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Palestine and the Great Powers, 1945-1948

Palestine and the Great Powers, 1945-1948

Michael J. Cohen
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Palestine and the Great Powers, 1945-1948
    Book Description:

    Cohen examines the struggle leading to the creation of the state of Israel, placing British evacuation of Palestine in the context of Britain's postwar weakness. The author describes the policies and character of each of the major actors in his story--Bevin. Truman. Ben-Gurion, and the Mufti of Jerusalem.

    Originally published in 1986.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5357-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Note on the Use of Sources
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
    (pp. 3-10)

    At San Remo 7 in April, 1920, after more than a year of haggling and recurrent crises, Britain and France agreed finally to share between themselves the Middle Eastern spoils of the Great War. Considerable modifications were made to the notorious Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. Palestine, which according to that agreement was supposed to become an area of international administration, was now recognized as a zone of outright British interest. In return, Britain forsook the Hashemite cause in Syria and gave France carte blanche in that country. During the proceedings, the American ambassador whiled away his time reading his newspaper...

    (pp. 11-28)

    As prime minister, Churchill had taken a pro-Zionist stand on every issue connected with Palestine during the war—from the Land Transfers Bill promulgated in February 1940, to the various schemes for a Jewish fighting force, to the renewed discussion of partition itself from 1943. Yet apart from his success in pushing through the decision to raise a Jewish brigade in September 1944 (this was a belated emasculated version of the Jewish division plan agreed to by Churchill's cabinet in October 1940), Churchill did not press to a positive conclusion any pro-Zionist measure. Neither did he seriously contemplate the dismissal...

    (pp. 29-42)

    When the Labour government took office, the cabinet was united on three major policy principles: “the maintenance of full employment; the transfer to public ownership at least of the ‘commanding heights of the economy’; and the enactment by public action of the egalitarian welfare state.”¹ However, it became immediately apparent that financial and political problems would not only severely hamper the government’s social policies, but would indeed claim a major proportion of the cabinet’s time and energy.

    On August 14, 1945, the new chancellor of the exchequer, Hugh Dalton, circulated to the cabinet a memorandum written by Lord Keynes, which...

    (pp. 43-67)

    This is not the place for a full-scale survey of the Truman presidency. However, a few comments are necessary, in order to comprehend better the reasoning and motives behind Truman's Palestine policy.

    Harry S Truman was a man of great contradictions, who has, not surprisingly, provoked contrasting biographical portraits. He was not nearly so ignorant as some contemporary observers thought him, but neither does his record quite fit in with the legend some latter-day historians have constructed. Truman was capable of great determination and prided himself on being able to make a decision and then put the issue out of...

    (pp. 68-95)

    The Yishuv’s military preparations had begun long before Bevin’s statement in November 1945. Even before the end of the war, Ben-Gurion (chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive and first prime minister of Israel) had foreseen the main challenge that would face the Yishuv eventually—war with the Arabs. On July 1, 1945, he met in New York with seventeen Jewish millionaires sympathetic to Zionism and asked them to set up a special fund to meet the Yishuv’s defense and immigration needs. A committee was formed, headed by Henry Montor and Rudolf Sonnenborn, which established a fictitious company called the Sonnenborn...

    (pp. 96-115)

    On November 13, 1945, the day on which Bevin had announced the appointment of the Ango-American committee, the government sent individual notes to the Arab states, asking their acquiescence to continued Jewish immigration at the rate of 1,500 per month, until some permanent arrangement based on the recommendations of the joint committee, could be worked out with all the parties concerned.¹ The Arabs referred the issue to the Arab League, which on December 5 replied: “The Arab League, failing to understand the full reasons of your proposal, fear that it was made as a result of Zionist political pressure in...

    (pp. 116-134)

    The proposal to hold joint consultations between British and American experts, in order to implement the joint committee’s report, was made in mid-April, while the committee itself was still sitting at Lausanne, composing its report.¹ On May 8, at Acheson’s suggestion, Truman proposed to Attlee that they attempt to ascertain the views of both Arabs and Jews within two weeks, after which both governments might determine to what extent the joint report could serve as the basis of future policy.² When consulted by Attlee, Bevin (then in Paris) pressed the former to insist that British and American experts meet first...

