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20 April 1949

Background Paper No. 47
Lake Success, New York


I. First Special Session of the General Assembly

A. Position of the United Kingdom
B. Position of the Jewish Agency for Palestine
C. Position of the Arab Higher committee
D. Proposed Terms of Reference of the special Committee

II. United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP)

A. Establishment of UNSCOP
B. Activities of UNSCOP
C. Report of UNSCOP

III. Second Regular Session of the General Assembly

A. Establishment of an ad hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question
B. Views Expressed in the Assembly
C. Action by the General Assembly
D. Partition Plan Adopted by the General Assembly

IV. Action on Assembly's Resolution

A. By the Palestine Commission
B. By the Economic and Social Council
C. By the Security Council
D. By the Trusteeship Council

V. Second Special Session of the General Assembly

A. Views expressed at the Session
B. The Protection of Jerusalem
C. Appointment of the Mediator

VI. Arrangements for a Truce

A. Security Council calls for a Truce
B. Establishment of a Truce Commission for Palestine
C. Intervention of the Arab States in Palestine
D. Security Council Calls for a Ceases-Fire order
E. Cessation of Hostilities in Palestine for a period of Four Weeks
F. Resumption of Palestine Truce
G. Deterioration of Situation in Palestine and Assassination of Mediator
H. Outbreak of Fighting in Negev Area of Palestine and Call for Armistice

VII. Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator

VIII. First Part of Third Regular Session of the General Assembly

A. Views Expressed and Proposals Made
B. Resolution Adopted by the Assembly

IX. Armistice Agreements

X. Assistance to Palestine Refugees

XI. Application of Israel for Membership in the United Nations

Annex I. Principal Representatives on Subsidiary Bodies dealing with Palestine Question


The question of Palestine was first brought before the United Nations on April 2, 1947, when the head of the United Kingdom delegation to the United Nations sent a letter to the Acting Secretary-General of the United Nations, requesting on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom that the question of Palestine be placed on the agenda of the next regular session of the General Assembly. The letter also asked that a special session be called to constitute and instruct a special Committee to prepare for the consideration of the question.

After a majority of the Member States had approved the summoning of a special session, the first in the history of the United Nations, the session met in New York between April 28 and May 15, 1947.

Apart from organization and procedural matters, the only item on the provisional agenda of the special session was that providing for constituting and instructing a special committee to prepare for the consideration of the question of Palestine at the second regular session - the item submitted by the Government of the United Kingdom. The representative of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria, however, requested the inclusion of an additional item - the termination of the mandate over Palestine and the declaration the its independence.

the Assembly on May 1 decided to place on its agenda the item proposed by the United Kingdom but rejected the item proposed by the five Arab states.

Several non-governmental organizations had communicated with the Secretary-General, asking for the opportunity of expressing their views on the question. Authorization was subsequently given to grant hearings to the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the Arab Higher committee, who presented their views to the first committee of the Assembly.

A. Position of the United Kingdom

In the Assembly's discussion of the question, the representative of the United Kingdom stated that his government had tried for years to solve the problem of Palestine, but, having failed, had brought it to the United Nations. He declared that if the United Nations could find a just solution which would be accepted by both parties, the United Kingdom would welcome such a solution. He went on to state that the United Kingdom should not, however, have the sole responsibility for enforcing a solution not accepted by both parties and which the United Kingdom could not reconcile with its conscience. The question of the acceptance of any recommendation by the Assembly, he maintained, should be addressed to other interest parties and to all the Members of the United Nations.

B. Position of the Jewish Agency for Palestine

The representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine speaking before the first committee of the Assembly maintained, inter alia, that "the Jewish people and the Jewish National Home were key terms and should be so regarded by the proposed committee of inquiry. He declared that the Balfour Declaration and the mandate under which Palestine was administered - international commitments made a quarter of a century ago - recognized the historic rights and present needs of the Jewish people and could not now be erased.

He stated that the Jewish National Home was still in the making. The right of the Jews to reconstitute their National Home in Palestine had never been cancelled or questioned by any international community.

The proposed committee should look into the fundamental causes of unrest and violence in Palestine. Contributing to the unrest, he declared, was the fact that shiploads of refugees were being driven from the shores of the Jewish National Home by a Mandatory Government which had been charged with safeguarding the opportunity for the development of that National Home; the Mandatory Government, he stated, was severely restricting Jewish settlement to an area of less than six per cent of the country. He declared that the international obligation to ensure the continuous development of the Jewish National Home by permitting Jewish immigration should be kept in mind by the proposed special committee.

He suggested that the committee should visit Palestine to see the record of the Jewish pioneering achievements there despite very great handicaps. It should also consider the potentialities of the country which, if properly developed, would support a much greater population. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1946-47, pp. 286-7)

C. Position of the Arab Higher Committee

The representative of the Arab Higher committee speaking before the First Committee declared, inter alia, that the Balfour Declaration and the policy it enunciated were the root cause of all the troubles in Palestine and the Middle East. It was made without the consent, or the knowledge of the people mostly directly affected (i.e., the primarily Arab population of Palestine); it was contrary to the principles of national self-determination and democracy and the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations; and it was inconsistent with the pledges given to the Arabs both before and after it was issued. He suggested that the proposed special committee should inquire into the Declaration's legality, validity and ethics.

He declared that the problem was not an Arab-Jewish problem. Arab opposition to Jewish immigration would be equally strong against any group attempting to force immigrants into the country against the will of the Arabs. It is not economic. To argue that the Jews could colonize the country better than the Arabs Justify any aggression by more advanced against less advanced nations. It was not connected with the refugee problem, which has a humanitarian problem in the solution of which all countries should share. In the view of the Arab population, all immigration of Jews into Palestine was illegal, and a recommendation should be made to the Mandatory connection. History could not be put back twenty centuries to give away a country on the ground of a transitory historic association, or the map of the whole world should have to be re-drawn.

He stated that Palestine had an Arab character, had been inhabited for several centuries by Arabs, and that its customs, traditions and culture were Arab as well as its towns and villages. He stated further that the Jews in Palestine in 1914 represented about six or seven per cent of the total population.

He hoped that the proposed special committee and the General Assembly would see that the apparently complex problem could be solved on the basis of the principles of the Charter only by recognizing the independence of Palestine, Yearbook of the United Nations, 1946-47, pp. 288-90)

D. Proposed Terms of Reference of the Special Committee

In the Assembly's discussions, the opinion was expressed that the special committee which it was proposed to constitute should have wide powers, that it should go where it thought necessary, hear all parties and take note of all possible solutions in making its recommendations.

As regards the composition of the special committee, two different views were expressed: (1) that the committee should be composed of "neutral" countries, and (2) that it should include the permanent members of the Security Council.

In favor of the first alternative it was urged that the special interests of the Great Powers meant that they would not be impartial and that their inclusion in the committee might result in political discussions which would delay its work, that the committee must not only be impartial but must also give the impression of being impartial. It was also felt that the United Kingdom as the Mandatory was an interested party and should not therefore sit on the committee.

On the other hand, it was urged that the permanent members should be included because of their special responsibilities and that recommendations agreed to by them from the start would be more easily accepted and enforced.

