S/PNSC Files: Lot 61 D 167: NSC 47 Series

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)

top secret

Subject: Second Progress Report on NSC 47/21—“United States Policy toward Israel and the Arab States”.

NSC 47/2 was approved as Governmental policy on October 20, 1949. It is requested that this Progress Report, as of August 28, 1950, be circulated to the members of the Council for their information.

There follows an account of important developments affecting the policy set forth in NSC 47/2.

An action which affects many aspects of American policy as set forth in NSC 47/2 was the issuance on May 25, 1950, by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France of a joint declaration concerning the security and armaments situation in the Near East.2
In this declaration the three sponsoring Governments reaffirm their opposition to the development of an armaments race between the Arab states and Israel and to the use of force or threat of force between any of the states in that area. The three Governments state also that, consistent with their obligations as members of the United Nations, they will take immediate action to prevent any violation of frontiers or armistice lines should they find that any state in the area were preparing to take such action.
The sponsoring Governments, moreover, state that they recognize that the Arab states and Israel all need to maintain a certain level of armed forces for the purposes of internal security and legitimate self-defense and to permit them to play their part in the defense of the area as a whole. With reference to arms which any of the three Governments has permitted to be supplied to the Near East, the declaration says that assurances have been received from the recipient state, by the Governments permitting the export of the arms, that that state does not intend to undertake any act of aggression against any other state. Similar assurances, it is declared, will be obtained from any [Page 1003] other state in the area to which the sponsoring Governments permit arms to be supplied in the future.
Official reaction to the declaration in Israel and the Arab states has been generally favorable, although the press of the Arab countries at first adopted a hostile attitude. It is believed that the declaration will help to give both the Arab states and Israel a sense of confidence in future security, and will thus hasten the progress being made toward peace in the Near East. It is evident that the declaration has already been effective in lessening tension in the area. In the United States, reception of the declaration in Congressional and press circles, and by groups interested in the Near East, has been very favorable.
An unfavorable development regarding the maintenance of the good will and Western orientation of the peoples of the Near East has been the recent intense anti-American campaign in certain of the Arab states. Since the Palestine hostilities, and the establishment of the State of Israel, sentiment in the Arab countries has been generally unfavorable to the United States, because of the alleged U.S. partiality for Israel. During the past few months Arab newspapers and leading politicians have expressed a greatly increased dislike of American policy and have gone so far as to threaten a reorientation of their countries towards the Soviet Union if the United States did not convince them of its friendship and impartiality. This attitude has been stimulated in part by recent speeches in favor of Israel made by high officials of the U.S. Government.
The United States has taken a number of steps to convince the Arabs of U.S. friendship, and has others under consideration at the present time. Primarily, the action has taken two directions: to demonstrate that this Government is impartial as between Israel and the Arab states, and to convince the Arabs that the United States has a policy toward them which is distinct from and unrelated to the Palestine question. The friendship of all the peoples of this strategic part of the world is very important to the United States.
The close United States–United Kingdom collaboration recommended in NSC 47/2 has continued. Extensive conversations were held on Near Eastern problems during the meeting of the three Foreign Ministers at London in May 1950.3 It was as a result of these conversations that the joint US–UK–French declaration concerning the Near East (described in paragraph 1 of this report) was issued. In the matter of arms shipments to the Near East, also, exchange of information has continued between the United Kingdom and the United States, and between France and the United States.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has made considerable progress, carrying forward the policy set forth in NSC 47/2. The Agency has organized its staff and has established its headquarters at Beirut, Lebanon. It has recently passed from the organizational stage into that of actual operation, and has begun detailed planning of two projects in Jordan.
The reception of the Agency in the Near East has been generally favorable. Jordan, in particular, has shown a constructive attitude toward the refugee situation. It has expressed a willingness to cooperate in the work of the Agency, and has apparently accepted the principle recommended in NSC 47/2, that the large numbers of refugees who cannot be repatriated should be resettled in the other Arab states.
The United States contribution of $27, 450,000 for the support of the Agency was authorized by Congress and signed by the President on June 3, 1950. It is expected, however, that the actual appropriation will be somewhat less, due to Congressional economy measures. An advance of $8,000,000 has been appropriated and has been used to sustain the Agency during its early months.
With regard to the achievement of a final settlement between Israel and the Arab states there have been a number of unfavorable developments:
The Arab League Council, on April 1, 1950, adopted a resolution forbidding any member state to undertake separate peace negotiations with Israel. By a subsequent resolution of April 13, any member state found guilty of doing so would be expelled from the League and subjected to economic and diplomatic sanctions.
The Jordan cabinet has so far been unwilling to support King Abdullah’s continuing efforts to negotiate a settlement with Israel, and such talks as have been held between the King and Israeli officials have been fruitless up to the present time. The King desires a peace, but believes he must obtain enough in the way of concessions from Israel to justify a settlement to the people of Jordan, who now oppose it, and to the other Arab states.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of incidents along the Jordan–Israel armistice line, caused for the most part by Israeli action against Arabs infiltrating across the lines, have brought about a deterioration in the relations between the two countries and have resulted in a virtual stalemate in the Jordan–Israel Military Armistice Commission.
The Palestine Conciliation Commission, which has been endeavoring to bring representatives of Israel and the Arab states together with a view to reaching a final settlement of the Palestine dispute, has so far in its discussions with representatives of these states been unable to bring about such a settlement. It invited the parties to cooperate in mixed committees in which it would take the role of mediator, but the Arab Governments gave as a condition to their cooperation prior acceptance by Israel of the provisions regarding refugees of the General Assembly’s resolution of December 11, 1948. [Page 1005] Israel, on the other hand, regards such questions as subjects for negotiation, and as a result the PCC has not been successful in initiating discussions between the parties. The Palestine Conciliation Commission has transferred its activities to Jerusalem, and believes that it may be able to secure the cooperation of the Arab Governments, at least of Jordan, if Israel will adopt a more conciliatory attitude toward the Arab position. Up to the present time, however, Israel has maintained its unwillingness to adopt such an attitude, and it appears doubtful that it will alter its position substantially in the near future.
Despite these developments unfavorable to the establishment of formal peace in the Near East, the trend away from war continues, and there are no indications that either party is preparing to renew hostilities.
With regard to Jerusalem, the First Progress Report on NSC 47/24 stated that the United Nations Trusteeship Council was instructed by the General Assembly on December 9, 1949, to complete the statute for the establishment of an international regime in Jerusalem which it had prepared in 1948. The Council, in accordance with this instruction, completed and approved the statute on April 4, 1950. However, since it was apparent that neither Israel nor the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan, the two states now controlling Jerusalem, were willing to cooperate in establishing an international regime such as that provided for in the statute, the Council decided, on June 14, 1950, to refer the question of Jerusalem back to the General Assembly without attempting to implement the statute. The Assembly will consider the problem at its Fifth Regular Session.
The direct talks which had been in progress between Israel and Jordan concerning Jerusalem have ceased, and it does not seem likely that bilateral agreement on the City will be reached prior to the General Assembly’s consideration of the matter.
A development which affects favorably the implementation of paragraph 19 of NSC 47/2, in which are recommended efforts to prevent discrimination against Jews in the Arab states, is the adoption by Iraq, in early March 1950, of a law permitting Iraqi Jews legally to emigrate. This law will remain in effect for one year. Prior to the promulgation of this law, Jews had been subject to some discrimination in Iraq but had been unable to emigrate legally. Of Iraq’s estimated 135,000 Jews, about 25,000 have announced a desire to leave for Israel and it is expected that many others will emigrate as well. To date, more than 5,000 have left Iraq for Israel.
Also during the period covered by this report, the transport of more than 40,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel was completed. In Yemen, these Jews had been subject to discrimination and their emigration [Page 1006] to Israel is a development which affects favorably the policy set forth in paragraph 19.
A step was taken in the direction of raising the economic opportunities of the peoples of the Near East area when, on June 15, 1950, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development extended a loan of $12,800,000 to Iraq for partial financing of a flood control system on the Tigris River.5
James E. Webb
  1. Of November 16, 1948; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, p. 1430.
  2. For documentation on the Tripartite Declaration of May 25, 1950 concerning arms shipments to the Arab States and Israel, see pp. 122 ff.
  3. For documentation on the meetings of the Foreign Ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, at London, May 1950, see vol. iii, pp. 828 ff.
  4. February 27, 1950, p. 763.
  5. This Progress Report was discussed by the National Security Council at its 69th meeting on October 12. It was then agreed that the next Report should cover the economic crisis in Israel, Israel’s increasing tendency toward alignment with the West, and the growing instability in the Arab States, particularly Syria. It was also agreed that the Department of State should be asked to give particular attention to development projects in the Arab States (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files, Lot 66 D 95, NSC Records of Action).