6-094 Headnote Regarding Palestine, July 17, 1947

Date: July 17, 1947

AMONG the many briefing and policy papers requiring Marshall’s attention upon his arrival at the State Department in January 1947 was a memorandum from the Palestine desk officer of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Fraser Wilkins) stating, “The Palestine question is one of the most difficult problems with which the Department is faced.” Wilkins briefly summarized seven factors upon which US policy toward Palestine was based and then the policy’s five principal aspects:

1. Partition of the area into an Arab and a Jewish state “could be supported by the United States. Pending full independence, Palestine would enjoy partial self-government under United Nations trusteeship.”

2. One hundred thousand Jews should be transferred immediately to Palestine from European displaced persons camps, and the immigration laws of the US and other countries should be liberalized to permit the admission of other such refugees.

3. “Continued development of Jewish National Home in Palestine through immigration and land purchase, both of which are now restricted, if partition proves impracticable.”

4. Promote Palestinian Arab political, economic, and cultural development.

5. “Obtaining acquiescence of all Arab states to whatever solution gives promise of settling the Palestine question.” (Foreign Relations, 1947, 5: 1004–5.)

Wilkins then briefly noted three unadopted proposed solutions recommended since the end of the European war. (This portion of Wilkins’s memorandum was not included in Foreign Relations; see NA/RG 59 [Central Decimal File, 867N.01/1–1447].)

1. May 1946—ten recommendations of an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry envisaging a bi-national undivided state;

2. August 1946—division of Palestine into four autonomous areas: an Arab province, a Jewish province, a Jerusalem district, and a Negev district. (This is part of the so-called Grady-Morrison proposals negotiated by Harry F. Grady, head of the US Cabinet Commission on Palestine and Related Problems, and by Herbert S. Morrison, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. See Grady’s report of July 24, 1946, in Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, 11 vols. [Washington: GPO, 1969–72], 7: 652–66, especially p. 656.

3. September 1946—the Jewish Agency for Palestine’s proposal for a “viable Jewish State in an adequate area of Palestine,” which envisaged partition of the area into two independent states.

Zionists and their supporters were determined to have a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine as the home for tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from Europe. President Truman was on record as being sympathetic to some version of Zionist hopes. For their part, Arab leaders were unwilling to tolerate any significant Jewish immigration and were vigorously opposed to either an autonomous or an independent Jewish state in Palestine. It appeared, Acheson wrote to Loy Henderson on February 15, that 1947 was “going to be a bad year in Palestine and the Middle East, with increasing violence and grave danger to our interests in that area.” (Foreign Relations, 1947, 5: 1048.) The Palestine issue was placing great strain on British-US relations as well as on the young United Nations organization.

On April 2, 1947, Great Britain requested that a special session of the UN General Assembly be called to prepare recommendations on the Palestine question for the regular session scheduled for September. The special session opened on April 28. On May 16, the United States proposed that a committee be formed to study the problem. The eleven-member United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) included Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, there was continual pressure by American Zionists and their supporters on the Truman administration to issue a public declaration of United States policy on Palestine. The State Department did not wish to do this prior to the issuance of the UNSCOP report and prior to the opportunity for representatives of Great Britain, the Jews, and the Arabs to state their views on the report—certainly no earlier than the autumn. (See Loy Henderson’s July 7 memorandum for Marshall, ibid., p. 1122.) *