6-195 Memorandum of the Press and Radio Conference, February 26, 1948

Date: February 26, 1948

February 26, 1948
Washington, DC

. . . Q. Sir, doubtless there will be a number of questions on the Palestine thing, but I wonder if I could ask a general one. Does the United States Government feel that its policy as outlined can lead to a successful partition of Palestine?2 If it does, could you develop a line of reasoning upon that basis?
A. You have not left much for anybody else to ask.

I can tell you now I will not answer detailed questions on Palestine because there must be no confusion between Ambassador Austin and myself as to what is being stated and any statement will be made from there rather than from here.

OFF THE RECORD entirely, I will tell you this: That so far as I am concerned and the State Department is concerned, but particularly so far as I am concerned, that in this highly emotional period of extreme bitterness and violent attacks my intention is to see that nothing is done by the State Department in guidance for the action of its delegates to the United Nations, in response to either military threats or political threats, one or the other, nothing whatever. My intention is to see that the action of the United States Government is to be on a plane of integrity that will bear inspection and a common review and that there will be no bending to any military threat or to any political threat so long as I am Secretary of State. END OF OFF THE RECORD

I am on the record now.

Q. Why should that not be made public, Sir?
A. We have enough troubles already and I will just tell you as to what my position is in this matter is, and I think it is better to have that OFF THE RECORD. If I were going to say that, I would have to clear that with the President but I tell you OFF THE RECORD.

Q. Do you mean international political threats?
A. No. I mean exactly what I said. I don’t modify or add to it. . . .

NA/RG 59 (Office of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, Verbatim Reports of Press Conferences)

1. The press conference began at 2:15 p.m. This segment represents approximately 10 percent of the transcript. On February 27, the State Department sent Marshall’s comments to Ambassador Warren Austin at United States UN delegation headquarters in New York. See Foreign Relations, 1948, 5, pt. 2: 665–66.

Marshall was also asked about the Czech coup at this press conference. He offered little information, but see his remarks at the March 10 press conference below, pp. 000–00.

2. Marshall, UN Ambassador Austin, and their staffs had had a lengthy meeting on the Palestine issue in the State Department on the morning of February 23. In a statement the following day to the Security Council, approved in advance by President Truman, Ambassador Austin had outlined the US position on Palestine. (Extracts of his statement are printed ibid., pp. 651–54; the full statement is in the New York Times, February 25, 1948, p. 2.)

The United States, Austin said, would “conform to, and be in support of, United Nations action on Palestine.” The Security Council was authorized to take forceful measures to maintain international peace against aggressors inside and outside of Palestine, but such measures did not include enforcing partition. The United States proposed that the permanent members of the council (China, France, UK, USSR, and US) look into the threats to peace in Palestine and consult with the UN Palestine Commission, mandatory power Great Britain, and representatives of the principal communities of Palestine concerning implementation of the General Assembly’s resolution of November 29, 1947, in favor of partition.

One reporter at the UN observed that the impression there was that Austin’s remarks signaled a “substantial modification of United States policy. While there was some confusion as to exactly what the new policy meant, it was generally agreed that it was more likely to weaken than reinforce the prospects of implementing the Assembly’s plan for partitioning Palestine.” Under its “placid surface,” he noted, that morning’s Security Council meeting had been “one of the most dramatic meetings the Council has yet held.” (Mallory Browne in the New York Times, February 25, 1948, pp. 1, 3.)