357.AC/8–3150: Telegram

The United States Representative on the Palestine Conciliation Commission (Palmer) to the Secretary of State


62. Palun 389. I had short talk with Prime Minister Ben Gurion morning August 30. Biran, Jerusalem District Commissioner, and my adviser were also present.

Ben Gurion asked me re prospects peace settlement. I replied did not appear likely at present but PCC encouraged by Arab attitude toward refugee problem and apparent willingness Arab Governments consider re-settlement Arab refugees. I said another encouraging sign was Arab Governments now thinking partly of compensation. Ben Gurion inquired whether any plan for re-settlement. I told him I did not think so. He said Israel would contribute to a plan of re-settlement when one had been formulated. He thought Iraq by far best area for such re-settlement. It was richest country in NE, had most available vacant land capable of development and was strategically in most exposed position. Settlement refugees there would benefit Iraq on all counts. Both Biran and Ben Gurion appeared underestimate number refugees in Arab countries. In response to my question as to amount of land required for re-settlement he said that if refugees were Israelis, he could settle millions in very small area. He said that he personally preferred desert area Negev to any rich farm land of Iraq. The desert offered Israel a challenge and Israel would make of it another California Imperial Valley. Beersheba was capital of area, had a rapidly growing frontier. Going up to map of Israel on wall, he pointed out that Beersheba was almost in geographical center of Israel, taking pains to point out northern Galilee and Elath as the two extremes.

Ben Gurion said Arabs were under serious misapprehension if they thought Israel would pay compensation outside context general peace settlement. Arabs would gain nothing by postponing peace and even prospects of payment of compensation or other concession would diminish if present cold war between Israel and Arabs continued. He said Arabs thought their advantage postpone settlement but he was of view that Israel did not lose anything and could continue status quo for 8 years or as long as necessary. Present lack of peace had had an advantage in that Israel had been able build up economy increasingly independent of neighboring states. Nonetheless, Israel urgently desired peace settlement. Ben Gurion said that if he had choice of having without hostilities and fighting, Jewish state with boundaries recommended [Page 990] in GA resolution of November 29, 1947 and including large Arab minority and internationalized Jerusalem, or choice of present boundaries of Israel with small Arab minority but with hostilities and fighting, he would even today choose former. He said Arab Governments NE were weak, split by factionalism, and without popular support. He admitted, however, that growth of democracy in Jordan Governmment had made impossible for King negotiate peace with Israel. Ben Gurion said he was still very optimistic about eventuality of peace in NE, and was also certain that a durable and lasting peace would come to whole world if not in his lifetime, certainly in lifetime of his children.1

  1. The Palestine Conciliation Commission had a two-hour meeting with Foreign Minister Sharett during the afternoon of August 30. The meeting dealt chiefly with the refugee question. Mr. Sharett stated that more than two years had elapsed since Israel had indicated its willingness to pay compensation to Arab refugees within the framework of a general peace settlement. He then requested the Commission to notify the Arab Governments that their refusal to negotiate peace with Israel might lead to withdrawal of the offer of compensation. Mr. de Boisanger made known the unofficial views of the Arab States that most refugees would choose resettlement with compensation rather than repatriation, based on free choice. In reply, Mr. Sharett “stressed there should be no question of asking refugees which they would prefer. Israel was interested in achieving real conditions of peace and stability in NE. Resettlement but not repatriation could make these conditions possible.’(Telegram 64, identified also as Palun 390, September 2, from Jerusalem, 357.AC/9–250)