411. Research Study Prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research1

RNAS–22

MIDDLE EAST: POSSIBLE FUTURES FOR PALESTINE

An independent Palestine offers a theoretical solution to the refugee and fedayeen problems, but no one has yet devised a bloodless way to reconcile the conflicting interests of 3 million Palestinians, 2.5 million Israelis, and 700,000 Jordanians.

[Page 1167]

Abstract

The fourth round in the 25-year war between Israel and the Arabs has produced unprecedented momentum toward an overall settlement based on Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 in return for still unspecified Arab and international guarantees. Arab League recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole representative of the Palestinian people2 has encouraged the moderate wing of the PLO to consider seeking to participate in the upcoming Arab-Israeli negotiations in the hope of inheriting some part of occupied Palestine as the site for a Palestinian state. The Soviets are reportedly urging this course of action on the PLO. To this end, PLO leader Arafat is reportedly working toward the proclamation of a Palestinian government-in-exile early in 1974.

The obstacles to the creation of a Palestinian state are formidable. The radical wing of the resistance movement considers the Geneva Conference just one more device to delay the Israeli withdrawal called for in UN Resolution 242. The radicals are holding out for continuation of the armed struggle until the state of Israel itself has been eliminated, and continuing terrorist operations designed to sabotage the conference can be expected. Their campaign enjoys the political and financial support of Iraq and Libya, and their position has been reinforced by the Syrian decision not to participate at Geneva—at least not in the opening sessions.

Failing some dramatic evidence of new Israeli flexibility, it is most unlikely that Arafat will try to crack down on the radicals. On the other hand, should the next meeting of the Palestinian “parliament”—the Palestine National Council3—unexpectedly produce a consensus for participation at Geneva, Israeli agreement to such participation would be excruciatingly difficult to obtain. Even those Israelis who themselves engaged in terrorist operations in the days of the Mandate consider the PLO so brutal and unrepresentative as to be beyond the pale of diplomatic intercourse.

This posture is close to that of the third Arab participant, Jordan, which fought its own war against the fedayeen in 1970–71 and now maintains that it should be the agency that handles the recovery of any part of Palestine relinquished by Israel. Thereafter, King Husayn has indicated, he would be willing to let the West Bankers determine their future by plebiscite.

It seems definite that most Palestinians in and outside the occupied territories would prefer political autonomy. However, Gaza [Page 1168]would present special problems, and a viable Palestinian state is difficult to visualize in any event unless it encompasses both banks of the Jordan River. In short, the three-way conflict of interest among the Palestinians, Israel, and Jordan is so deep-seated that its resolution by negotiation presents one of the most forbidding diplomatic challenges in history. Whatever resources the great powers are able to commit to this problem, much more unrest and bloodshed seems inevitable.

[Omitted here is the body of the study.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. Drafted by Jones, Vaccaro, and McAndrew. Cleared by Jones and released by Mark, INR/Near East and South Asia.
  2. See footnote 19, Document 398.
  3. The Palestine National Council next met in Cairo in June 1974.