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        General Assembly
22 September 1949

Original: ENGLISH



(For the period 9 June to 15 September 1949 inclusive)

Note by the Secretary-General: The Secretary-General has the honour to communicate to the Members of the United Nations, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 13 of General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, the fourth progress report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine.
A. Conciliation

1. The last progress report submitted by the Conciliation Commission was dated 13 June 1949.* It concluded that, in order to further the negotiations, it would be advantageous to link together the refugee question and the territorial question, without neglecting a study of the economic and social problems which arise in the Middle East. In order to give the delegations present in Lausanne the opportunity of consulting their Governments on these various points, the Commission considered it advisable to suspend its meetings on 1 July.

2. The Commission resumed its work on 18 July, with Mr. Paul Porter replacing Mr. Mark Ethridge as representative of the United States of America. During this second phase of the Lausanne negotiations, the delegation of Israel agreed, under certain conditions, to discuss the refugee question first, while the Arab delegations submitted a clear and concrete statement of their position on territorial questions.

3. On 28 July 1949, all delegations present in Lausanne gave express assurances of their intention of collaborating with the Commission toward a final settlement of the Palestine problem and the establishment of a just and lasting peace in Palestine.

4. On 15 August, the Commission, desiring to lead the parties to clarify their positions, submitted to them a memorandum setting forth a certain number of questions, notably regarding refugees and the territorial question, the answers to which would define in a clear and precise manner the position of the delegations with regard to the aims established by the General Assembly, and would consequently enable the Commission to determine the line to be followed in its future work.

5. The Commission, having taken into consideration the attitudes adopted by the parties in response to its memorandum, submitted to them on 12 September a note containing observations to be submitted to their Governments for study. The Commission requested the delegations and the Governments represented by them to re-examine certain of the main points contained in their replies and to submit new proposals on those subjects. In order that the Governments concerned might have sufficient time to devote careful study to its request, the Commission decided to suspend its regular meetings for a short period, and will reconvene on 19 October in New York, where it will resume its meetings with the parties and will examine such new proposals as they may submit.

6. In accordance with the terms of paragraph 5 of the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948, the Commission has made sustained efforts to bring the interested parties to undertake direct negotiations. These efforts were without success, as regards the general negotiations, owing to the fact that the Arab delegations refused to meet the Israeli delegation and declared themselves satisfied with the present procedure. On the technical level, the Commission succeeded in forming a mixed committee of experts to study the question of "unfreezing" Arab accounts blocked in Israel and in certain Arab States. On the other hand, the Commission failed in its effort to form a similar committee to deal with the question of the orange groves, owing to the opposition of the Israeli delegation.


* A/927

B. The Refugee Question

I. Repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation

7. The delegation of Israel stated on 28 July that, in response to the views of the Commission and in order to facilitate the task of conciliation, the Government Israel agreed that: the problem of refugees be placed as the first item on the agenda of joint discussions of a general peace settlement; on the initiation of such discussions, the Israeli delegation would be prepared to convey to the Commission and to the Arab delegations the total figure of refugees which the Government of Israel would be ready to repatriate; in the view of the Government of Israel, such repatriation must form part of a comprehensive plan for the settlement of the entire refugee problem; and this repatriation would be put into effect only as an integral part of a general and final peace settlement. The Israeli delegation also expressed the wish that these negotiations should be carried out directly with the Arab delegations.

8. On 2 August, the Arab delegations stated to the Commission that, understanding that the Israeli delegation would advance concrete proposals within the framework of a final solution of the refugee problem and that these proposals would be considered as a first step toward stabilisation of the situation in Palestine, and considering such a course to be in the spirit of the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948 and the Protocol of 12 May 1949, they agreed to discuss the Israeli proposals. They stated that this acceptance in no way prejudged acceptance of any particular plan.

