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        General Assembly
6 May 1948


Held at Flushing Meadow, New York,
on Thursday, 6 May 1948, at 11 a.m.

President: Dr. J. ARCE (Argentina).

    Protection of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants:
    report of the Trusteeship Council (document A/544)

The PRESIDENT recalled that at the 132nd plenary meeting the General Assembly had adopted resolution 185 (S-2) asking 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 General Assembly to that effect".

He invited the President of the Trusteeship Council to submit the Council's conclusions to the Assembly.

Mr. SAYRE (United States of America) (President of the Trusteeship Council) reviewed the circumstances in which the Assembly had asked the Trusteeship Council to undertake the study in question. The report (document A/544) submitted to the Assembly that day had been unanimously adopted by the Trusteeship Council.

The first part of the report was a brief summary of the Council's debates, of the various proposals submitted to it and of the action taken on those proposals.

In the second part the Trusteeship Council drew the Assembly's attention to its efforts to obtain a cease-fire order within the Old City of Jerusalem. The President of the Assembly had already informed it of the success of those efforts. Since then the cease-fire order had come into force and it was understood that the two interested parties would consider details of a truce in the Old City in consultation with the British High Commissioner in Palestine. The Trusteeship Council believed that a truce throughout the municipality was an essential preliminary step, before other measures could be taken to ensure the protection of the Old City and its inhabitants.

The second conclusion in the report noted the undertakings given by the representatives of the Arab Higher Committee and the Jewish Agency to respect and safeguard the Holy Places.

The Council thought that the recommendation made to the Assembly in paragraph 3 of the conclusions and recommendations required very quick action by the Assembly. If that recommendation were accepted, it would be possible to assure some of the indispensable municipal services for the city of Jerusalem after 15 May. In fact, action should be taken before Sunday, 9 May 1948, as desired by the representative of the Mandatory Power. Unless the General Assembly requested it, no measure of that kind would be taken. Speed was desirable in order to give the Government of the Mandatory Power time to instruct its representatives in Jerusalem to invest the special municipal commissioner with the necessary additional powers.

Finally, in paragraph 4, the Trusteeship Council called the Assembly's attention to "the necessity of providing for the custody of the assets of the Government of Palestine in Jerusalem and for an effective maintenance of law and order in the municipal area pending a final settlement". The representative of the Mandatory Power had informed the Council that a special emergency ordinance would be enacted by the existing authorities in Jerusalem for the maintenance of law and order after 15 May. In that connexion, Mr.Sayre pointed out that the Assembly would have to take further measures, in addition to those recommended in the Trusteeship Council's report.

If the Council had had more time, it could have reached agreement on further measures for the protection of the City and its inhabitants. The report nevertheless provided a starting point for constructive action.

Speaking as representative of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Mr.Sayre further approved the Trusteeship Council's report. He would support the recommendation to the General Assembly to appoint under Palestine legislation before 15 May, a neutral acceptable to both Jews and Arabs to take over the functions of the present Municipal Commission.

Sir Carl BERENDSEN (New Zealand) welcomed the Trusteeship Council's success in obtaining a provisional truce in the Old City of Jerusalem under difficult circumstances. Every delegation should be grateful to the Council for that achievement. Limited and insecure though it was, the measure might have very widespread psychological consequences.

On the other hand, it was most disappointing that the results achieved were so unsatisfactory, and the report itself seemed entirely inadequate. In fact the report contained no important proposal. That was largely due to the fact that the Trusteeship Council had confined itself to measures acceptable to both parties, and to the regrettable fact that neither Jews nor Arabs had been willing to agree. If the agreement of the parties could be obtained, either on Jerusalem or on the whole Palestine question, as must be hoped, that would obviously be the best solution. But if, in the absence of such agreement, the Assembly admitted that it could do nothing, that would be an admission of weakness that it could not afford, if the interests of humanity were taken into account.

In view of the present situation, the General Assembly could not afford to wash its hands of the fate of Jerusalem. The Assembly had met that day to consider the question of Jerusalem alone, without prejudice to the question of Palestine as a whole. If it did not go further than the Trusteeship Council on that particular point, it would fail in its duty.

The Trusteeship Council's recommendation amounted to the appointment by the Mandatory Power of a special municipal commissioner, in other words a mayor, whose functions would be confined to rather limited municipal activities that hardly met the needs of the situation. The Mandatory Power suggested that it could give the special commissioner wider powers, under his official terms of reference, such as the right and the duty to maintain law and order. That was an urgently needed measure and for his part he would support it. As for possible doubts regarding the authority to be given to the commissioner from a legal and practical viewpoint, the Mandatory Power had indicated that the commissioner's authority would continue after 15 May. But what would be the result? The special commissioner would be subject to no existing authority. He could not be replaced if he were no longer able to perform his duties or if he resigned. He could only continue to carry out his duties in so far as the Arabs and the Jews agreed to allow him to do so, and whether they were limited or extensive, he could not perform them without support. In view of what had happened in Jerusalem in the past twenty-five years and of what was happening there at that moment, the existence of such agreement was an entirely unwarranted assumption.

The reason why the Trusteeship Council had made that recommendation was that there was no agreement between the two parties, and that there was no indication that such an agreement would be reached in the future. Thus the powers of the authorities in Jerusalem either would not be handed over because there was nobody to assume them, or would be handed over to somebody whose only chance of success lay in an agreement that was in practice unattainable. Moreover, even if the Jews and the Arabs were to agree on the appointment of a special commissioner, there was no certainty that they would continue to agree at any given moment in the future. The commissioner would have to take certain decisions, and whatever he did would be displeasing to one or other of the parties, or to both.

As things stood, he would have no support, no authority and no force at his disposal to maintain the necessary but secondary services, such as municipal services. It could not, therefore, be said that the measures proposed by the Trusteeship Council were by any means adequate.

In spite of what he had said, his delegation would support any agreement in respect of Jerusalem or of the whole of Palestine that was acceptable to the Jews and the Arabs. It was his sincerest wish that an agreement should be reached.

To be satisfied with the plan proposed for Jerusalem -- a plan founded on a very vague hope instead of on a belief -- was to gamble with the lives of innocent people. The Assembly should go further than that and, whether the Jews and the Arabs agreed or not, should establish in Jerusalem an authority capable of maintaining order and carrying on the essential services. That result could be achieved by giving the special commissioner, or a representative of the United Nations at Jerusalem the full support of the United Nations; for instance, by granting him authority to take over the assets of the city, which would show that he was taking over, in Jerusalem, the functions and assets of the Palestine Government in so far as the city was concerned, and by providing him with an adequate staff and a police force, which in the opinion of the Mandatory Power should consist of at least a thousand men even in relatively peaceful conditions.

It might be asked by what authority the General Assembly or even the Security Council could take such steps. In view of the present circumstances he was not prepared to go into legal details. The needs of mankind were sufficient reason. Moreover, there was no question of adopting a permanent solution, but only of preserving the Holy City and preventing its destruction. In any case the Assembly would have just as much authority to take such a decision as it had had to adopt resolution 181 (II of 29 November 1947, namely, an authority that had then been considered sufficient. In order to remove all doubt, the question could be settled by adopting there and then a special trusteeship agreement for the whole city of Jerusalem.

In his opinion the United Nations had no need to wait until the Jews and Arabs were in agreement before taking decisions. In fact he was inclined to think that the two parties would not reach agreement without unequivocal intervention by the United Nations.

There remained the question of carrying out the measures upon which the General Assembly might decide. In the particular case of Jerusalem, any intervention or enforcement measures taken by the United Nations would not be equivalent to imposing an outside decision; they would merely ensure that both parties and the whole population could live in security. In any case measures for the enforcement of law and order would be required; in any city, however peaceful, that was an essential service.

In conclusion, he appealed to the General Assembly not to repeat the grave mistake of considering the end and ignoring the means. It was time to take a decision and act upon it.

