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Israel War of Independence: The Bernadotte Truce Plan

(Summer 1948)

During the summer of 1948, Count Folke Bernadotte was sent by the UN to Palestine to mediate a truce and try to negotiate a settlement. Bernadotte's plan called for the following:

  1. That the State of Israel surrender the Negev to the Arab State;
  2. That international Jerusalem with a large Jewish majority be turned over to the Arabs;
  3. That the port of Haifa, belonging to Israel, become a “free” port;
  4. That the airport of Lydda, belonging to Israel, also become “free”;
  5. That immigration to Israel be limited or suspended, depending on the desire of the Arabs in their neighboring state, after two years of free immigration.

The Arabs were expected to trade Western Galilee, occupied by Israeli troops, for the larger Negev. They were not asked to make any concessions from the rights allotted to them by the partition plan. They were asked merely to recognize the State of Israel, which, according to the plan of the mediator, would no longer be independent, since he envisaged economic union between the Arab and Jewish States of Palestine, a common defense or military union, and dependence of Jewish immigration to Israel on Arab consent. The Israelis were expected to extend the same courtesy and recognize the Arab State in Palestine.

This was similar to the boundaries that had been proposed prior to the partition vote and had been rejected by all sides. Bernadotte offered the proposal after the Arabs had gone to war to prevent partition and a Jewish state had been declared. The Jews and Arabs both rejected the plan.

Ironically, Bernadotte found little enthusiasm among the Arabs for independence. He wrote in his diary:

The Palestinian Arabs had at present no will of their own. Neither have they ever developed any specifically Palestinian nationalism. The demand for a separate Arab state in Palestine is consequently relatively weak. It would seem as though in existing circumstances most of the Palestinian Arabs would be quite content to be incorporated in Transjordan.

Bernadotte was subsequently assassinated by members of the Lehi Jewish underground group.

Sources: New York Post, (July 14, 1948); Folke Bernadotte, To Jerusalem, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1951), p. 113.