Possible Effects of a UN Arms Embargo on Israel and the Arabs
(August 5, 1948)
This CIA report assesses the military strength of the Arab and Israeli forces in early August 1948 and the possible impact of a UN arms embargo to the region. The U.S. already implemented an embargo, which was especially problematic for Israel as it had limited access to weapons, much of which was coming from Czechoslovakia. The Arabs, however, had a variety of sources of arms, including the British.
The report concludes that “neither Israel nor the Arab states have sufficient stocks of arms and equipment to carry out prolonged full-scale hostilities following the June 11th truce. Israel is weak in heavy equipment although it has adequate stocks of small arms and ammunition…The Arab states although superior in artillery armored vehicles and aircraft have only limited stocks of ammunition and replacement equipment.”
The CIA predicted, “The application of an effective UN arms embargo against both Israel and the Arab states would limit the scale of the fighting and would probably result in a military stalemate leading eventually to a compromise.” The Agency also expected that “Jewish extremists would resist any attempts at compromise and the Provisional government of Israel itself would probably make every effort to have the embargo modified before entering into negotiations with the Arabs. The Arabs would also be loath to make concessions. In the end however both Israel and the Arab states (or at least Transjordan) might feel constrained to accept a Jewish state exclusive of the Negeb [Negev].”
The Agency warned that a “UN embargo against the Jews alone would lead to eventual victory and would increase US prestige with the Arabs” while a “UN embargo against the Arab states alone would permit the Jews to obtain sufficient military supplies to take the offensive and force Arab acceptance of a Jewish state and the withdrawal of Arabs armed forces from Palestine.” In that event, the CIA believed the Arab states might leave the UN and “sever relations with the nations responsible for the embargo.”
The report concluded, “If the UN takes no positive action following the end of the truce, military developments will in large measure depend on the great powers. If the present US and UK embargoes are maintained fighting could continue on a greater scale but neither side would obtain decisive victory.”
It also warned that if Soviet aid allowed the Jews to gain an advantage, the UK would give additional help its Arab allies. This would provoke the Zionists to “increase the pressure on the US to end its embargo.” Using an argument that convinced President Truman to impose the embargo, the report said, “If the US did so the Palestine battle would become bloodier and U.S.-UK relations would be further strained.”