9. Following the reply by the Arab delegations, the delegation of Israel submitted its proposals to the Commission in a meeting on 3 August. After a few general remarks, the Israeli representative stated that his Government was prepared to make its contribution to the solution of the refugee problem. This contribution would be limited by considerations affecting the security and the economy of the State. Thus, the refugees would be settled in areas where they would not come in contact with possible enemies of Israel; moreover, the Government of Israel reserved the right to resettle the repatriated refugees in specific locations, in order to ensure that their reinstallation would fit into the general plan of Israel's economic development. Subject to these conditions, the Government of Israel would be prepared to accept the return to Israel in its present limits of 100,000 refugees, in addition to the total Arab population existing at the end of hostilities (including those who have already returned since then), thus increasing the total number of that population to a maximum of 250,000. This repatriation would form part of a general plan for resettlement of refugees which would be established by a special organ to be created for the purpose by the United Nations.

10. The Commission, considering the Israeli delegation's proposal as unsatisfactory, limited itself to communicating that proposal unofficially to the Arab delegations for their information. On 15 August, the Arab delegations transmitted to the Commission, also unofficially, a memorandum containing their observations on the proposals submitted to the Commission by the Israeli delegation on 3 August. In the opinion of the Arab delegations, the Israeli proposal was contrary to the resolution of 11 December 1948, as well as to the Protocol of 12 May 1949. They considered that under the terms of the Protocol the Israeli proposal could bear only upon the territories allotted to Israel according to the map attached to that document. The Arab delegations protested the contention of the Israeli delegation that the settlement of Arabs in Israeli territory must be subordinated to economic and strategic considerations. They recalled, moreover, the memorandum addressed by them to the Commission on 23 May, requesting the repatriation of all refugees originating in territory allotted to the Arabs or to be internationalized, according to the map attached to the Protocol of 12 May. If the Israeli proposal was to be interpreted as applying exclusively to refugees originating in areas allocated to Israel on the above-mentioned map, the Arab delegations would not object to its adoption as a basis for discussion of the disposition of those particular refugees. Finally, the Arab delegations favoured compensation in kind for the refugees who might not return to their homes; this indemnification might take the form of territorial compensation within the terms of the Protocol of 12 May.*

11. On the same day, the Commission submitted to all delegations present in Lausanne the memorandum mentioned in paragraph 4 above which, inter alia, inquired whether the various delegations were prepared to sign a declaration according to which (a) the solution of the refugee problem should be sought in the repatriation of refugees in Israeli-controlled territory, and in the resettlement of those not repatriated in Arab countries or in the zone of Palestine not under Israeli control. It was to be understood that the repatriated refugees would become ipso facto citizens of Israel and that no discrimination would be practised against them both with regard to the civil and the political rights which they would exercise and to the obligations imposed upon them by the law of the land. It was also to be understood that repatriation in Israel as well as resettlement in the Arab countries or in the zone of Palestine not under Israeli control would take place subject to technical and financial aid given to each party by the international community; (b) in case an Economic Mission** should be charged by the United Nations with the establishment of major work projects in the Middle East with a view to facilitating the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the Arab refugees, as well as with the study of the conditions under which that programme could take place, all the parties would undertake to facilitate the task of the Economic Mission and to take all possible measures to aid in the implementation of such solutions as the Mission might propose; (c) all the parties would specify that the above-mentioned conditions concerning the Arab refugees would not prejudice the rights which the parties reserve in connexion with the final settlement of the territorial question in Palestine; and (d) the funds for emergency aid extended to the refugees must be renewed until technical and financial aid should have been allotted by the international community.

The Commission also asked the delegations whether, without committing their Governments for the present or for the future, and taking account of the fact that no exact and detailed statistics exist with regard to the refugees, they were prepared to present a provisional estimate of the appropriate number of refugees which their Governments would be ready to accept.

12. On 29 August, the Commission received the Arab reply to its memorandum of 15 August. In their communication the Arab delegations began by recalling the observations contained in the memorandum which they communicated to the Commission unofficially (see paragraph 10 above). They proceeded to state that, keeping the above observations in mind, and noting that the solution of the refugee problem should be in accordance with the principles of humanity, right and justice on which the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948 was based, the Arab delegations would be ready to study the implementation of that part of the declaration proposed by the Commission according to which the solution of the refugee problem should be sought in the repatriation of refugees in Israeli-controlled territory and in the resettlement of those not repatriated in Arab countries or in the zone of Palestine not under Israeli control.

13. They also drew the Commission's attention to the necessity of establishing international guarantees - to be determined at a later date - assuring to the refugees to be repatriated in areas under Israeli control just treatment, without discrimination on grounds of race or faith.

