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British Maintain Refusal to Join in Implementing Solution Opposed by Arabs or Jews

November 14, 1947
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The British Government, although it will not take any action contrary to a decision of the U.N. General Assembly, will not actively participate in implementing a solution of the Palestine problem which is not agreeable to both Jews and Arabs, Sir Alexander Cadogan today told the U.N. sub-committee on partition.

The chief of the British delegation to the U.N. said that his government cannot assume responsibility for administration of Palestine after termination of the Mandate, which it will feel free to relinquish as soon as it becomes clear that there is no possibility of Arab-Jewish settlement.

Replying to the U.S.-Soviet proposals on implementation, Cadogan set forth the position of his government as follows:

1. The British Government cannot foresee exactly how long it will take to withdraw from Palestine not only its troops but also their supplies and equipment, but the authorities have been directed to plan for the evacuation to be completed by August 1, 1948.

2. So long as British troops remain in any part of Palestine they must maintain law and order in the areas of which they are still in occupation. However, no British troops will be available “as the instrument for the enforcement of a settlement in Palestine against either Arabs or Jews.”

3. The fact that it would be impracticable to withdraw the last military contingent from Palestine before next summer does not by any means imply that Britain will continue to maintain a civil administration in Palestine throughout the intervening period.

4. Britain reserves the right to lay down the Mandate and bring the civil administration in Palestine to an end at any time after it has become evident that no settlement acceptable to both Jews and Arabs has been reached by the United Nations Assembly.

5. During the interval between the termination of the Mandate and the withdrawal of the last British troops, Britain would no longer maintain a civil administration in Palestine and would confine itself to preserving order in areas still controlled by the remaining British forces.

6. The United Nations Commission in Palestine taking preparatory steps for a settlement which would require enforcement must not expect British authorities either to exercise administrative responsibility or to maintain law and order except in the limited areas of which they would necessarily remain in occupation during the process of withdrawal.


In reply to a series of questions put to him by committee members who sought clarification of the British position, Cadogan replied that while Britain will obey decisions taken by the Assembly by a two-thirds vote, he was unable to give any definite answer regarding British acceptance of the date for termination of the Mandate without knowing the exact date.

Britain, Cadogan continued, will not obstruct the work of the U.N. implementation commission, including the work of recruiting the militia and the demarcation of the boundaries. The British Government will abide by the recommendations which the U.N. Assembly may make with regard to immigration and land restrictions subject to Britain’s retaining sufficient military forces in areas of British occupation to assure safety for her troops and for their orderly withdrawal.

With regard to surrendering administration to the Provisional Government Councils, Cadogan said this will be done if “events progress as contemplated.” The British Government, he declared, is likely to instruct the Palestine Administration to assist the implementation commission and will not obstruct the Provisional Councils or the Economic Board in assuming their functions in territory evacuated by the British.

The statement by Cadogan was received with considerable misgivings by many delegates who felt that it indicates that the British Government, although declaring its readiness to abide by a U.N. decision, is determined to exploit the situation in an attempt to thwart the basic UNSCOP recommendations. Some delegates interpreted the statement as indicating an attitude of “passive resistance” on the part of the British Government.


United States delegate Herschel V. Johnson expressed the opinion that Britain is creating “a very delicate situation” by its intention to withdraw its civil services, leaving behind military contingents. He insisted that the Provisional Government Councils, as well as the Economic Board, should be given adequate notice by the British to enable them to assume the civil administration. “A quasi treaty agreement” may be necessary, he said, pointing out that otherwise serious friction could arise.

Canadian delegate Lester B. Pearson said that in the light of Cadogan’s statement, the working group on implementation would have to reconsider the draft of a report on which it agreed this morning for implementing a partition decision by the General Assembly. He added that he was not unhopeful that the working group could still produce a workable scheme which will receive a two-thirds vote in the Assembly.

Soviet delegate Semyon Tsarapkin would not comment on Cadogan’s statement, merely declaring that “the questions flew so fast I need time to study them.”

Jewish circles likewise refrained from comment, although they considered the statement to be no departure from the original British policy previously announced by Colonial Secretary Arthur Creech-Jones.

Lebanese delegate Charles Malik, who was one of the Arab delegates attending session of the partition sub-committee as a visitor, commented that Cadogan’s statement merely emphasizes Britain’s refusal to be an instrument for carrying out other people’s plans.


The implementation group also decided that the U.N. commission which would administer partition, should be composed of five members and have no commissioner, but appoint a chairman of its own. The draft of the terms of reference adopted this morning was formulated so as to give Britain as little difficulty as possible during the interim period. No altornative plan was discussed by the implementation group, in view of the fact that it was believed that Britain might accept the draft after approval by the partition sub-committee.

Following Cadogan’s statement, the implementation group resumed its closed meeting and began modification of the text which was approved in the morning. The text is being revamped with the aim of giving more power to the U.N. commission on the assumption that Britain will not cooperate.


The working group also decided to empower the implementation commission to admit Jews into areas from which Britain withdraws at the rate of 6,250 per month or any other figure which the commission decides is proper. The commission is also authorized to issue regulations cancelling the land purchase restrictions in areas which the British have evacuated. The Mandatory Power is not to issue orders impeding the work of the commission, the four-nation group decided.

It became known today that there is no basis for the fear that the veto power will be used in the day-to-day work of the commission, which will be responsible to the Security Council. It was officially explained by a U.N. spokesman that since the implementation commission will be composed of members representing small powers the veto cannot be invoked, since only the Big Five have the power of veto.

The sub-committee on partition tonight continued discussion on boundaries and decided to leave the Aqaba area of the Negev in the proposed Jewish state while the Beersheba distict of the Negev will be transferred from the Jewish to the Arab state. Last night the same group decided to declare Jaffa an Arab enclave in the Jewish state.

With regard to Upper Galilee, the sub-committee agreed to include the entire district in the Arab state because the overwhelming majority of the population is Arab. However, it is still to be decided whether a small mountainous region in the ### part, possibly including Safad, should be turned over to the Jews. Johnson ### inclusion of any part of Upper Galilee in the Jewish state, arguing that ### the only area in which future Arab development and expansion is possible. ### that the inclusion of any part of Upper Galilee would prejudice a two-thirds ### in the Assembly.

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