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United Nations: Jewish Reaction to the Trusteeship Idea

(March 20, 1948)

The Jewish Agency declared its opposition and announced that it would continue to fight for the establishment of the Jewish State. Below are the texts of an address by Dr. Silver in the Security Council on 19 March 1948, following the speech of Ambassador Austin, and of a statement to the press by Mr. Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv on 20 March:

Rabbi Silver (in the Security Council)

I should like at the outset to thank Mr. Austin for the supplementary explanation which he gave on the question of the phrase, "incursion by land and sea", to which I referred this morning. I should like to point out that, in accordance with the statement of the Mandatory Power which he quoted, and contrary to what is stated in paragraph 5 of his report, the Mandatory Power did not confirm that any incursion of illegal arms or of armed forces into Palestine had actually occurred by sea.

I hope that we shall have the opportunity at a later stage to discuss more fully the statement which was presented by Mr. Austin, to discuss at great length some of the legal arguments presented in that statement, and perhaps to dwell again upon that quest for the will-o'-the-wisp of an agreed solution which the spokesmen of the United States delegation in the past, as well as of the United Kingdom Government, have stated time and again is not to be had.

I wish to take this opportunity to give the reaction of the Jewish Agency to the main recommendations contained in Mr. Austin's proposals. The proposal of the United States Government to suspend all efforts to implement the partition plan approved by the United Nations General Assembly last November, under the leadership of the United States, and to establish a temporary trusteeship for Palestine, is a shocking reversal of its position.

Up to the last few days, the spokesman for the United States delegation has told the Security Council that the United States Government firmly stands by partition. Both the President of the United States and the Secretary of State have repeatedly within recent weeks maintained that the position of the United States on partition remained unaltered. We are at an utter loss to understand the reason for this amazing reversal which will bring confusion, is likely to lead to increased violence in Palestine and will incalculably hurt the prestige and authority of the United Nations, for the effectiveness of which the President of the United States pleaded again as recently as Wednesday last.

We can only assume from the statement of the United States delegation that the reason for scrapping a decision of the United Nations General Assembly, overwhelmingly approved by its members, was the threat on the part of some Member States to alter that decision by violence. This will be a fateful capitulation on the part of this world Organization to threats and intimidation, which will completely destroy all of its future effectiveness as an instrument for the settlement of international disputes and for the maintenance of world peace.

It should be clear to everyone that the establishment of a trusteeship by the United Nations in Palestine will not automatically ensure peace in that country, and that force will have to be used to maintain that arrangement, just as it would have been necessary to carry out the partition decision of the United Nations.

The statement that the plan proposed by the General Assembly is an integral plan which cannot succeed unless each of its parts can be carried out is incorrect. This conception was never part of the plan. Indeed, it is contrary to the statement made by the representative of the United States during the second session of the General Assembly. The setting tip of one State was not made conditional upon the setting up of the other State. Mr. Herschel Johnson, representing the United States delegation, speaking in a sub-committee of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question on 28 October 1947, stated, in discussing this very matter in connection with economic union: "The element of mutuality would not necessarily be a factor, as the document might be signed by one party only."

It is clear that an attempt is being made to force a solution upon the Jewish people of Palestine, which would diminish its sovereignty, territory and immigration, such as was provided for in the partition plan. Otherwise, no new proposals would now be made by the United States delegation looking toward a new solution. The United States knows full well that the Arabs have opposed and continue to oppose every solution which offers any satisfaction to the legitimate rights of the Jewish people in Palestine.

The Jewish Agency has repeatedly been under the necessity of stating that the partition plan represented the maximum sacrifice on the part of the Jewish people beyond which it cannot go. Any proposals calling for further sacrifices will have to be imposed upon the Jewish community of Palestine by force. We hope that the United Nations will not knowingly assume the role of the British Mandatory in an effort to carry out the kind of restrictive, crippling and discriminatory measures under which the country has been administered in recent years.

We are under the obligation at this time to repeat what we stated at a[262nd meeting] meeting of the Security Council last week: The decision of the General Assembly remains valid for the Jewish people. We have accepted it and we are prepared to abide by it. If the United Nations Palestine Commission is unable to carry out the mandates which were assigned to it by the General Assembly, the Jewish people of Palestine will move forward in the spirit of that resolution and will do everything which is dictated by considerations of national survival and by considerations of justice and historic rights.

It is with deep sorrow that we state that the world will not profit by the lesson which is now being read to it by the United States: that a revision of an international judgment, maturely arrived at after prolonged and objective investigation and discussion, can be extorted by threats and armed defiance.

The Jewish State Exists

TEL AVIV, Saturday. - Outright rejection of any kind of trusteeship, coupled with an affirmation that the Jewish State would be rebuilt, was voiced by Mr. David Ben-Gurion, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, in a statement to journalists at the Press Club here tonight. Mr. Ben-Gurion, who heard the American statement over the wireless today, described the reversal as "a surrender to the terrorism of the Arab gangs, armed by the British Foreign Office and brought to Palestine by its sufferance."

The American statement was more damaging to the UN and its authority and prestige, said Mr. Ben-Gurion, than to the Jews. He emphasized that the American stand did not fundamentally change the situation in Palestine, "nor will it prevent the establishment of the Jewish State," he added.

He explained that the UN resolution of 29 November, though of great moral and political value, did not in itself achieve the practical establishment of the Jewish State. That, he declared emphatically, depended upon Jewish strength. "It is by our strength, if mobilized to the utmost, that the State will arise even now." He continued:

"On 29 November, I did not share the great jubilation of the Yishuv; I shall not now share in any gloom or despondency that may have been caused by the American statement."

Rejecting the American proposal of a trusteeship, Mr. Ben-Gurion said:

"We shall not agree to any kind of trusteeship, whether permanent or temporary, even for the shortest time. We shall no longer submit to any foreign domination whatever. We insist on the termination of British rule.

We shall devote still more attention to the requirements of our security. All our efforts, manpower, strength and means must be devoted to security purposes.

The Jewish State exists, and will continue to exist, because we defend it. The Jewish State will find the way to mutual understanding with the Arab people. We on our part have no quarrel with the Arabs, and if they want peace, the hand of friendship will always be extended to them by the Jewish State.

As it was twelve months ago, and six months ago, so today our political programme falls under three headings, in the order I name them: security; a Jewish State; a Jewish-Arab alliance. "

Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs