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Negotiations With Israel and Arabs Re Palestinian Refugees

(June 2, 1949)

Mr. Mark F. Ethridge to the Secretary of State


Lausanne, June 2, 1949—5 p. m.

Palun 180. For McGhee. Agree with proposals re refugees including survey group whose functions not clearly understood here when we recommended elimination. In light explanations consider most important.

Re commitments: Arab states assured me commitments re resettlement will be forthcoming when Israel makes her commitment re repatriation. Hopeful that will come about after Tel Aviv meetings now in progress. Eytan communicated my talk (Palun 1741) to Tel Aviv and left last night for consultations there.

Re approach by mission: In view Arab statements, most useful time for approach would be after Israel has made her commitment. It will be, perhaps disappointing in that Israel will say if she cannot have Gaza strip she will take only small number refugees. In that event us both here and in Washington will have to insist on greater number but it will probably still be necessary to persuade Arabs take greater number than they now contemplate.

[Here follow two paragraphs, dealing with the composition of the survey group, said to be “excellent,” and “next steps.”]

Reservation: I have one important reservation to all proposals re refugees. We do not think any commitment should be made until it is clear that both Arabs and Jews are in process reaching agreement re territorial settlement. In other words, if interested powers are committed to liquidating refugee problem, territorial problem itself may remain unsolved because use2 of intransigence of parties. Both refugee [Page 1087]and territorial problem should be solved simultaneously if possible in order increase possibility of successful solution.3


  1. Identified also as telegram 821, May 28, from Bern, p. 1069.
  2. The editors suggest that the word “use” should not appear in the text.
  3. The Department of State replied on June 7, setting forth its agreement “re desirability simultaneous solution territorial questions and refugee problem, but desires underscore necessity for positive progress towards solution refugee problem near future, in view importance time element with respect to GA and Congress. We therefore hope will be possible activate Economic Survey Group soon as Israel and Arabs firm up respective commitments re willingness accept specific numbers refugees and indicate willingness accept and cooperate with Survey Group. Survey activities cld then proceed concurrently with negots for final territorial settlement.” (telegram Unpal 137, 501.BB Palestine/6–249)

Source: U.S. State Department