Opinion was also divided on whether the question of the Jewish refugees came within the terms of reference of the proposed special committee. Some Members held that this was an entirely different problem and the linking of the question of Palestine with the refugees prejudiced the issue. Other Members, on the other hand, maintained that the question of Palestine could not be divorced from the problem of Jewish refugees who wished to take their home there. It was finally decided that the special committee should conduct investigations in Palestine and wherever it might deem useful.

The Arab States protested against the suggested terms of reference of the special committee on the grounds that they contained no mention of the independence of Palestine or the principles of the Charter; that the "future government" of Palestine had been replaced by the vague term "problem" of Palestine; that the clause relating to the consideration of the interests of all the inhabitants of Palestine had been omitted; that the mandate to the special committee to conduct investigations wherever it deemed useful had been expressly intended to enable the committee to visit the displaced persons camps and bring about a connection between the two problems; and that the proposed terms of reference would not make for peace in the Middle East.


A. Establishment of UNSCOP

The General Assembly on May 15 1947, by a vote of 45 in favor and 7 against established the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) consisting of Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. The Special Committee was given wide powers to ascertain and record facts, to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine, and to make recommendations. It was authorized to conduct investigations in Palestine and wherever it might deem useful, and was to report not later than September 1, 1947 (Resolution 106 (S-1)).

B. Activities of UNSCOP

The Special committee held its first meeting at lake Success, New York, on May 26, 1947, and ended its work at Geneva on August 31. During that time, the Committee held 16 public meetings and 36 private meetings.

In response to a request from the Special Committee, the Government of Palestine and the Jewish Agency for Palestine appointed liaison officers.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations transmitted to the Special Committee a cable dated June 13, 1947, in which the Arab Higher Committee declared that after thoroughly studying the deliberations and circumstances under which the Palestine fact-finding committee was formed and the discussions leading to terms of reference, they resolved that Palestine Arabs should obtain from collaboration and desist from appearing before the Special committee. The following reasons were cited: (1) United Nations refusal to adopt the natural course of inserting the termination date of the mandate and the declaration of independence in the agenda of the first special session of the United Nations General Assembly and in the terms of reference of the Special Committee; (2) failure to detach the problem of Jewish world refugees from the Palestine; (3) replacing the interests of Palestine inhabitants by the insertion of world religious interests although these were self evident and could not continue to be subject to investigation but deserved to be recognized on the basis of the principles of the United Nations Charter. (A/364/Add.1,p.5)

In making its investigations and preparing its report, the Special Committee worked intensively for almost three months. It made a 2,200 mile fifteen-day tour of Palestine, a five day trip to Lebanon and Syria, and one-day visit to the King of Transjordan in Amman, and a 2,700 mile seven-day tour of displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria.

C. Report of UNSCOP

The report of the Special Committee (A/364) contained twelve general recommendations, eleven of them unanimous, a majority plan and a minority plan.

According to the plan of the majority - concurred in the representatives of Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden and Uruguay - Palestine was to be constituted into an Arab State, a Jewish State and the city of Jerusalem. The Arab and the Jewish States were to become independent after a transitional period of two years beginning on September 1, 1947. The city of Jerusalem was to be placed under the International Trusteeship System by means of a trusteeship Agreement designating the United Nations as the Administering Authority. The three - Arab State, Jewish State and Jerusalem - were to be linked in an economic union. The majority recommended that before the independence of the Arab and the Jewish States were recognized, the proposed states must adopt constitutions making a declaration to the United Nations containing certain guarantees such as provisions for the protection of the Holy Places and the prevention of discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or language, and sign a treaty establishing a system of economic collaboration and creating the economic union of Palestine. During this transitional period the United Kingdom - with the assistance of one or more members of the United Nations, if so desired - would carry on the administration of Palestine under the auspices of the United Nations and under such supervision as the United Kingdom and the United Nations might agree upon.

The minority plan - concurred in by the representatives of India, Iran and Yugoslavia - proposed an independent federal state, comprising and Arab State and a Jewish State, with Jerusalem its capital. The federal state of Palestine was to be created following an transitional period not exceeding three years, during which responsibility for administering Palestine and preparing it for independence should be entrusted to an authority to be decided by the General Assembly. Jewish immigration would be permitted into the Jewish State for a period of three years to the extent compatible with its absorptive capacity as determined by an international commission composed of three Arab, three Jewish and three United Nations representatives. Thereafter immigration would be regulated by legislation enacted by the federal government.

A bicameral federal legislature was to be established, one house elected on the basis of proportional representation of the population as a whole and the other on the basis of equal representation of Arabs and Jews. Legislation was to be enacted when approved by majority votes in both houses. In the events of disagreement between the two houses, the issue was to be submitted to an arbitral body of five members including not less than two Arabs and two Jews. The head of state was to be elected by a majority vote of both houses. The federal court was to be the final court of appeal regarding Arabs and three Jews to be elected by both houses.

In addition to the guarantees contained in the constitution regarding the protection of a free access to Holy Places, a permanent international body was set up for their supervision and protection. It was to be composed of three representatives designated by the United Nations and one representative of each of the recognized faiths having an interest in the matter, as might be determined by the United Nations.

In both the majority and minority plans, boundaries were recommended for the proposed states.

The representative of Australia abstained from voting upon both the majority plan for the partition of Palestine and the minority plan for the creation of a federal state, on the grounds that the primary obligation of the Special Committee in respect of the General Assembly was that of a recording, reporting and a fact-finding function. He held that the Assembly alone was the competent body to decide what was feasible and what was not feasible in the light of all the factors, including political factors, many of which were clearly beyond the scope of the Special Committee's observations. (A/364/Add.1, p.23).


A. Establishment of an ad hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question

During its second regular session, the General Assembly on September 23,, 1947, established an ad hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, composed of all Members, and referred to it the following agenda item for consideration and report: (1) the question of Palestine (item proposed by the United Kingdom), (2) the report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, and (3) the termination of the mandate over Palestine and the recognition of its independence as one state (item proposed by Saudi-Arabia and Iraq). (A/519, p.11)

The ad hoc Committee on September 26 agreed to hear the views of the three parties, i.e., the representatives of the United Kingdom (as Mandatory Power), the Arab Higher Committee, and the Jewish Agency for Palestine, immediately concerned in the Palestine Question before embarking upon the general debate.

B. Views Expressed in the Assembly

The representative of the United Kingdom declared, inter alia, that his Government was not prepared by itself to undertake the task of imposing a policy in Palestine by force of arms. He stated that in the absence of a settlement his Government must plan for an early withdrawal of British forces and of the British Administration from Palestine.

The representative of the Arab Higher Committee stated, among other things, that the Arabs of Palestine were solidly determined to oppose with all the means at their disposal any scheme which provided for the dissection, segregation or partition of their country or which gave to a minority special and preferential rights and status.

The representatives of the Jewish Agency for Palestine declared, inter alia, that if acceptance of the majority plan of UNSCOP would make possible the immediate re-establishment of the Jewish State with sovereign control of its own immigration, then the Jewish Agency was prepared to recommend the acceptance of the partition solution, subject to further discussion of constitutional and territorial provisions.