Mr. KATZ-SUCHY (Poland) recalled that at the 124th meeting of the First Committee his delegation had welcomed the proposal that consideration of the problem of protecting Jerusalem should be referred to the Trusteeship Council. However, he considered the measures proposed in the Trusteeship Council's report entirely inadequate. There was nothing in the report that provided for the protection of the city or of its inhabitants; in fact the painful labour of the Trusteeship Council had produced a mouse. The special commissioner who was to be appointed would have even less powers than a village mayor and would be completely powerless if the truce between the two parties were broken. Consequently it was a futile measure and the United Nations should not assume responsibility for it. Why could not the Mandatory Power take this measure under existing legislation? Moreover, the legal status of the commissioner would be extremely doubtful after 15 May.

Mr. Katz-Suchy had expected the Trusteeship Council to submit the draft statute for the city of Jerusalem (document A/541), which it had already extensively examined; but it had confined itself to submitting meaningless recommendations. On the other hand, very sensible proposals such as that of the representative of Australia 1/ had had to be abandoned owing to opposition from the interested parties. It was significant that throughout the report such phrases were to be found as: "This was not acceptable..." He considered that the majority could, and should, take certain measures to safeguard peace, and that the minority should give way.

In conclusion, he expressed great disappointment regarding the report. He had legal objections to the futile measures it proposed. He refused to become a party to such measures and stated that he could not vote in favour of the report. Moreover, he requested that the recommendations should be put to the vote paragraph by paragraph.

Mr. RODRIGUEZ FABREGAT (Uruguay) considered that it would have been preferable for the Trusteeship Council's report to be referred to the First Committee. That procedure would have precluded a long discussion in plenary meeting and might perhaps have resulted in a more substantial draft resolution being submitted to the Assembly.

Reference of the question to the Trusteeship Council was perfectly justified. However that body had been entrusted with a task beyond the normal scope of its work. As was to be expected, the Council had found it difficult to adopt specific proposals.

He recalled that in the First Committee the Uruguayan delegation had always supported any proposal conducive to the establishment of a truce, even if it were limited to the Old City of Jerusalem. Advantage might have been taken of the draft statute for Jerusalem already proposed by the Trusteeship Council. The Council's report asked the Assembly to adopt a very simple measure; the Mandatory Power was to be asked to appoint a neutral acceptable to both parties as special municipal commissioner. Reservations might be made regarding that proposal. For instance, would the official remain in office after 15 May? To what authority would he be responsible after that date? Would the two parties enter into relations with him or would the Assembly implement that resolution?

In spite of those few reservations he felt that at the present meeting there should be no detailed discussion of the various objections that he himself and other representatives had raised. He recalled that his delegation would support any proposal calculated to secure a truce and he therefore favoured the recommendations contained in the Trusteeship Council's report.

The PRESIDENT announced that in order to facilitate the voting on the conclusions submitted in the report of the Trusteeship Council, he had asked the Secretariat to prepare a draft resolution (document A/545) based on those conclusions.

Mr. CORDIER (Executive Assistant of the Secretary-General) then read the text of the resolution as follows:

"The General Assembly,

"Having 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 General Assembly to that effect,

"Takes note of and approves the conclusions and recommendations of the Trusteeship Council, as set forth in its report to the General Assembly on the protection of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants;

"Recommends that the Mandatory Power appoint under Palestine legislation before 15 May 1948, a neutral acceptable to both Arabs and Jews, as special municipal commissioner,2/ who shall, with the co-operation of the community committees already existing in Jerusalem, carry out the functions hitherto performed by the Municipal Commission;

"Decides that urgent attention should be given to the necessity of providing for the custody of the assets of the Government of Palestine in Jerusalem and for effective maintenance of law and order in the municipal area pending a final settlement."

Mr. PARODI (France) stated that he would not repeat what he had said at the 121st meeting of the First Committee regarding the seriousness of the problem raised by the situation in Jerusalem. The representative of New Zealand had recalled that situation and the responsibilities devolving upon the General Assembly. That had been recognized when the Assembly adopted resolution 185(S-2) referring the problem to the Trusteeship Council.

The Assembly had before it a recommendation from the Trusteeship Council. The special municipal commissioner would have the authority conferred on him by an international appointment, but he would only perform subordinate functions and would have no police powers.

Moreover, the Trusteeship Council had itself recognized the complete inadequacy of its proposals and had requested the General Assembly to reconsider the question.

