501.BB Palestine/3–1849: Telegram

Mr. Fraser Wilkins to the Secretary of State

confidential

[Unnumbered.] For Satterthwaite from Wilkins at Rhodes.

(1) According information from Riley and Vigier to Bunche Israeli-Lebanese armistice agreement is delayed because Israelis insist on inclusion article providing Israelis may continue occupy strategic points Lebanese territory until Syrian armistice is concluded.1

Lebanese delegation, on other hand, has informed Israeli delegation and Bunche disagreeable [it is agreeable?] clause providing “no warlike act or act of hostility shall be conducted from territory controlled by one of the parties to this agreement against the other party”.

Israelis however are not satisfied believing Lebanese territory might still be used by Syria. Lebanese consider their proposal adds Lebanese guarantee to UN guarantee. Bunche considers Israeli article introduces new element into terms of reference of negotiations which was not raised at time Lebanese and Israelis agreed to negotiate under UN [Page 847]chairmanship in accordance with SC resolution November 16. Lebanese delegation and Israeli delegation agreed on March 15 to refer issue to their governments and meet again on March 23. Bunche subsequently informed Israelis at Rhodes he considers their continued insistence on Lebanese signing agreement sanctioning presence Israeli troops on Lebanese soil for indefinite period so unreasonable that he feels compelled to report matter to SC and seriously to consider withdrawing from all negotiations.2

It seems clear Israelis desire tie Syrian negotiations into Lebanese agreement for purpose of bringing pressure on Syria through Lebanon to negotiate and subsequently to make withdrawal Israeli troops from Lebanese territory contingent on withdrawal Syrian troops from Israeli territory. If Israelis continue block agreement Bunche’s present program will be prejudiced and commission will undoubtedly be questioned at Beirut meeting by Lebanese and other Arab States regarding Israeli good faith and whether real possibility exists to negotiate regarding refugees and peace settlement.

In order avert threatened stalemate in Lebanese negotiations it is recommended Israeli Government be informed by Department that proposed Lebanese clause seems to have same effect as proposed Israeli article and that early acceptance would facilitate Bunche’s task and commission’s work on eve Beirut meeting.3

(2) According UP release, Sharett on March 10 warned of possible new outbreaks in Palestine, stated that Iraqi irregulars were raiding along central front and added Israel may be forced to take action to bring things back to normal. Israeli press, in addition, has for some time been calling attention to alleged minor incursions from Iraqi-held Samaria into Israeli coastal plain. Israeli Government has also protested to Bunche on basis of reports regarding replacement of Iraqi troops in Central Palestine by Arab Legion. Developments of this character generally precede Israeli action. It may be assumed, if Israelis are unable make satisfactory arrangements with Transjordan in reported meetings with Abdullah regarding widening of Israeli coastal strip, that Israeli political and press moves may be accelerated and may be followed by Israeli clashes with Iraqis or Arab Legion in central sector. Bunche believes such developments might be forestalled if US were able to express hope to Israeli Government that press [Page 848]reports of possible Israeli action do not indicate deterioration in situation.

Sent Department through Navy. Repeated to Beirut, Baghdad, Amman, Damascus and Jerusalem.

  1. In a telegram received at the United Nations on March 17, Mr. Bunche stated that an Israeli-Lebanese armistice agreement was “held up solely by Israeli intransigence”; that he had informed Mr. Shiloah “in most emphatic terms that Israeli position in this regard is utterly unreasonable and that if it is not changed before end of this week, I must report to SC that Israelis are deliberately blocking Lebanese agreement in apparent attempt to bring pressure on Syria”; and that “Israeli good faith” was involved. The text of Mr. Bunche’s message was transmitted to the Department by New York in telegram 356, March 17, 2:50 p. m., 501.BB Palestine/3–1749.
  2. The telegram from Mr. Bunche, cited in footnote 1 above, stated that if the Israeli position did not change in the next few days, he would “seriously consider” withdrawing from both the Lebanese and Trans Jordanian negotiations and return to New York.
  3. Mr. Wilkins, at Beirut, advised the Department on March 19 that “Israelis have informed Bunche they are prepared sign Lebanese agreement immediately without provision concerning Israeli troops on Lebanese soil.” (telegram 121, 501.BB Palestine/3–1949)