Proponents of the UNSCOP majority plan in general held that the claims of Jews and Arabs both had merit and that no perfect solution of the Palestine problem could be devised. Under the circumstances, a compromise solution was indicated. The partition plan would demand sacrifices from both sides, but, in its emphasis on economic union, laid the foundation for the eventual development of friendly relations among the two contending parties. These approving the majority plan held that the Assembly had no right under the Charter to decide to partition Palestine or to enforce such a decision. Representative of several Arab States formally proposed that the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice be obtained on this legal aspect of the question before the Assembly proceeded to act on the UNSCOP majority recommendation. The representatives of the Arab States held that partition violated both the Charter and a people's democratic right to self-determination; they declared themselves in favor of an independent unitary state embracing all of Palestine, in which the rights of the minority would be scrupulously safeguarded.

C. Action by the General Assembly

In the course of the general debate, seventeen proposals were submitted to the ad hoc Committee. it was decided that the problem should be further considered by sub-committees. Two sub-committees and a Conciliation Group were therefore set up. Sub-Committee 1, composed of Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Poland, Union of South Africa, United States, Uruguay, U.S.S.R. and Venezuela,, was entrusted with drawing up a detailed plan based on the majority proposals of UNSCOP. Sub-Committee 2, composed of Afghanistan, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, was entrusted with considering proposals by the Arab states for an independent unitary state in Palestine. The Conciliation Group was to attempt to reduce the area of disagreement as much as possible between the Arabs and the Jews.

The ad hoc Committee considered reports submitted by the Sub-Committees and then recommended to the General Assembly a plan for the partitioning - with economic union - of Palestine. The President of the Assembly who was Chairman of the Conciliation Group reported that its efforts had not been fruitful.

The discussion in plenary meetings of the General Assembly on the recommendation of the ad hoc Committee began on November 26. On November 28 the representative of Colombia submitted a draft resolution which provided that a decision on the Palestine question be deferred and that the matter be referred back to the ad hoc Committee fro further efforts at producing a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. On the same day, the representative of France proposed a 24-hour adjournment to permit a last-minute effort at conciliating Arabs and Jews and at arriving at an agreed solution of the Palestine problem. The Assembly approved the French proposal.

Following this 24-hour adjournment, the representative of Lebanon, on November 29, submitted six general principles which might serve as a basis for a compromise formula. These principles, he stated, did not exclude other proposals capable of conciliating the points of view of Jews and Arabs.

The representative of Iran submitted a draft resolution calling for a day until January 15,, 1948, in the deliberations of the Assembly on the Palestine question, to enable the ad hoc Committee to reconvene and to study the matter further.

The President ruled that the report of the ad hoc Committee, including the Plan of Partition with Economic Union, would be voted on first. The Assembly, on November 29, 1947, adopted the report by a vote of 33 to 13 with 11 abstentions. The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Byelorussian S.S.R., Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukrainian, S.S.R., Union of South Africa, U.S.S.R., United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Against: Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.

Abstained: Argentina, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia.

Absent: Siam.

D. Partition Plan Adopted by the General Assembly

The plan adopted by the General Assembly (Resolution 181 (II)), provided that the British Mandate over Palestine was to terminate and that British armed forces were to be withdrawn as soon as possible but in any case not later than August 1, 1948. (The United Kingdom later announced its intention to terminate the Mandate on May 15, 1948.) The independent states and the special international regime for Jerusalem were to come into existence to months after the evacuation of the armed forces had been completed, but in any case not later thank October 1, 1948.

Boundaries for the Arab State, the Jewish State and the City of Jerusalem were established.

A joint Economic Board was to be established consisting of three representatives of each of the two states and three foreign members to be appointed by the Economic and Social Council.

The Trusteeship Council was to elaborate and approve a detailed Statute of the city of Jerusalem.

The Assembly established a Palestine commission, consisting of Bolivia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Panama, and the Philippines, to implement the recommended measures.

The Assembly also requested the Security Council to take the necessary measures to implement the plan. If necessary, the Council should consider whether the situation in Palestine constituted a threat to the peace. If the Council decided that such a threat existed, it should take measures, under Articles 39 and 41 of the Charter, to empower the Palestine Commission to exercise its functions. Finally the Council was to determine as a threat that the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, in accordance with Article 39 of the Charter, any attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged by the Assembly's resolution.


A. By Palestine Commission

The Palestine Commission held its first meeting at Lake Success, New York, on January 9, 1948, elected its officers, and invited the Mandatory designated liaison representatives.

On February 16 the commission stated in a special report to the Security Council that without armed assistance it could not discharge its responsibilities. In a later report, it stated, inter alia, that the Mandate Power's policy of not co-operating in the implementation of the partition plan and the steady deterioration of conditions in Palestine left little hope for the achievement of continuity in administrative services and for an orderly transfer of authority to the Commission on termination of the Mandate.

On April 2 the Palestine Commission decided to continue its work, although the Security Council on April 1 had decided to request the Secretary-General to convoke a second special session of the General Assembly to consider the Palestine problem further. (See below.)

On April 10, the Commission submitted a report to the Assembly (see below) on its activities to date (A/532). The steadily deteriorating situation in Palestine, the report stated, led to the inescapable conclusion that, in the absence of forces adequate to restore and maintain law and order after the termination of the Mandate, there would be administrative chaos, starvation, widespread strife, violence, and bloodshed throughout Palestine.

On May 17 the Commission decided to adjourn sine die in view of the General Assembly's resolution of May 14, relieving the Commission of its responsibilities.

B. By the Economic and Social Council

On March 11, 1948, the Economic and Social Council decided to postpone the election of the three foreign members of the Joint Economic Board to the next session of the Council and requested Member States to submit to the Secretary-General, not later than June 15, 1948, names of suitable candidates.

The Economic and social Council at its seventh session (July - August 1948) again deferred consideration of the matter (E/1065, p. 78).

C. By the Security Council

On December 2, 1947, the Secretary-General brought to the Security council's attention the General Assembly's resolution of November 29 (S/614).

Seven days later the Council decided to grant requests from Egypt and Lebanon to participate in the council's discussion on Palestine (S/P.V./222). On February 24, 1948, in response to a request from the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the Council extended an invitation to the Agency to have a representative present, and agreed to grant the same privilege to the Arab Higher Committee if it so requested (S/P.V./253).

Appearing before the Security Council on February 24, the Chairman of the Palestine Commission said that unless an international force in effective strength could be provided, Palestine would, when the British left on May 15, become a scene of widespread strife and bloodshed. Strong Arab elements were making organized efforts to prevent implementation of partition, he reported. Certain Jewish elements continued to commit irresponsible acts of violence; and Great Britain was engaged in liquidating its administration and preparing to evacuate its permanent members to consult regarding the Palestine situation and to make recommendations to the Council within ten days on the guidance and instructions to be given to the Palestine Commission with a view to implementing the General Assembly's resolution. The Council also appealed to all governments and peoples, particularly in and around Palestine, to do everything possible to curb the disorders in Palestine (S/691).

On March 19 the representative of the United States reported on his own behalf and on behalf of France and china to the Council that the consultations among the permanent members and informal communications with the Palestine Commission, the Mandatory Power, the Jewish Agency and the Arab Higher Committee had shown that under present conditions partition could not be implemented by peaceful means (S/P.V./270).

Under the circumstances the permanent members recommended (a) that the Security Council should make it clear to the parties and governments concerned that the Council was determined not to permit the existence of a threat to international peace in Palestine, and (b) that the Security Council should take further action by all means available to it to bring about the immediate cessation of violence and the restoration of peace and order in Palestine.

The report as a whole had the agreement of China, France, and the United States. The U.S.S.R. agreed to the recommendations but thought that they were too general and vague. The U.S.S.R. did not agree with the findings of the report, particularly regarding the statement that the partition plan could not be implemented by peaceful means. The United Kingdom as Mandatory Power had attended two of the meetings in its official capacity and had furnished information but had not participated in the consultations.

On March 19, the United States submitted to the Security Council a proposal for a temporary Trusteeship for Palestine under the Trusteeship Council, and a suspension of the efforts by the United Nations Palestine commission to implement partition. A special session of the General Assembly was to be called to consider the Trusteeship proposal (S/P.V/271).

The proposal to call a special session of the Assembly (S/705) was adopted by the Council on April 1, and the session convened in New York on April 16, 1948.

D. By the Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council, in accordance with the instructions of the general Assembly prepared a draft Statute for administering the city of Jerusalem. During the third part of its second session, on April 21, 1948, the Council adopted a resolution transmitting the draft Statute in its latest form to the General Assembly, and referred the question of the Statute to it for further instructions (Resolution 34 (II)). No such further instructions were issued by the General Assembly at its second special session. During the Council's third session, it was decided on July 29, 1948, to adjourn consideration of the question indefinitely.

The representative of the U.S.S.R. declared that the Trusteeship Council's decision to refer back the question of the Statute of Jerusalem to the General Assembly in incomplete form had no legal force. he stated that as a result of this behavior on the part of the Trusteeship Council the City of Jerusalem was left without a Statute - a factor which could not fail to aggravate the already strained situation in Palestine, and particularly in Jerusalem. (A/603,pp.41 and 49).

For an account of the work of the Trusteeship Council regarding the question of the protection of the City of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, see "Second Special Session of the General assembly" below.


The second special session of the Assembly was held at New York from April 16 to may 14, 1948.

A. Views Expressed at the Session

The representative of the United States held that it had been conclusively proved that the resolution of the General Assembly, which could for the partition of Palestine with economic union and which had been adopted on November 29, 1947, could not be implemented by peaceful means. He declared that the situation in the Holy Land was fast deteriorating, that there was already bloodshed, and that even greater disorders must be expected after the termination of the Mandate on May 15. Under the circumstances, the United States believed that the Assembly should consider the establishment of a Temporary Trusteeship for Palestine. He presented in the form of a working paper his Government's suggestions for the establishment of such a Temporary Trusteeship, providing for a government and essential public services in Palestine pending further negotiations. The suggestions were based largely on the draft Statute for Jerusalem developed by the Trusteeship Council, as well as on suggestions made informally by several members of the Security Council.

The representative of the United Kingdom declared that it had now been proved that the partition resolution could only be enforced by the use of arms. He declared that since both sides were convinced of the justice of their cause, and since any final settlement without their agreement could not be effected without force, at he Assembly was, perhaps, obliged to aim at a more modest objective than trusteeship in order to prevent danger to world peace. he stated that in any attempt to find a solution, the United Kingdom would co-operate, subject only to the limitations involved in its decision to withdraw from Palestine. He pointed out that the Palestine problem could be eased if other states, following the example set by the United Kingdom, took positive action regarding displaced persons in Europe and opened their gates more widely so that pressure of refugees upon Palestine would be reduced.

The representative of the Arab Higher committee stated that if the suggestions of the United States aimed at the establishment of an interim government destined to remain in being for a short, explicitly stated, period of time, pending final settlement of the question, they were worthy of consideration, provided it was clearly understood that they were intended to lead to the independence of Palestine as a single democratic state in which the legitimate rights of the different sections of the citizens would be safeguarded. Failing agreement on some such plan, he declared that the overwhelming majority of the people of Palestine would establish an independent Palestinian Government in conformity with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and Article 28 the Mandate, these being the Articles which provided for the establishment of such a government on the termination of the Mandate.

The representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine stated that the United States suggestion was untenable. He declared that it was too late to impose Trusteeship on the peoples of Palestine, and the receptiveness of the Arabs to a Trusteeship regime should be discounted as a manoeuvre designed to defeat partition. He went on to state that May 15, 1948, would mark the end of the Mandate. On the following day, a provisional Jewish Government would begin to function in accordance with the spirit of the United Nations resolution of November 29, 1947. The Jewish State would thus become a reality, and the only threat to its existence would come from the Arab States.

Some of the other views in favour of retaining the resolution adopted on November 29, 1947, expressed during the general debate may be summed up as follows:

(1) The resolution which the General Assembly adopted by a two-thirds majority on November 29, 1947, was not perfect but it was the fairest and most equitable solution of the Palestine problem.

(20 It was regrettable that the resolution of November 29, 1947, did not provide for its own effective implementation, all the more so, since this lack of implementation machinery had been noted at the time and had now become primarily responsible for the fact that the Partition Plan was behind schedule.

(30 The United States and the mandatory Power were seeking to wreck the decision taken by the General Assembly last November, placing selfish national interests in both countries ahead of the interests of the population of Palestine and of the United Nations.

(4) In spite of the obstacles to its realization, the Partition Plan of November 29 should remain in full force, and the United Nations should concentrate on devising ways and means of implementing it vigorously.

(5) No greater force would be needed to implement the Partition Plan than would be required for the implementation of the Trusteeship proposal, and if the latter was to be implemented by force why, then, not the former?

Arguments advanced by those who favored reconsideration of the resolution adopted on November 29, 1947, may be summarized as follows:

(1) The resolution of November 29, 1947, was not based on the charter and did not accord with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the population of Palestine. It was, therefore, unjust and illegal.

(2) Active Arab intervention in opposition to the Partition Plan was nothing more than completely justified self-defence such as any self-respecting people would be compelled to adopt.

(3) The Charter does not justify the use of force to implement a resolution such as that of November 29, 1947, which was a recommendation, not an enforceable decision.

(4) Far from undermining the prestige of the United Nations reconsideration and rectification of the error committed on November 29, 1947, could not but should be made to substitute a new and fair solution for the Palestine problem.

(5) The United States proposal for a Temporary Trusteeship for Palestine was worthy of consideration, provided it was not meant as an attempt at implementing the Partition Plan under the guise of Trusteeship but was intended as a means of gaining time to allow peaceful negotiations during which just solution could be worked out.

B. The Protection of Jerusalem

On April 26 the Assembly asked the Trusteeship Council to study with the Mandatory Power and the interested parties suitable measures for the protection of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, and to submit within the shortest possible time proposals to the Assembly to that effect (Resolution 185 (S-2)).

The Trusteeship on April 28 reached an agreement with Arab Higher Committee and Jewish Agency representatives on a cease-fire order in the Walled City of Jerusalem, which was to have been elaborated into an agreed truce.

On May 5 the Trusteeship Council reported to the General Assembly on the protection of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants (A/544).

