501.BB Palestine/6–1249: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State

top secret

2413. From Ethridge. USDel at Lausanne commenting separately on Israel note.

If there is to be any assessment of blame for stalemate at Lausanne, Israel must accept primary responsibility. Commission members, particularly USRep, have consistently pointed out to Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Israeli delegation that key to peace is some Israeli concession on refugees. USDel prepared memo months ago of minor concessions which could be made without prejudice to Israel’s final position, pointing out that such concessions would lay the basis for successful talks at Lausanne. Israel has made minor concessions with reservations, but has steadfastly refused to make important ones and has refused to indicate either publicly or privately how many refugees she is willing to take back and under what conditions. Israel’s refusal to abide by the GA assembly resolution, providing those refugees who desire to return to their homes, etc., has been the primary factor in the stalemate. Israel has failed even to stipulate under what conditions refugees wishing to return might return; she has given no definition of what she regards as peaceful co-existence of Arabs and Jews in Israel and she consistently returns to the idea that her security would be endangered; that she can not bear the economic burden and that she has no responsibility for refugees because of Arab attacks upon her. I have never accepted the latter viewpoint. Aside from her general responsibility for refugees, she has particular responsibility for those who have been driven out by terrorism, repression and forcible ejection.
The statement, “the Government of Israel is at a loss to understand the reference in the note to the alleged contemplation by Mr. Eytan of ‘an additional acquisition of further [territory] within Palestine’” is a falsehood. Also the statement that the GA [Gaza?] proposal was first advanced by me. As previously reported it was first advanced by Ben Gurion and so reported to the Department at the time. In appearing before the general committee Sassoon and [Page 1125] Lifschitz presented Israel’s claim for more of Arab Palestine and used the Hayes (TVA) project map to justify proposed new boundaries with Arab Palestine. It was made clear that the proposed canal must be all inside Israel, which would mean that further territory, including Tulkarm and the northwest corner of the Triangle, must go to Israel. In addition members of Israeli delegation have told me that their demand for withdrawal of Arab troops was designed to establish bargaining position with Abdullah so that Arab Palestine could be further divided. Comay said, “we will point out to Abdullah that he is getting a bonus out of the war.” Ben Gurion told me (see telegram re Tiberias talk;1 do not have reference here) Israel wanted the entire western shore of the Dead Sea. Sharett told the commission in his first meeting that strip from Haifa to Tel Aviv must be widened back to Samarian Hills for security reasons. Under threats Israel took over Tulkarm area villages. By force she has taken over new territory in Jerusalem.
I leave to the Department whether Israel’s admission to UN sanctified what she is doing. Personally, I do not see how the argument can be accepted. Israel was state created upon an ethical concept and should rest upon an ethical base. Her attitude toward refugees is morally reprehensible and politically short-sighted. She has no security that does not rest in friendliness with her neighbors. She has no security that does not rest upon the basis of peace in the Middle East. Her position as conqueror demanding more does not make for peace. It makes for more trouble.
As to Gaza strip: I have felt since it was first mentioned that it could be a basis for settlement of refugee problem to extent of Israel’s responsibility and also a basis for territorial settlement. I have pointed out consistently that it is a good proposal providing it is accompanied by a quid pro quo: some part of the Negev. I have also pointed out that a concession in the Negev is more than a satisfaction of strategic concepts; it is a major point in Arab thinking. One thing that will make for eternal friction in the Middle East is to drive the wedge into the Arab world.

There never has been a time in the life of the commission when a generous and far-sighted attitude on the part of the Jews would not have unlocked peace. Perhaps they are too close to the siege of Jerusalem to see it now. As an advocate of the new state I hope they come on it eventually. Otherwise there will be no peace in the Middle East, no security for Israel and no possibility of lifting the economic blockade with which she must remain a remittance-man nation.2

Repeated Bern 37 for USDel Lausanne. [Ethridge.]

  1. See telegram 312, April 20, from Jerusalem, p. 925.
  2. Acting Secretary Webb met with President Truman on June 13. His memorandum of conversation stated: “The President read the enclosed telegram from Ethridge, No. 2413, with great interest, and was particularly impressed by the last paragraph.

    “He also read the first paragraph of Palun 181 and indicated that he would leave it to my discretion as to whether to send a strong message to Ambassador McDonald insisting on his support.” (Secretary’s Memoranda, Lot 53 D 444) Palun 181 is dated June 2, p. 1085.