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U.N. Mediator Consults Jews and Arabs on Plan to Split Negev Between Israel and Egypt

November 12, 1948
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Acting mediator Dr. Ralph Bunche today consulted with both Jewish and Arab representatives here to secure their reactions to his proposals for a truce in the Negev, including a new secret plan for giving Egypt control of more than half the desert region, it was learned here today.

The latest detail of his proposals, contained in a secret memorandum drafted yesterday after he testified before the Security Council, would invite the Egyptians to occupy Kurnubo, a village strategically placed along the 31st parallel. This would give the Egyptians clear control of all the territory south of the 31st parallel which if extended eastward outs into Transjordan at about the southern tip of the Dead Sea.

Kurnubo has often been mentioned as the northern extremity of a strip of the desert to be ceded to the Arabs instead of the whale Negev as suggested by Count Bernadotte. Acceptance of this offer would in no way preclude British and Arab demands that Israel retreat from its present positions in the Negev.


The seven-member Security Council sub-committee established by the Angle-Chinese-American sanctions resolution to “advise” the acting mediator will held its second meeting with Dr. Bunche and his aides tomorrow. At yesterday’s session, the group’s first, the acting mediator presented tentative truce lines to be established in the Negev.

His proposals were explained in detail by American Brig. Gen. William Riley, his chief of staff, and two other members of U.N. military staff observation head-quarters in Palestine. The Soviet delegate suggested that the Jews and Arabs be invited to attend the sub-committee’s sessions in order to present their points of view, but the British and French delegates insisted that they not be invited until a later stage in the talks. The Colombian representative was elected chairman of the body.

Dr. Bunche’s overall plan for establishing peace in the Negev is believed by political observers here to provide for the withdrawal by the Israeli forces from their present positions in the desert to the lines they held on Oct. 14. The Arabs would not be permitted, under Bunche’s plan, to move into their old positions but would remain where they are now–thus creating a “neutral” zone under U.N. administration between the two forces. The Jewish settlements within the “neutral” zone would have their own civil administration, while the Jewish-held city of Beersheba would be demilitarized and ruled by an Arab governor.

During the discussion of the plan before yesterday’s closed session of the Council, it has been learned, the Soviet and French delegates raised the question of who was the aggressor in the recent Negev battle. In reply to the Russian’s question of how long the Israelis waited to break through the Egyptian lines after the Jewish settlements were out off, Gen. Riley said: “One month and two days.” At this point the Frenchman said that he had originally thought the Jews were the aggressors but that he was now of the opposite opinion.

It was also learned that the U.S.S.R. will propose an amendment to Dr. Bunche’s proposal calling for a peace settlement rather than just an armistice and that she will continue her opposition to the creation of “neutral.” scenes. The Soviet delegate will also renew his country’s call upon both belligerents to negotiate directly. The French delegate is expected to formally present the acting mediator’s plan to the Council because Dr. Bunche is not empowered to introduce resolutions.

It was decided at the Council’s last meeting to hold further discussions of the Bunche plan at open sessions and the Council President was instructed to call the next meeting at his discretion. It has not yet been scheduled.

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