The conclusions and recommendations of the Trusteeship Council were approved by the Assembly on the following day. The Assembly recommended that the Mandatory Power should appoint, before May 15, 1948, a neutral acceptable to both Arabs and Jews as Special Municipal commissioner to carry out, with the co-operation of the community committees already existing in Jerusalem, the functions hitherto performed by the Municipal Commission (Resolution 187 (S-20). On May 14, 1948, the appointment of Harold Evans of Philadelphia Pennsylvania (United States), as Special Municipal commissioner for Jerusalem was announced.

C. Appointment of the Mediator

Meanwhile, the Assembly's debates had shown conclusively that it would be impossible to muster the required two-thirds vote in favor of the United States proposal for Trusteeship, and on May 14 the Assembly rejected the joint United States-French proposal for a temporary international regime for Jerusalem based on Chapter XII (Trusteeship) of the Charter. The central idea of this proposal was to entrust the responsibility for the protection of Jerusalem and its inhabitants temporarily to a United Nations Commissioner nominated by the United Nations and placed under the authority of the Trusteeship Council.

The Assembly at the same time decided to appoint a United Nations Mediator for Palestine and to relieve the Palestine Commission of its responsibilities (Resolution 186 (S-2)). The Mediator was to be chosen by a committee of the General Assembly composed of China, France, the U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom and the United States. He was to use his good offices to promote a peaceful adjustment of the situation of Palestine, and was to co-operate with the Truce Commission for Palestine, appointed by the Security Council (see below). On May 20, 1948, the Committee appointed Count Falke Bernadotte, President of the Swedish Red Cross, as Mediator.


A. Security Council calls for a Truce

The Security council on April 1, 1948, called on the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the Arab Higher committee to make representatives available to the Council for the purpose of arranging a truce between the Arab and Jewish communities of Palestine. It also called on Arab and Jewish armed groups in Palestine to cease acts of violence immediately. Accordingly, the President of the Council held conversations with the representatives of both parties (S/704). The President on April 15 reported to the Council that he had been unable to bring about agreement between the two parties (A/620,p.83).

On April 17, 1948, the Security Council called for a Truce in Palestine (S/723). All persons and organizations in Palestine, and especially the Arab Higher Committee and the Jewish Agency were called on: (1) to cease all activities of a military character and all acts of violence, terrorism, and sabotage; (2) to refrain from assisting the entry into Palestine of armed bands and from acquiring weapons and war materials; and (3) to refrain from political activities which might prejudice the position of either community. The Council's resolution also stated that the persons and organizations in Palestine should co-operate with the Mandatory authorities in maintaining law and order and essential services, and should refrain from any action endangering the safety of the Holy Places or preventing access to them. The Council further requested the United Kingdom, as long as it remained the Mandatory Power, to use its best efforts to see that these measures were put into effect and to keep the Security Council informed of the position. Finally the council called on all governments, particularly those of countries neighboring Palestine, to assist in the implementation of these measures.

B. Establishment of a Truce Commission for Palestine

On April 23, 1948, the Security established a Truce Commission for Palestine composed of representatives of these members of the Council which have career consular officers in Jerusalem - Belgium, France, and the United States (the representative of Syria, which also had a consular officer in Jerusalem, informed the Council that his Government would not appoint a representative on the commission). The commission was to assist the council in supervising the April 17 truce resolution (S/727).

On April 30 the Truce Commission reported to the Security Council that the general situation in Palestine was deteriorating rapidly, that Government departments were closing daily, that normal activities were coming to a standstill, and that the intensity of fighting was increasing steadily.

C. Intervention of the Arab States in Palestine

The United Kingdom relinquished its Mandate over Palestine on May 15, 1948. Shortly after, the new State of Israel was proclaimed, and armed action by Arab States occurred.

The President of the Security Council informed the Council members on May 15 of two messages: one from the Jewish Agency (S/744) concerning the continuous presence and activity of the Arab Legion in Palestine, and the other from the Foreign Minister of Egypt relating to the armed intervention of the Egyptian forces in Palestine.

Speaking at the council meeting, the representative of the Jewish Agency drew attention to earlier warnings of Arab preparations for aggression. He urged that the council determine the situation in Palestine to be a threat to international peace, breach of the peace and act of aggression and call upon the Arab States to refrain from aggression on penalty of action under Charter VII.

The representative of the Arab Higher Committee questioned the right of the Jewish Agency to term as aggression the entry of Arab forces which had been invited by the Arab Higher Committee to maintain law and order. With the termination of the mandate, Palestine, he declared, had become an independent nation and the Jews constituted a rebellious minority.

In order to get information on the military action which had developed in Palestine, the Arab Higher Council on May 18 sent questionnaires to the Arab States, the Arab Higher committee and to the Jewish authorities in Palestine.

D Security council calls for a Cease-fire Order

Taking into consideration that military operations were taking place in Palestine, the Security council on May 22 called upon all governments and authorities to abstain from any hostile military action in Palestine and to that end to issue a cease-fire order to become effective within thirty-six hours after midnight, New York standard time, May 22, 1948. The Council also called upon its Truce Commission to give the highest priority to the negotiation and maintenance of a truce in the City of Jerusalem (S/773).

On May 24, the council granted the request of the Arab States for an extension of the time limit, and agreed, because of difficulties of communications which had been encountered to the governments of these States, to extend the time limit of the cease-fire order by 48 hours, to expires on May 26 at noon, New York standard time (A/620,p.93).

E. Cessation of Hostilities in Palestine for a Period of Four Weeks

On May 29, 1948, the Security Council called upon all governments and authorities concerned to order a cessation of all acts of armed force for a period of four weeks. The United Nations Mediator for Palestine in concert with the Truce Commission was instructed to supervise the observance of the provisions of the resolution. The Security council, at the same time decided that the Mediator and the Truce commission should be provided with a sufficient number of military observers. The United Nations Mediator was further instructed to make contact with all parties as soon as the cease-fire was in force with a view to promote a peaceful adjustment of the situation in Palestine (S/8010.

After the Mediator had been successful in receiving unconditional acceptance by all parties concerned of his proposals for the truce, it became effective at 6.00 a.m. on June 11, 1948.

The three member states of the Truce commission - Belgium, France and the United States - agreed to the Mediator's request to send military observers. The security council on June 15 rejected a Soviet proposal for attaching to the Mediator as military observers 30 to 50 persons who should be appointed by members of the council, who wished to participate, excluding Syria. The representative of the U.S.S.R. mentioned five as being the number of observers the U.S.S.R. was willing to supply.

In response to a request from the Mediator, the Secretary-General on June 19 sent 50 members of the United Nations secretariat, chosen on a volunteer basis and recruited mostly from the United Nations Guard at Lake Success, to assist the Mediator in supervising the truce in Palestine.

F. Resumption of Palestine Truce

Acting on a cable from the Mediator, the Security Council on July 7 addressed an urgent appeal to the interested parties to accept in principle the prolongation of the truce in Palestine for such period as might be decided upon in consultation with the Mediator (S/875).

The four-week Palestine truce expired on July 9. The Provisional Government of Israel agreed to extend the truce and the Arab States rejected the appeal, and hostilities broke out anew and the Mediator went to Lake Success to report personally to the Security Council and to request its intervention.