14. In connexion with the Economic Mission for the Middle East which is treated in chapter C of the present report, the Arab delegations stated that they would recommend that their Governments facilitate the work of that Mission and take all the steps which they might judge appropriate and possible to assist in the implementation of such solutions as the Mission might propose.

15. The delegations of Jordan and Syria stated that their Governments would be able to receive, in conjunction with the recommendations of the Economic Mission, such refugees as might not return to their homes. The Egyptian delegation declared that Egypt, being densely populated and unable to extend substantially the area of its arable land, would find it difficult to contemplate the resettlement of a number of refugees on its existing territory. When its eastern frontiers had been readjusted, however, the Egyptian delegation would be prepared to study the question in the light of the prevailing situation and within the framework of international technical and financial aid. The Lebanese delegation declared that Lebanon was in the same position as Egypt, since it was one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

16. Finally, the Arab delegations collectively urged that the United Nations continue to supply the funds necessary for emergency aid to refugees.

17. On 31 August, the Israeli delegation, replying to the Commission's memorandum, stated that it was prepared to sign a declaration along the general lines suggested by the Commission with regard to refugees, subject to precision on the following points: that the solution of the refugee problem was to be sought primarily in resettlement in Arab territories; that, though the Economic Mission would be facilitated in its task and its proposals would be given full consideration, the Government of Israel could not bind itself in advance to implement the solutions proposed; that the understanding with regard to non-discrimination against refugees should apply to the Arab States as well; and that international financial assistance, to which repatriation of Palestinian refugees to Israel would be subject, should also extend to the resettlement of Jewish refugees from Arab-controlled areas of Palestine.

18. The Israeli delegation, moreover, reiterated its previous offer with regard to the number of refugees which the Government of Israel would be ready to accept and pointed out that its willingness to facilitate the task of the Economic Mission would have to remain within the limits of this offer. Finally, the delegation repeated that its Government could agree to the repatriation of refugees to Israel only as part of an over-all settlement of the Palestine problem.

19. In reply to the Arab and Israeli notes dated 29 and 31 August, respectively, the Commission informed all the delegations, on 12 September, that it did not consider that it would be useful at that moment to formulate more detailed suggestions with regard to the refugee question, notably concerning the number of persons who should return to Israel and the number who should be resettled in the Arab States, in view of the fact that the refugee question in general would be examined by the Economic Mission. The Commission preferred to await the conclusions and recommendations which would be submitted to it by the Mission, before formulating its own suggestions regarding the general solution of the refugee problem.

20. In its exchanges of view with the Arab and Israeli delegations on the refugee question, the Commission relied to a great extent on the report which the Technical Committee on Refugees, the creation of which was announced in the Commission's second report to the Secretary-General,*** submitted to it. This report of the Technical Committee, dealing with the problem of repatriation, resettlement and social and economic rehabilitation of the refugees, as well as with preliminary measures to be taken for the preservation of their rights, property and interests, was transmitted to the Secretary-General on 9 September.* The Commission decided to dissolve the Technical Committee and to recommend to the Secretary-General that its members be placed at the disposal of the Economic Mission.


* The text of the Protocol was attached as an Annex to the third progress report of the Commission (A/927).
** See chapter C below.
*** A/838.

II. Preliminary measures for the protection of the rights, property and interests of refugees

21. In connexion with preliminary measures to be taken for the preservation of the rights, property and interests of the refugees, the Commission charged the General Committee with the study of the following points raised by the Arab delegations: the return to their lands and homes of Arab owners of orange groves, together with the necessary workmen and technicians; the immediate unfreezing of Arab accounts in Israeli banks; the abrogation of the Absentee Act; the suspension of all measures of requisition and occupation of Arab houses and the reuniting in their homes of refugees belonging to the same family; the assurance of freedom of worship and of respect of churches and mosques; the repatriation of religious personnel; the freeing of Wakf property; the assurance to refugees returning to their homes of the guarantees necessary to their security and their liberty.

22. The General Committee formulated concrete proposals in connexion with the questions of separated families, of blocked Arab accounts and of orange groves. These questions are dealt with separately below. The questions of guarantees to returning refugees and of Wakf property are still under study by the Commission.