He did not think that the Assembly need necessarily adhere to a solution accepted by both parties. It was too late for the Jews and the Arabs to reach a formal agreement, and progress must be made. It was more important than ever to provide special protection for Jerusalem and the Assembly had no right to neglect that urgent problem.

He still favoured the establishment of an international police force. It was recognized that if an international police force could be established at Jerusalem it would certainly be respected by both parties. It would be respected because of its international status, because of the object of its mission and also, no doubt, because that party which failed to respect it would risk turning against itself the uncertain and hesitant opinion of the nations of the world and of the Assembly. That was certainly a risk that neither of the adversaries could reasonably take. There was only a little time left, but that was a further reason for making haste.

Moreover, the Truce Commission at Jerusalem might be rendered powerless if hostilities spread to the capital. Consequently, the Assembly must establish a force capable of maintaining law and order in the city.

For those reasons, he stated that he would not be able to vote in favour of the present text of the report. The disparity between the seriousness of the danger and the recommendations made in the report was too great, and could only impair the Assembly's authority.

He suggested the following text (document A/546) to replace the last paragraph of the draft resolution proposed by the President (document A/545).

Mr. TSARAPKIN (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) thought that after the observations which had so far been made regarding the report of the Trusteeship Council, it must be admitted that the Council had not fulfilled the task entrusted to it. Such a result was not surprising.

He took up in detail the various proposals made by the Trusteeship Council in its report, and noted that none of its conclusions was actually a recommendation.

In connexion with the functions of the special municipal commissioner, he recalled the amendment submitted by his delegation to the Trusteeship Council.3/ That amendment envisaged the appointment of a person responsible for the supervision of essential services. He considered that the commissioner should be appointed by the United Nations and not by the Mandatory Power, which would no longer have any authority in Palestine after 15 May. If he were appointed under the conditions indicated in the report, the United Nations would be set aside and the commissioner would not be subject to any authority. Consequently, the proposal was not acceptable in that form.

Mr. HOOD (Australia) did not intend to defend the recommendations of the Trusteeship Council. He found them inadequate and far from meeting the urgent requirements of the situation.

But the Trusteeship Council had not been in a position to carry out the task entrusted to it by the General Assembly. It was fundamentally incapable of considering practical situations of a political nature, such as the question of Jerusalem, or of taking measures that required enforcement. The Charter gave it no authority to do so. A political body should have been instructed to make recommendations on the problem, based on political factors.

He observed that the draft statute for the city of Jerusalem was ready and that the Council could have applied it, adapting the emergency provisions to present requirements.

With regard to the proposal to appoint a special municipal commissioner, he stated that that was the maximum result which the Trusteeship Council could achieve, in view of the necessity for agreement with the two parties. He thought that it might be possible for the commissioner to acquire more extensive powers in the future and it was therefore important that his appointment should receive the express moral sanction of the United Nations.

With regard to the last paragraph of the draft resolution proposed by the President, which recommended to the General Assembly, "that urgent attention should be given to the necessity of providing for the custody of the assets of the Government of Palestine in Jerusalem and for effective maintenance of law and order in the municipal area pending a final settlement", he felt that if the Assembly adopted that recommendation, it would imply satisfaction with the inadequate measures proposed.

He stated that he would vote in favour of the first three paragraphs of the draft resolution, but suggested that the final paragraph should be drafted in a manner better calculated to show the Assembly's determination not to let matters rest where they were but, on the contrary, to pursue its enquiry in order to find more effective measures.

He proposed the following text for the final paragraph: "The General Assembly decides that continuing urgent attention should be given by the First Committee to the question of further measures for the protection of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants (document A/547)."

Finally, he suggested that the Assembly should adopt the operative part of the draft resolution forthwith and refer the consideration of other proposals, such as the French amendment, to the First Committee. He would be prepared to move a resolution to that effect.

The meeting rose at 1.15 p.m.



1/ See Official Records of the Trusteeship Council, Second Session, 42nd meeting.

2/ On 14 May 1948, Mr. Harold Evans was appointed Special Municipal Commissioner.

3/ See Official Records of the Trusteeship Council, Second Session, 46th meeting.


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