On July 15 the Security Council, invoking for the first time Chapter VII of the Charter, adopted a resolution, inter alia, ordering all governments and authorities concerned to desist from further military action and to issue cease-fire orders to their construed forces, and declaring that failure to comply with this order would be construed as a breach of the peace requiring immediate consideration by the Security Council with a view to the taking of enforcement measures under the charter. The truce was to remain in force until a peaceful adjustment of the future situation in Palestine was reached, and its observance was to be supervised by the Mediator. The cease-fire orders were to take effect at a time to be determined by the Mediator. The council, however, ordered an immediate and unconditional cease-fire for Jerusalem to take effect within twenty-four hours. The cease-fire became effective in Jerusalem on July 16 and in the rest of the truce area on July 18 (S/902).

The United Nations Mediator returned to his headquarters on the Island of Rhodes where he began supervision of the truce. More military observers as well as equipment were furnished the Mediator by the members of the Truce Commission.

G. Deterioration of Situation in Palestine and Assassination of Mediator

In response to an appeal from the Mediator (S/977) for prompt action by the Security Council with regard to a further deterioration of the situation in Jerusalem, the Security Council, meeting in emergency session on August 19, warned that both Arab and Jewish authorities would be held responsible for any violations of the truce whether committed by regular or irregular troops (S/983).

On September 17 the United Nations Mediator and Colonel Andre Serot, chief of the French observers,, were shot and killed in the katamon quarter of the New City of Jerusalem by Jewish terrorists (S/1002).

The Provisional government of Israel denounced the crime and promised to seek out the murderer and his accomplices, and the Secretary-General described the murders as a deliberate attempt to thwart the authority of the United Nations.

Meeting in Paris the day following the murder, the Security Council paid its homage to the Mediator and ordered the United Nations flag to be flown at half mast for three days (S/1006).

Acting Secretary-General Arkady Sobelve, on receiving news of the Mediator's death, cabled Dr. Ralph Bunche, chief of the United Nations Mission in Palestine and Director of the United Nations Trusteeship Division, to take immediate charge. On September 18 the five permanent members of the Security Council who had originally chosen court Bernadotte as Mediator, endorsed the action of the Acting Secretary-General and subsequently the security Council approved this decision.

H. Outbreak of Fighting in Negev Area of Palestine and call for Armistice

Large scale fighting between Jews and Egyptians broke out in the Negev area of Palestine in October. The United Nations Chief Staff of the Truce Supervision called for a cease-fire order on October 16. With the fighting still continuing, the Security Council went into emergency session in Paris on October 19.

The Acting mediator requested prompt intervention by the Security Council on the grounds that a serious breach of the truce was involved. The council voted unanimously that there should be an immediate and effective cease-fire (S/1044).

Another part of the resolution laid down three conditions which might be considered as a basis for further negotiations to ensure that similar outbreaks did not occur again. These three conditions were: (1) withdrawal by both parties from any positions not occupied at the time of the outbreak of the fighting; (2) acceptance by both parties of conditions affecting convoys; and (3) agreement by both parties to undertake negotiations, either through the United Nations or directly, on outstanding problems in the Negev, and the stationing of United Nations observers throughout the area.

The Security Council on November 4 called upon Israeli and Egyptian Governments to withdraw those of their forces which had advanced beyond the positions held on October 14, and to establish permanent truce lines and such neutral zones as were necessary to ensure full observance of the truce in that area. The council at the same time appointed a committee of the council, consisting of the five permanent members, together with Belgium and Colombia, to give the Acting Mediator such advice as he might require (S/1071).

On November 16 the Security Council decided that, in order to eliminate the threat to the peace in Palestine and to facilitate the transition from the existing truce to permanent peace, an armistice should be established in all sectors of Palestine (S/1080).

The Council called upon the parties directly involved in the conflict in Palestine to seek agreement forthwith, by negotiations conducted either directly or through the Acting Mediator, with a view to the immediate establishment of the armistice. Negotiations were to include the delineation of permanent armistice demarcation lines and the withdrawal and reduction of armed forces.

On December 22, 1948, fighting broke out once more in the Negev, and the following day the Egyptian Government brought the situation to the Security council's attention.

The Security Council on December 29 adopted a resolution (S/1169) which called upon the governments concerned to order an immediate cease-fire, implement the resolution of November 4, and allow and facilitate the complete supervision of the truce by the United Nations observers. It also instructed the committee of the Council, appointed on November 4, to meet at Lake Success on January 7, 1949, to consider the situation in southern Palestine and to report to the Council on the extent to which the governments concerned and by that date complied with the resolutions of November 4 and 16. The Council invited Cuba and Norway to replace as from January 1 to two retiring members of the Committee - Belgium and Colombia.

Both governments signified their acceptance of the Council's resolution of December 29. The Acting Mediator set 1400 GMT (Greenwich Meridian Time), January 6, 1949, as the deadline for the cease-fire on all fronts. Due, however, to communications delays, which prevented the necessary notification from reaching the respective governments, it was found necessary to change the deadline to 1200 GMT, January 7, 1949.


On September 16, 1948, 24 hours before his assassination, the United Nations Mediator had prepared a Progress Report for submission to the General Assembly. The Report (A/648) stated the Mediator's conviction that prompt Assembly action would greatly enhance the prospects of a peaceful settlement, in the Holy Land, and would, in fact, be indispensable for such a settlement.

It covered the Mediator's activities during the Palestine truce from June 11 to July 9, 1948, and the one which, beginning on July 18, 1948, was still in force when the report was submitted to the Assembly.

The report was divided into three parts, each of which was developed to a broad aspect of the Palestine situation. Thus Part I dealt with the Mediation effort per se, Part II with the supervision of the two truces, and Part III with the question of assistance to refugees, particularly some 360,000 Arab refugees who left, or were expelled from, Israel-ruled parts of Palestine during the fighting in the Holy Land.

Annexes to the report reproduced textually important communications exchanged between the Mediator and the two contesting parties and tabulated the replies and aid furnished in response to requests for specific commodities to alleviate the plight of refugees. A further annex contained the flight log of the Mediator from May 27 to September 9, 1948.

In his report, the Mediator made the following specific suggestions:
(1) the existing indefinite truce should be superseded by a formal peace
(2) the Negev should be defined as Arab territory;
(3) Galilee should be defined as Jewish territory;
(4) The future Arab part of Palestine should be decided by the Arab states in full consultation with the Arab people of Palestine, and should be incorporated into Transjordan;
(5) The port of Haifa should be declared a free port;
(6) Lydda should be declared a free airport;
(7) Jerusalem should be placed under United Nations control;
(8) Arab refugees should be allowed to return to their homes; and
(9) The United Nations should establish in Palestine a conciliation commission for a limited period.


The Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator served as a basis for the Assembly's consideration of the problem of a permanent settlement of the problem of Palestine.

The Acting Mediator for Palestine outlined seven points on which he felt the General Assembly could base constructive action. These points included the setting up of a Conciliation Commission, an affirmation of the existence of the State of Israel, a strong call to the parties concerned to resolve their differences by direct negotiation or through United Nations intermediaries, international guarantees for their boundaries, an affirmation of the right of Arab refugees to return to their homes or be compensated, and local autonomy for Jewish and Arab communities in an internationalized Jerusalem.

