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General Assembly

10 January 1948



Considerations Affecting Certain of the Provisions of the General Assembly Resolution on the “Future Government of Palestine”: Relations Between the Mandatory Power and the Commission

(Working Paper Prepared by the Secretariat).

1. Practically the entire Assembly Resolution and Plan involves the relationship between the Mandatory Power and the Commission. The following provisions, however, are of most direct concern:
“…… Paragraphs A.1 and A.2 have been discussed in Working Paper A/AC.21/W2 and some of the other specific problems will be dealt with under their respective headings in subsequent papers.

2. The United Kingdom has made the following statements with respect to its acceptance of the Assembly’s Resolution:

3. The conditions, subject to which the United Kingdom accepted the Assembly’s decision are as follows: 4. Mr. Bevin or Mr. Creech Jones in their statements mentioned a number of matters on which the United Kingdom intended to carry on negotiations with the Commission: 5. The relations between the Mandatory Power and the Commission may be conveniently dealt with under the following headings: (A) The period before the arrival of the Commission in Palestine

6. Mr. Creech Jones stated in the House of Commons in 11 December 1947:

7. There is no doubt that the Commission can do a great deal of preliminary work outside Palestine. Besides “acquainting itself with the problems it has to tackle”, the Commission may consider it advisable to undertake the following in New York or in London: 8. The Commission will have to decide if several of the above measures could be taken to better advantage inside of Palestine. In any case, it seems that for the most effective fulfilment of its duties, is the Commission will need to complete in Palestine itself, before the termination of the Mandate, the following three preliminary tasks: (a) a detailed study of the administrative machine and its 30 departments. (b) a similar study of security requirements, and the machinery for maintaining law and order, (c) the enlistment of personnel and constitution of and organs necessary to carry on the functions of government on the termination of the Mandate.

(B) The Period between the Arrival of the Commission and the Termination of the Mandate.

9. During this period the Mandatory Government has announced that it would retain undivided control of Palestine. Under paragraphs B.2 and B.12, however, the Assembly’s Plan recommends that in areas from which the British armed forces have been withdrawn, the administration of Palestine shall be progressively turned over to the Commission, and that the Mandatory Power should retain full responsibility for administration in the areas still occupied its armed forces. Mr. Martin drew attention to this formal conflict both in Sub-Committee I and in the Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine. The conflict may be resolved when the Commission and the Mandatory Power study the best means of co-ordinating their plans, account being taken of the situation existing in Palestine.

10. With respect to the last two sentences of paragraph B.12, Mr. Martin stated in the Ad Hoc Committee on 22 November 1947:

Through negotiations with the Mandatory Power, the Commission, also in this respect, may be able to find a working arrangement which would allow it to take, prior to the termination of the Mandate, various or preparatory measures for implementing the Assembly’s Plan.

11. During this period the same considerations which apply to responsibility for civil administration will also apply with respect to the maintenance of law and order. It is a matter of vital importance, however, that the Commission be permitted to take preparatory steps leading to the establishment by the Provisional Councils of Government of the armed militias. Since the Mandatory Power has stated that it desires a smooth and orderly transfer of powers to the Commission, it may be prepared to co-operate with the Commission in this regard.

12. With respect to the details of civilian administration, the Commission may wish to undertake inter alia the preparatory tasks outlined in paragraph 8 above. According to paragraph B.13 of the Assembly plan the guiding principle in the transfer of power is “to ensure continuity in the functioning of administrative services.” It follows from the statements made by Mr. Bevin in the House of Commons that the Mandatory Power accepts this principle. The Commission may wish to negotiate with the Mandatory Government to agree to such changes of personnel and administration in Government departments prior to the termination of the Mandate, as will enable the smooth working of those departments thereafter. Those changes in the light of the Assembly’s recommendation, could take the following forms:

(C) The period between the Termination of the Mandate and the Final Evaluation of British Forces

13. As was pointed out in paragraph 3 above, there is apparently need of a further elucidation of the final intentions of the Mandatory Power concerning the transfer of its powers to the Commission. However, according to the latest official British statements the termination of the Mandate would take place on an appointed day, not later than 15 May 1948. As has been stated in Working Paper A/AC.21/W.2, it seems that in one day, the Mandatory Power intends to pass from a state of full responsibility for the control of Palestine to a state of complete non-responsibility (except for areas still occupied). Conversely, the Commission would pass at same time from a state of non-responsibility to a state of full responsibility (except for area still occupied). The Mandatory Power has stated that it would not transfer any of its powers or responsibilities to the Provisional Councils or other local bodies, but would hand them over to the Commission. There is nothing in the Assembly’s Plan to prevent the Commission immediately transferring authority to the Provisional Councils. In fact, since the Commission itself will hardly be in a position to carry on the administration itself, having neither the personnel nor other facilities (to collect taxes or pay wages, for example) it may appear that this advisable that this be done, if circumstances permit.

14. Sir Alexander Cadogan stated in Sub-Committee I on 20 November 1947, that after the Mandate was terminated, the British would be present in non-evacuated areas, not as the Mandatory Power, but as an army of occupation, and would administer those areas as occupation zone under military law. The United Kingdom would give the Commission advance notice of its proposed evacuation of the various areas, and on evacuation would hand over to the Commission. The situation might not be strictly legal, and locked “untidy” on paper, but it might work very well in practice. The Mandatory Power could not give full authority to the Commission on the termination of the Mandate, as it would entail a division of authority in a given area between the Commission and the its military authorities.

Mr. Martin stated also in Sub-Committee I, on 20 and 21 November 1947, that, in maintaining law and order in the areas where they remained occupation, the military authorities must have “the last word”. If the military authorities considered it might disturb law and order, they would not permit any delimitation of boundaries, nor the operation of the Provisional Councils nor the entry of the Commission in those areas. It thus might be impossible to complete the frontier demarcation until after the final British withdrawal. While he had no exact information on the withdrawal plans, he thought that the military zones or areas would not necessarily have to be understood in the technical sense, but would constitute only the actual areas that were in the physical occupation of the troops.

It will be noted that Mr. Creech Jones stated on 11 December 1947 that on the termination of the Mandate political officers would be left behind to co-operate with British troops until their departure.

It appears, therefore, that the relationship between the Commission and the British military authorities might usefully be clarified in the course of the negotiations between the Commission and the Mandatory Power.

15. With respect to the City of Jerusalem, Mr. Creech Jones stated that after the termination of the Mandate, the United Nations would be responsible for the safety of the City and its Holy Places, thus implying that British troops would have been evacuated (see Working Paper, A/A.C.21/W.2, paragraph 5 (f) ). During the period which will precede the establishment of the Special International Regime, appropriate measures will have to be taken to ensure essential services and the maintenance of law and order in the City and its Holy Places. An efficient administration and an adequate police must be maintained.

The Commission may therefore wish to consider this question at an early date.

(D) The period between the Final Evacuation of British Forces and the Date of Independence

16. During this period the Commission and, under its direction, “the Provisional Councils of Government, will have full responsibility for all the functions of Government for all of Palestine.

Mr. Creech Jones stated on 11 December 1947 that, after the final evacuation of British troops, “it may be desirable for political officers to be attached to the various government authorities set up, in order to assist British

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