23. With regard to the remaining points, the Israeli delegation informed the Committee that its Government was unable to abrogate the Absentee Act or to suspend measures of requisition of Arab immovable property; that freedom of worship and respect of churches and mosques were guaranteed throughout Israel; and that further applications by religious personnel for repatriation would be examined. The General Committee decided to reserve the consideration of these points for a later date.

24. As regards orange groves belonging to Arabs and situated in Israeli-controlled territory, the General Committee, at the request of the Arab delegations and with the concurrence of the Technical Committee which, after an on-the-spot inspection of the orange groves, had reported to the Commission their state of progressive deterioration, decided to propose the establishment of a mixed Arab-Israeli working group to proceed into the field and to recommend practical measures to it for the preservation of the orange groves. This group would also facilitate the implementation of such measures and evaluate the damage sustained by the groves. The Arab delegations declared themselves in favour of the above terms of reference. The Israeli delegation, however, stated that its Government was unable to accept the establishment of the proposed mixed group and that the Israeli custodian of enemy property was doing his best to care for the Arab orange groves. The Arab delegations thereupon stressed that responsibility for the damage sustained by these groves would rest entirely on the Israeli authorities. The Commission regrets that the efforts which it has made to save this economic asset have produced no results.

25. On the question of reuniting in Israel refugee families separated by the war, the Government of Israel agreed, at the Commission's request, to permit the readmission of wives and minor children of Arab breadwinners lawfully resident in Israel and to consider other compassionate cases for readmission, and declared itself ready to put this measure into effect immediately and independently of the solution of the refugee problem as a whole. The Government of Israel approached the Arab Governments, through the channel of the Mixed Armistice Commissions, with the suggestion that they should send representatives to enter into contact with the competent Israeli authorities to discuss and carry out the administrative aspects of the return. After considerable delay, the Arab States appointed their representatives on the Mixed Armistice Commissions to deal with the question and it is hoped that the plan will shortly be put into effect. The scope of this measure is considered too restricted by the Arab delegations, which have insisted on a wider interpretation of the term "family" in accordance with the Oriental concept.

26. On the question of blocked assets, the Government of Israel replied that it was prepared to discuss a reciprocal arrangement with the Arab States whereby the Arab assets blocked both in Israel and in the Arab States could be mutually released in equal proportion. The Arab delegations having accepted these conditions, it was possible to set up a Mixed Committee of Experts, under neutral chairmanship, to study and recommend to the Commission the means by which the release of these funds could be put into effect. In this Committee, created on humanitarian grounds and on a purely technical level, Arab and Israeli representatives entered into direct contact for the first time. The Committee was composed of one Israeli member, one Arab member representing the four Arab States and the interests of the refugees, and the Commission's Principal Secretary, who acted as Chairman. Although the deliberations of the Mixed Committee were carried out in an atmosphere of cordiality, they have not reached the stage of concrete suggestions. The General Committee, in full agreement with the interested parties, has therefore charged the Principal Secretary, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee, with pursuing the matter further upon his return to the Middle East.

27. The General Committee further proposed to the Israeli delegation that arrangements be made to permit certain Arabs living in territory under Arab control close to the armistice demarcation lines to cultivate their lands which lay within territory under Israeli control. The delegation of Israel stated that the above question fell within the competence of the Mixed Armistice Commissions. Nevertheless, the Commission instructed its Principal Secretary to take up this matter upon his return to Jerusalem.


* A/AC.25/3.

C. Economic Mission for the Middle East

28. On 23 August, the Commission decided, pursuant to paragraph 12 of the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948, to establish immediately an Economic Mission as a subsidiary body under the Commission's authority. The Mission is charged with examining the economic situation in the countries affected by the recent hostilities in Palestine and with making recommendations to the Commission for an integrated programme having the following purposes: to enable the Governments concerned to further such measures and develop programmes as are required to overcome the economic dislocations created by the hostilities; to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 11 of the General Assembly resolution of 11 December 1948, in order to reintegrate the refugees into the economic life of the area on a self-sustaining basis within a minimum period of time; and to promote economic conditions conducive to the maintenance of peace and stability in the area. The Commission further agreed that the Mission should be composed of a Chairman, to be nominated by the United States of America, and three Deputy Chairmen, to be nominated by the United Kingdom, France and Turkey, respectively. The terms of reference of the Economic Mission approved by the Commission are attached to the present report as Annex I.

29. The Economic Mission was rapidly constituted. On its way to the Middle East, the Mission stopped in Lausanne on 8 September 1949 for discussions with the Commission, the Arab and Israeli delegation and various specialized agencies of the United Nations. The Mission departed on 11 September 1949 for Beirut, where will establish headquarters.

D. The Territorial Question

30. In reply to the question contained in its memorandum of 15 August as to what territorial adjustments the delegations desired to make to the working document annexed to the Protocol of 12 May 1949, the Commission received clear and concrete statements of position on the territorial question both from the Arab delegations and from the delegation of Israel.

31. On 12 September, in the note referred to in the chapter on refugees, the Commission informed the various delegations that, taking into consideration the terms of the Protocol of 12 May 1949, their proposals exceeded the limits of what might be considered in the broadest sense, as "adjustments" of the map attached to this Protocol. The note went on to state that the Commission felt obliged to request all the delegations and their respective Governments to re-examine the question; it expressed the hope that upon the resumption of its work in New York, in October, it would find, in new proposals, a practical working basis upon which it could usefully pursue its work of conciliation.

32. The Commission further stated its conviction that if the delegations did not agree to make substantial modifications in the proposals contained in their replies to the memorandum of 15 August, or to advance new suggestions, it would be very difficult, or even impossible, to carry on constructive negotiations with a view to settlement of the territorial question, with any chance of success. It was, of course, understood that the chief objective of these negotiations would consist in determining the extent of the modifications or evaluating the new suggestions, by common agreement between the parties; and in this connexion the Commission would not fail to take into account the legitimate desire of the Governments to protect the economic interests and assure the security of their States.

33. The Commission pointed out that in its opinion it would be premature for it to present to the parties, even as simple suggestions, any specific proposals concerning the modifications envisaged above. It nonetheless reserves the right to do so and to avail itself of the right conferred upon it by paragraph 2 (a) of the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948 insofar as it considers necessary. It is essential, as the Commission has stressed, to restore at the earliest possible moment normal conditions of political and economic life in the Middle East. The Commission is convinced that excessive territorial demands would only impede the realization of this objective.

E. The Question of Jerusalem

34. On 1 September, the Commission approved a draft text of an Instrument establishing a permanent international regime for the Jerusalem area, and transmitted it to the Secretary-General for communication to the General Assembly, in accordance with paragraph 8 of the resolution of 11 December 1948.*

35. The Commission, in conformity with paragraph 7 of the same resolution, also communicated to all delegations a draft declaration regarding Holy Places, religious buildings and sites in Palestine outside the Jerusalem area, to be made by their respective Governments. This communication was also transmitted to the Secretary-General.**

36. In accordance with paragraph 8 of the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948, the Commission decided, on 23 August, to appoint a United Nations representative in Jerusalem. On 9 September, at the suggestion of the Secretary-General, it proceeded to appoint Dr. Alberto Gonzalez Fernandez. The Commission is convinced that Dr. Gonzalez Fernandez will receive, on the part of the Arab and Israeli authorities, the assistance necessary for the accomplishment of his task. The terms of reference of the United Nations representative area attached to this report as Annex II.

37. On 23 August, the representative of Egypt drew the Commission's attention to the provision, in paragraph 8 of the resolution of 11 December 1948, in which the Security Council is requested to take steps to ensure the demilitarization of Jerusalem at the earliest possible date. He emphasized that the provision had not yet been carried out. The Egyptian representative asked whether the Commission considered taking steps to implement this provision. The Commission could but transmit the foregoing observation of the Egyptian representative to the Secretary-General, for communication to the President of the Security Council.

F. Conclusions

38. The Conciliation Commission hopes that upon the resumption of its work in New York on 19 October, it will receive from the Arab and Israeli delegations replies to its note of 12 September, which will be of a nature to permit the successful pursuit of its efforts to conciliate the points of view of the parties. The Commission also places great hope in the assistance of the Economic Mission, whose first report is expected at the end of October, in connexion with the solution of the outstanding questions, in particular the poignant one of the refugees.


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