A. Views Expressed and Proposals Made

The Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government of Israel, who was invited to address the Assembly's First Committee, stated that the Mediator's suggestion that the Negev should be to the Arabs would reduce by one-third the irreducible minium which his Government had accepted under the partition scheme. He stated that the development by Jews of the Negev for settlement and cultivation was decisive for the future of immigration into Israel. Such a proposal, he added, would be curtailing the territory of the existing sovereign State of Israel and his Government could not consider the Mediator's report even as a basis for discussion. He went on to claim the permanent inclusion in Israel of the modern part of Jerusalem outside the city walls. As regards Haifa, he said that his Government would be prepared to grant rights of free zone to neighboring states on a treaty basis. He claimed that Israel already had possession of Galilee and firmly believed it should remain within its territories without conditions. He stated further that his government could not considered the re-admission of Arab refugees as long as a state of war lasted. With regard to the United Nations conciliation commission as proposed by the Mediator, he expressed the view that it should be a good offices commission.

The representative of the Arab Higher Committee said that the report of the Mediator was unacceptable to the Arabs for the same reasons for which they had rejected partition. He declared there could be no peace in Palestine unless the problem could be solved along the lines of a unified Palestine under a democratic constitution.

He stated that it was only natural for the Arab to fight against the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, since any people would fight in self-defence. The "Zionist terrorist elements" should be returned to their countries of origin, their arms should be confiscated, and all damage caused to the Arabs and to religious and charitable institutions should be made good.

Referring to the plight of Arab refugees, he charged that Arab villages had been burned and looted and even the Holy Places had not been spared. He claimed the Arab exodus was caused by "indescribable and outrageous acts of Zionist terrorism". He charged that Jewish terrorism had been facilitated by the policy of the British Mandatory Government, which disarmed the Arab population.

With regard to proposals for compensation for those Arab refugees who did not wish to return to their homes, he declared the Arabs were not willing to sell their homeland. He emphasized again that the Arabs were the original inhabitants of Palestine for centuries and said the Jews were largely foreigners from Poland, the U.S.S.R., Germany, the Balkans and Central Europe.

The representatives of the Arab States opposed the Mediator's proposals, which they described all illegal, on the ground that no national or international law existed under which foreign intruders could establish a sovereign state on foreign soil. They declared that the Arabs would continue to resist any plan based on partition. They stated that the Mediator's proposals were nothing else than an attempt at compromise between the aggressor and violator on the one hand, and the rightful party on the other. The United States and the United Kingdom were accused of trying to entice Arabs into accepting an unjust solution which simply proposed partition in another form.

What Arabs were prepared to accept, they added, was a single Palestine state either on a centralized basis as in France or in the form of a federation as in the United States, or again on a cantonal basis as in Switzerland, with a large measure of local autonomy.

The representative of the United Kingdom endorsed the main conclusions of the report of the Mediator, and put forward a draft resolution to that effect. The resolution, inter alia, proposed establishment of a Conciliation Commission, a permanent international regime for Jerusalem, and appointment of a United Nations commissioner for Jerusalem to be responsible to the suggested Commission. It also approved the proposals by the late Mediator that the Negev should go to the Arabs refugees be permitted to return to Palestine at the earliest possible date.

Several representatives opposed the Mediator's proposals because, they declared, the proposals represented an outspoken attempt to abandon the partition resolution and were inn flagrant contradiction with it.

General support for the idea of conciliation was expressed by many representatives.

The representative of the U.S.S.R., supported by several representatives, declared that the presence of foreign troops was preventing peace in Palestine, and that it blocked the development of Israel and the establishment of an Arab state in the Holy Land. He therefore submitted a proposal recommending the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops and military personnel from the Holy Land. The U.S.S.R., proposal, however, was defeated.

Two Syrian proposals were also defeated by the General Assembly. The first called for a Commission to prepare proposals for a single independent Palestinian state, and the second proposal requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the international status of Palestine since the end of the United Kingdom mandate.

The United Kingdom proposal with various substantial amendments especially regarding the territorial arrangements and the terms of reference of the commission, was accepted by the General Assembly on December 11, 1948.

B. Resolution Adopted by the Assembly

The resolution adopted expressed appreciation of the work of the United Nations Mediator in promoting a peaceful adjustment of the future situation in Palestine, and extended thanks to the Acting Mediator and his staff for their continued efforts and devotion to duty in Palestine. The Assembly established a three-member Conciliation Commission of France, Turkey and the United States. The Commission was instructed to take steps to assist the governments and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them. The Assembly called upon the governments and authorities concerned to seek agreement by negotiations conducted either with the conciliation Commission or directly, with a view to final settlement of all questions.

The Assembly resoled that the Holy Places in Palestine, including Nazareth, should be protected and free access to them assured, and that arrangements to this end should be under effective United Nations supervision.

In view of Jerusalem, association with three world religions, the Assembly resolved that it should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine, and be placed under effective United Nations control. The Security Council was requested to take further steps to ensure it demilitarization at the earliest possible date, and the Conciliation Commission was instructed to present at the next session detailed proposals for a permanent international regime. The Assembly also called for the freest possible access to Jerusalem by road, rail, or air, pending agreement on more detailed arrangements, and instructed the commission to report to the Security Council any attempt to impede such access. The Commission was also instructed to seek arrangements to facilitate the economic development of this area.

The Conciliation commission first met on January 17, 1949, at Geneva and decided to establish official headquarters in Jerusalem as of January 24.


As a result of the mediation efforts, general armistice agreements were signed between the Egyptian and Israeli Governments at Rhodes on February 24, 1949 (A/1264), between Lebanon and Israel at Ras En Naqoura on March 23, 1949 (S/1296), and between the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom and Israel at Rhodes on April 3, 1949 (S/1302).

Plans for further armistice negotiations were in progress. The Acting Mediator declared that the next series of negotiations would be between Israel and Syria.

The three armistice agreements had many points in common. Among these were the following:

The first article stated that the Agreements were drawn up with a view to promoting the return of permanent peace in Palestine and that the parties concerned pledged themselves not to plan, undertake or threaten any aggressive action, either by land, sea or air.

Another article, similar in all agreements, provided for an Armistice Demarcation Line.

The provisions of all agreements were to be supervised by Mixed Armistice commissions composed of seven members, three of whom were to be designated by each Party to the Agreement. The chairman of the Commission in each case was to be the United Nations Chief of Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization of a senior officer from the observer personnel of that Organization designated by him, following consultation with both Parties to the agreement.

The agreements were not subject to ratification and came into force immediately upon being signed. They provided that certain provisions might, by mutual consent, be revised or suspended. In the absence of mutual date of its signing, either of the Parties concerned might call upon the Secretary-General of the United Nations to convoke a conference of representatives of the two Parties in disagreement for the purpose of reviewing, revising or suspending certain of the provisions of the Agreement. Participation in such a conference was to be obligatory upon the Parties. If such a conference did not result in an agreed solution of a point in dispute, the agreements provided that either Party might bring the matter before the Security Council for further action.

The Agreement between Egypt and Israel declared, inter alia, that the Egyptian military forces in the al Faluja area should be withdrawn on February 26 at 0500 hours GMT, the withdrawal to be under the supervision of the United Nations. The Mixed Armistice Commission provided for in the Agreement was to maintain its headquarters at El Auja.

