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Attitude of the Parties on the Territorial Issue; Eighth Progress Report of the Palestine Conciliation Commission

(October 23, 1950)

In this report the Commission summarised the proposals submitted by the parties during negotiations with it between May 1949 and July 1950. Excerpts:

On 21 May [1949], the Arab delegations proposed that refugees coming from certain areas defined on the map annexed to the Protocol of 12 May 1949, comprising those from Western Galilee, from the town of Jaffa, from the central area including Lydda, Ramle and Beersheba, from the southern coastal zone and from the Jerusalem area as defined on the above-mentioned map, should be enabled to return to their homes forthwith. The Arab delegations pointed Out to the Commission that this proposal had a territorial aspect, since it envisaged the return of refugees to areas designated as Arab territory and which were, in principle, to be recognised as Arab territory.

The Commission transmitted this proposal to the Israel delegation, which rejected it, on the grounds that it was unrealistic and that the Israel delegation could not accept, as the criterion for a territorial settlement in the existing circumstances, a certain proportionate distribution of territory which had been agreed upon in 1947.

The Israel delegation, for its part, made several proposals of a territorial nature which were Subsequently transmitted by the Commission to the Arab delegations. It proposed that the political frontiers between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Lebanon, respectively, Should be the same as those which separated Egypt and Lebanon from Palestine under the British Mandate. In the event of such a proposal being accepted, and if the Gaza area were incorporated in the State of Israel, the latter would be prepared to accept as citizens of Israel the entire Arab Population of the area, both inhabitants and refugees, on the understanding that resettlement of the refugees in Israel territory would be subject to such international aid as would be available for refugee settlement in general.

Concerning the political frontier between Israel and Jordan, the Israel delegation proposed that with regard to the central area of Palestine then under Jordanian military authority, the boundary between it and Israel should follow the then existing line between Israel and Jordanian military forces, subject to certain modifications in the interests of both parties. The Israel delegation stated that Israel had no ambitions regarding this central area. It considered that the disposition of the area was a matter which should form the subject of a proposal agreed upon and put forward by the delegations of the Arab States, the Arab inhabitants of the territory, and the refugees. Until the future status of the area was settled, Israel would continue to recognise the Hashimite Kingdom of the Jordan as the de facto military occupying Power.

Concerning the remainder of the frontier between Israel and Jordan, the Israel delegation proposed that it should be the same as that between Transjordan and Palestine under British Mandate.

Regarding the Israel proposal concerning Israel's frontiers with Egypt and Lebanon, respectively, including the Gaza proposal, the Arab delegations informed the Commission on 30 May that in their view the proposals constituted a flagrant violation, of the terms of the Protocol of 12 May 1949, since they considered that the proposals involved annexations rather than the territorial adjustments envisaged by the Protocol.

The Commission attempted to arrest the tendency of the Arab delegations to insist on negotiations on the refugee question, as well as the pressure exerted by the Israel delegation in favour of territorial negotiations, by urging the Arab States to present concrete territorial proposals and by endeavouring to persuade the State of Israel that it must contribute in a substantial manner to the solution of the refugee problem.

On 15 August, the Commission addressed a memorandum to the parties asking each delegation to state specifically the territorial adjustments it wished to make to the working document attached to the Protocol of 12 May 1949.

In their replies dated 29 August, the Arab delegations claimed on behalf of the Arabs all territories which under the Protocol were allotted to the Arabs and which were, under existing circumstances, under the authority of Israel, as well as the Negev and Eastern Galilee, in order to facilitate the resettlement in Palestine of a larger number of refugees.

For its part, the Israel delegation stated on 31 August that, in addition to the territory indicated on the map attached to the Protocol of 12 May 1949, all other areas falling within the control and jurisdiction of Israel under the terms of the Armistice Agreements concluded by Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, the Hashimite Kingdom of the Jordan and Syria should be formally recognised as Israel territory. The Israel delegation observed that "only the territorial adjustment proposed above falls equally in its effects on the rights and position of each negotiating party, makes no encroachment upon existing sovereignties, and preserves the juridical status and actual stability achieved by the existing agreements".

In reply to these observations the Commission pointed out, in a letter dated 5 September, that in its opinion any reference to the Armistice Agreements in connection with the final settlement of the territorial question in Palestine should be considered in the light of the clauses contained in the texts of the Agreements themselves. Article II, paragraph 2 of the Israel-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement stated that: "It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations". Each of the other three Armistice Agreements contained a clause stating that the armistice demarcation line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims and positions of either party to the armistice as regards ultimate settlement of tile Palestine question.

On 12 September, the Commission informed the Arab and Israel delegations that, taking into consideration the terms of the Protocol of 12 May 1949, their proposals exceeded the limit of what might be considered "adjustments" of tile map attached to the Protocol. The Commission felt obliged therefore to request tile governments concerned to re-examine the question, and to submit new proposals which could be used as a practical working basis for further negotiations.

In New York the Arab delegations informed the Commission that they still adhered to the terms of the Protocol of 12 May 1949 and that it was Lip to the Commission to state the extent to which it considered the Arab territorial demands excessive. They saw no reason to depart from their proposals and the stand which they had taken was to be considered as final. At the same time they urged the Commission to undertake a function of mediation and to present its own suggestions or proposals.

The Israel delegation, in reply to the Commission's note of 12 September, maintained in their entirety the territorial proposals which had been submitted to tile Commission in Lausanne. In its reply, dated 27 October, the Israel delegation stated that:

"The Government of Israel now asserts its title to the territory over which its authority is actually recognised... Although some of the invading Arab armies still stand on the soil of Palestine, Israel is not advancing any further territorial claims.

But of the territory now constituting the State of Israel, there can be no cession. "

The delegation further reiterated its desire to open direct peace negotiations with each of the interested parties and questioned any procedure by which the Commission would itself formulate specific proposals.

During the Commission's Geneva session, from January to July 1950, the territorial question as such did not come under discussion since the Commission's efforts were devoted to the formulation and discussion of its procedural proposals for mixed committees, designed to provide a framework for the negotiation of all questions outstanding between the parties.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs