East, bearing in mind the capabilities of northeastern Syria and northern Iraq, where basic manpower shortages and large cultivable areas exist;
Where feasible, in the resettlement of refugees, to plan on utilization of projects which will contribute to the long-range development of the productive capacity and economic potential of the area, as contrasted with short-term projects which might be without ultimate benefit to the countries involved.12

  1. In this position, Mr. McGhee served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State.
  2. These papers are printed as Annexes 1 and 2, below. The planning objectives on page 20 are the 10 recommendations in Annex 2.
  3. Filed with this memorandum is an undated memorandum, prepared presumably by Mr. McGhee and entitled Plan of Action [regarding] Palestine Refugee Problem,” not printed.
  4. According to a memorandum of April 21, the numbered paragraphs were accepted as a “Policy Decision, March 15, 1949.” The authorship of the memorandum is not indicated (867N.48/4–2249). The word “be” in each of the first two paragraphs above was changed to “is” in the memorandum of April 21 and the word “should” was added as the third word in paragraph 3.
  5. The specific authorship of this paper is not indicated. The first six sections, except for 6(d), and the 10 recommendations at the end of the paper were largely quoted from memoranda prepared separately by the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs and the Office of United Nations Affairs. The former was sent to Mr. McGhee in a memorandum of March 12 by Mr. Satterthwaite as provisional views on “Policy and recommendations concerning solution of the Arab refugee question” (867N.01/3–1249). The latter was in the form of a memorandum by Mr. McClintock to Mr. McGhee on March 14 and dealt with the “Attitudes of UN, individual governments, and refugees themselves toward Palestine refugee problem” (867N.48/3–1449). The Policy Paper begins with a table of contents, here omitted.
  6. United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, Third Session, Supplement No. 11A. For the proposed United States draft resolution based on the needs of the refugees as set forth in this report, see telegram Delga 411, October 20, 1948, from Paris, Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. v, Part 2, p. 1497.
  7. For text of statement by President Truman, see telegram Gadel 688, December 6, 1948, to Paris, Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. v, Part 2, p. 1648.
  8. See telegram Telmar 19, September 28, 1948, to Paris, Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. v, Part 2, p. 1427.
  9. See Secretary Forrestal’s letter to Chairman Bloom, January 25, p. 697.
  10. The total direct relief offered the Arab refugees by the Israeli Government to date consists of 500 cases of oranges. [Footnote in the source text.]
  11. Not printed.
  12. Not printed.
  13. Not printed.
  14. In a memorandum of March 23 to Mr. McClintock, James Q. Reber of the Executive Secretariat stated that the Policy Paper had been shown informally to the Secretary of State, the Under Secretary, and Mr. Rusk and that the Secretary had informally approved the “conclusions” (actually, the recommendations). The memorandum also stated that “This approval and knowledge of the specific policy issues included in the paper are sufficient to permit Mr. McGhee’s operations to be initiated.” Mr. McClintock quoted the memorandum in telegram 147 of March 25 to Mr. McGhee at Beirut. The memorandum and telegram are both filed under 501.MA Palestine/3–2249.