The Agreement between Lebanon and Israel declared, among other things, that the Armistice Demarcation Line should follow the international boundary between Lebanon and Palestine. The Mixed Armistice commission provided for in the Agreement was to maintain its headquarters at the frontier post another of Metulla and the Lebanese frontier post at En Naquoura.

The Agreement between the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom and Israel declared, inter alia, that the military forces of the Parties to the Agreement should be limited to defensive forces only in the areas extending ten kilometers from each side of the Armistice Demarcation Lines except where geographical considerations made this impractical as at the southern-most tip of Palestine and the coastal strip.

Another article of this Agreement made provisions for the establishment of a special committee which was to formulate plans and arrangements on such matters as: free movement of traffic on vital roads including the Bethlehem and Latrun Jerusalem roads, resumption of the normal functions of the cultural and humanitarian institutions on Mount Scopus and free access thereto, fee access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, resumption of operations of the Latrun pumping station, provision of electricity in the Old City and resumption of operation of the railroad to Jerusalem.

This Agreement further provided that the execution of the provisions which fell within the exclusive competence of the special committee were not to be supervised by the proposed Mixed Armistice Commission.


The United Nations Mediator established that some 360,000 Arabs and some 7,000 Jews became refugees as a result of hostilities in Palestine. The 7,000 Jews were women and children from Jerusalem and various Arab-occupied areas who sought refuge in Jewish-controlled territory.

By the middle of July 1948 the refugee problem had become grave and the Mediator considered that urgent measures had to be taken for humanitarian reasons. Following his request a senior official from the United Nations Department of Social Affairs was appointed the Mediator's Director of Disaster Relief, with headquarters in Beirut, and determined the basic emergency relief needs of the refugees.

Subsequently the Mediator addressed appeals to 53 nations for voluntary contributions to assist these refugees and enlisted the services of the World Health Organizations, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the International Refugee Organization (in on advisory capacity). Aid also came from the International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches.

In a supplemental report of October 18, 1948, the Acting Mediator declared that the situation of the Palestine refugees was critical and that aid must not only be continued but very greatly increased if disaster were to be averted (A/689).

On November 19, 1948, the General Assembly unanimously approved a voluntary relief plan for over half a million Palestinian refugees. Under this plan the Secretary-General was authorized to advance immediately the sum of $5,000,000, from the Working Capital Fund of the Organization towards total of $29,500,000, which the Assembly decided was needed to aid the refugees over a period of nine months – from December 1, 1948, to August 31, 1949. The Assembly further decided that, the relief fund under the control of the Secretary-General, would be made up of voluntary contributions from Member States, while donations in money or in kind would also be accepted from non-member countries (Resolution 212 (III)).

The Assembly appealed further for active co-operation from the World Health Organization, the International Refugee Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, and other appropriate organizations and agencies. To plan and administer the program, the Assembly created the new post of Director for the United Nations Palestine Refugee Relief. To this position the Secretary-General on December 4 appointed Stanton Griffis, United States Ambassador to Egypt, who assumed his duties immediately.

The Assembly on December 11, 1948, resolved that the Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date. Compensation was to be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for damage to property. The Assembly instructed the Palestine Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement, and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of such compensation (Resolution 194 (III)).

Within a few days of his appointment, the Director of United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees signed agreements with three international agencies to handle the distribution and field operations of the relief project. Those agencies were the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Red Cross Societies and the American Friends Service Committee.

Operation areas were defined and distribution bases were determined. The Palestine Relief Organization was to handle all purchases, and the collection and shipment of supplies. The operating agencies were responsible for the reception, warehousing and transportation to the destination and distribution points of the supplies, which included clothing, food and medical necessities. Shipments of these supplies began to flow in Middle Eastern ports during December.

In January 1949 the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director of United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees issued a joint appeal to all nations for help for the Palestinian refugees.

By the Middle of January 1949 the overall relief operations were well under way. Supplies were being distributed by the League of Red Cross Societies to about 275,000 refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Transjordan; by the International committee of the Red Cross to 350,000 refugees in Eastern Palestine and Israel; and by the American Friends Service Committee to 220,000 refugees in the Gaza area and in North Palestine. The World Health Organization was in charge of health work in most of the areas. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund was providing aid to some 350,000 mothers and children. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had promised to help with some form of education for the refugee children.


In a letter dated November 29, 1948, and addressed to the Secretary-General, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Provisional government of Israel requested the admission of Israel as a Member of the United Nations. The letter enclosed a formal declaration that the government of Israel accepted all the obligations stipulated in the United Nations Charter (S/1093).

The Security Council considered the application at the 383rd, 384th, 385th, and 386th meetings on December 2, 15 and 17, 1948. The application was rejected by the Security Council on December 17, 1948, when it failed to receive the necessary seven votes. Five countries voted in favor of admission (Argentina, Colombia, the Ukrainian S.S.R., the U.S.S.R. and the United States), one country voted against (Syria), and five countries (Belgium, Canada, China, France and the United Kingdom) abstained.

In a letter dated February 24, 1949, and addressed to the Secretary-General the representative of Israel at the United Nations requested that renewed consideration be given to the application of Israel in order that the General Assembly might be able to take a decision at the second part of its third regular session in April (S/1267).

The Security Council considered the matter at its 413th and 414th meetings on March 3 and 4, 1949. The Council on March 4 recommended Israel for admission to the United Nations. The vote was nine in favor (Argentina, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Norway, The Ukrainian S.S.R., the U.S.S.R. and the United States), one against (Egypt) and one abstention (the United Kingdom).

Israel’s application for membership in the United Nations was accordingly put on the agenda of the second part of the third regular session of the General Assembly (A/818).



United Nations Speical Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP)
John D.L. Hood
I.C. Rand
Karel Lisicky
Jorge Garica Brandados
Sir Abdur Rahman
Nasrollah Enterzam
Alberto Ulloa (Vice-Chairman)
Emil Sandstrom (Chairman)
Enrique Rodriguez Fabregat
Joza Brilej
Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine Question
H.V. Evatt (Australia)
Prince Subha Svasti Svastivat
Thor Thors (Iceland)
United Nations Palestine Commission
Raul Diez de Media (Vice-Chariman)
Karl Lisicky (Chairman)
Per Federspiel
Eduardo Morgan
Vicente J. Francisco
Special Municipal Commissiioner for Jerusalem
Harold Evans(United States)
United Nations Mediator for Palestine
Count Folke Bernadotte(Sweden)
Acting United Nations Mediator for Palestine
Ralph J. Bunche(United States)
Palestine Truce commission
United States
Jean Nieuwenhuys
Rene Neuville
Thomas C. Wasson (Assassinated in May 1948)
William C. Burdett (Actilng Representative from may to June 1948)
John J. Macdonald (appointed on June 25, 1948)
Palestine Counciliation Commission
United States
Claude Breart de Boisanger
Huseyin Cahit Yalcin
Mark Foster Ethridge
United Nations Cheif of Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization
General William E. Riley(United States)
Director of Disaster Relief
Sir Raphael Cilento(Department of Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat)
Director for the United Nations Palestine Refuge Relief
Stanton Griffis(United States)

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