    (pp. 135-183)

    Notwithstanding their tactical successes, the Zionists had in fact produced a state of overkill in Washington. The Jewish lobby’s sustained campaign had brought Truman into recurrent conflict with his officials and experts, whose views he had on occasion overrode against his better judgment. His growing animosity to the force of extraneous pressures was heightened by the fact that the militant leader of American Zionism, Abba Hillel Silver, was a Republican who mixed his Zionism with politics. By August 1946, Truman had developed an intense resentment of the lobby, which at times was vented in quasi-anti-Semitic aspersions. Truman complained repeatedly that...

  15. 8 ARAB POUCY IN 1946
    (pp. 184-202)

    The British regime had since 1920 brought fundamental socioeconomic changes to traditional Arab society. At first, the mandatory had attempted to ally to itself the leading urban elites, through a system of “personal rewards coupled with institutional changes that made the positions of their allies within the indigenous community seemingly inviolable.” At the same time, these elites, primarily the Husayni and Nashashibi families, had retained the major basis of their traditional social control: ownership of land.¹

    But the mandatorial regime had also caused great social fragmentation. More security and improved public health had led to an unprecedented population explosion, fed...

    (pp. 203-228)

    At the end of October 1946, Bevin had told the cabinet that if by the beginning of December there seemed to be no prospect of reaching a settlement by negotiation with the two sides, the government would then have to choose between three possible alternatives, each with its own drawbacks:

    a. It might impose a solution acceptable to one or the other of the two communities—the Chiefs of Staff had advised that they could not effectively impose any solution that would be resisted actively bybothsides.

    b. It could surrender the Mandate and withdraw from Palestine. But this...

    (pp. 229-259)

    British policy during 1947-1948 is “difficult to explain except in terms of a progressive loss of control of the situation in Palestine itself.” Three departments dealing with Palestine at times found their own particular interests in conflict: the Colonial Office wanted to preserve some semblance of administrative control until an orderly withdrawal could be effected; the War Office felt that the army was being unduly subjected to civilian restrictions, which increased its operational problems and unnecessarily put its men at additional risk; the Foreign Office feared for Britain’s strategic position in the Arab world. “Their conflicting desiderata could not be...

    (pp. 260-300)

    In February 1947, the British government asked UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie to summon a special assembly of the United Nations, prior to the routine session due the next September. Lie objected, not only because of the extra expense involved, but more especially since such a meeting was unlikely to bring any benefit without advance preparation. He suggested that the British ask to have Palestine placed on the September agenda and he, as secretary-general, would propose the appointment of an ad hoc committee to undertake a study of the problem and present its findings to the assembly in September. This procedure...

    (pp. 301-344)

    On November 30, 1947, the day after the UN resolution on Palestine, Israel’s War of Independence began with an Arab attack on a Jewish bus near the town of Lod.¹ The fluctuations in the fortunes of each side during the period prior to the end of the Mandate were to have a decisive influence both on the internal social and military fabric of the two communities, and on a different campaign being fought thousands of miles away in New York—a diplomatic campaign at the United Nations to determine whether the November resolution should be carried out, or whether, since...

    (pp. 345-390)

    On December 5, 1947, General Marshall had announced the imposition of an arms embargo on the Middle East. Many Jews regarded this as the first sign of the American retreat from partition. They claimed that the embargo would harm the Jews most, since the Arabs continued to receive arms from Britain under existing contracts. Moreover, they argued that since the Jews had accepted the UN resolution and the Arabs had not, it was unfair to treat, or to discriminate against, both communities equally.¹

    In the view of the State Department, the UN resolution was just a recommendation, to be accepted...

    (pp. 391-398)

    The Palestine Mandate has been referred to by some as a “political myth,” doomed to failure from its inception. The British never succeeded in rallying to their support either the Jews or the Arabs. The latter never recognized the Balfour Declaration, or Britain’s right to impose it on Palestine; the Jews’ cooperation, when given, was conditional on a “Zionist” interpretation of that declaration, and their support was withdrawn in 1939, when in their view the British reneged on their international obligations to the Jewish people. By 1945, with both communities in Palestine determined to implement their own blueprint for Palestine...

  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 399-402)
  23. Index
    (pp. 403-417)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 418-418)