6-111 Minutes of the US Delegation to the UN, September 15, 1947

Date: September 15, 1947

September 15, 1947
[New York, New York]
Top Secret


. . . Secretary Marshall said he was being pressed for a decision before he spoke to the General Assembly on Wednesday [September 17] on the subject of Palestine. The United States, he recalled, had been largely involved in the procedure which had been followed regarding the sending of a United Nations committee to Palestine. This committee had now returned a majority and a minority report.2 While Australia had abstained, he now understood the Australian representative on the committee would now be pushed aside and Dr. Evatt would step in and press vigorously for the majority report.3

Adoption of the majority report, the Secretary said, would mean very violent Arab reaction. To be consistent with the integrity of its position, the United States should avoid actively arousing the Arabs and precipitating their rapprochement with the Soviet Union in the first week or ten days of the General Assembly. This would happen, he said, if the Delegation took a clear stand on Wednesday. On the other hand, if the Delegation did not take a clear stand, the Secretary said, he and the State Department would undoubtedly be severely attacked for “pussyfooting.” If the Delegation took a stand in accord with the evident popular desire, for support of the majority report, it thereby would create difficulties for itself in subsequent General Assembly maneuvering.

The Secretary added that Mr. Henderson was especially concerned by the long-term factor. If the Delegation committed itself definitely—and a two-thirds General Assembly majority would hardly be possible without such a United States commitment—then the United States would be obligated to take part in implementing action agreed upon by the General Assembly.

Arab reaction, the Secretary repeated, would be hostile to such implementation action. About twenty per cent of Zionist opinion would also be hostile. No commission could undertake the job. Great Britain had made it clear that it would not carry through alone; it was therefore quite obvious that the United States would have to take part.

Mrs. Roosevelt at this point asked whether it was really evident, as indicated in previous discussion, that the U.S.S.R. would be opposed to the majority report. Secretary Marshall replied that this was the assumption, since the case offered such a fine opportunity for the Soviets to carry out their ends regarding the Arabs, for the sake of expediency. Mrs. Roosevelt said that the Arabs were clearly more afraid of the U.S.S.R. than of us. Mr. Henderson said he was convinced that just as we, during the war, lined up with the U.S.S.R. although having nothing in common, so the Arabs for convenience would work with the U.S.S.R. against the No. 1 common enemy, ourselves.

General Hilldring said that the Russians had already made their position clear. Their first choice was a federal state. He believed they would espouse a federal state to the very end, as an advocate of Arab desires.

The Secretary then introduced the statement which had been framed by Mr. Lovett and Mr. Henderson for delivery by him on Wednesday.4 This expressed hope that the General Assembly would find a definite solution for the problem of Palestine; that if this problem were to be solved it must be approached with resolution and restraint; that in considering the work of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine it was worthy of note that although the committee had been unable to reach an agreement on partition, it had reached unanimous agreement on eleven other points; and concluded with the hope that general agreement would be reached during this session, after the General Assembly has had an opportunity to study in full the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine report.

General Hilldring then said that it would certainly be a disappointment to American Jews and Jews everywhere, who hoped the United States would take a favorable position on Palestine at the beginning of the General Assembly in favor of the majority report. But, he felt, this was not a serious enough consideration to warrant a definite statement by the United States on Wednesday in favor of the majority report. The Delegation should talk to representatives of the Jews, explain that it was impossible for the United States to take a definite position, and ask them to contain themselves a little longer. This was not the time for such a definite position.

Mrs. Roosevelt asked what was to be supported by a definite position. General Hilldring replied that he meant a definite position at least in support of partition. The real nub of the matter, he said, was disagreement in the United States Government as to whether to accept the principle of partition. He thought the United States should go further and accept the majority report, while remaining willing to amend it as a result of debate in the Assembly.

Mrs. Roosevelt then asked whether another question was not involved in this matter, something which had nothing to do with the Jewish situation. She felt this was the question of the importance of supporting a report brought in by a United Nations committee, for the value of such support in promoting the success of the United Nations. She posed the question whether this was not quite a serious consideration for the Delegation, as important or more important, a consideration than whether such a stand would please American Jews. Such a position in support of the United Nations report would strengthen the United Nations in the minds of the American people.

The Secretary said he had been surprised at the quality of the report and at the extent of agreement on this extraordinarily difficult matter. The report had proved much better than he had anticipated. He added that one consideration which must be borne in mind by the Delegation was that when the United States supported the report, it must follow through. It could not be regarded merely as an immediate political settlement, bringing relief to all parties in the United States. Recalling his mention of the ability of the Soviet Union to take advantage of Arab hostility to partition, he said this was merely part of the problem. We will have to be ready to put troops into Palestine. . . .5

NA/RG 59 (Organizational Units, International Organizations, Palestine File, US/A/AC.14/205)

1. One-half of the excerpts from the minutes of the sixth meeting of the US delegation to the second session of the UN General Assembly is printed here; it took place in New York City beginning at 10:00 a.m. In addition to Secretary Marshall, other representatives present were Warren R. Austin, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Foster Dulles, John H. Hilldring, and Loy W. Henderson. Thomas F. Power Jr., the mission’s deputy secretary general, was responsible for the transcript.

2. Regarding the appointment of the UN Special Committee on Palestine, see the editorial note on pp. 000–00. [47.07.17H]. On August 31, the committee produced a majority report backed by seven of its eleven members (Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, and Uruguay) recommending that Palestine be divided into autonomous Arab and Jewish states. Following a two-year transition period during which the United Kingdom would continue to administer Palestine and to admit one hundred fifty thousand Jewish immigrants into the Jewish state, the two states would become independent. Jerusalem would be administered by the United Nations. The minority report (India, Iran, Yugoslavia—Australia abstaining) favored a three-year transition to a Swiss-style federated state with Jerusalem as its capital. The General Assembly would designate an authority to administer Palestine during the transition period. (Foreign Relations, 1947, 5: 1143.)

3. Herbert Evatt was Australia’s Minister for External Affairs.

4. See the following document.

5. Henderson was unenthusiastic about the majority report, which he said “was not based on any principle” and “was full of sophistry.” He believed that it would be left to the United States alone to put it into effect. Assuming the United States would favor the majority report, Ambassador Austin said, it was a question of the timing and the degree of clarity of the US statement. He also stated that “he did not see how it was possible to carve out of an area already too small for a state a still smaller state, that “such a state would have to defend itself with bayonets forever, until extinguished in blood,” and that the Arabs “would never be willing to have such a small state in their heart.”