40 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram UN441, NEW YORK, 15 May 1948, 2.31 p.m.



My telegram UN.439.

First Committee sat continuously until 3.30 p.m. Friday afternoon to conclude the debate on the recommendations of the two Sub-Committees dealing respectively with interim arrangement for Palestine and Jerusalem.

2. Debate on First Resolution[1] was eventually cut short by closure moved by Cuba and carried by 23 votes to 15 (Australia voting in the minority). Resolution was then voted paragraph by paragraph together with various amendments. In the final paragraph a Greek amendment to replace the word 'suspends' by 'relieves' was carried by 32 votes against 8 (including Australia and New Zealand) with 12 abstentions. An alternative amendment proposed by New Zealand, which referred to the Assembly Resolution of 29th November and would have kept the Palestine Commission in being until a date to be determined by the Secretary-General, was rejected by 26 votes against 14 (including Australia). Final vote on Resolution was 35 affirmative (including Canada, New Zealand, South Africa) 6 against (Slav Group) 10 abstentions (including Australia).

3. In ensuing rather hurried debate on recommendation from second Sub-Committee for Trusteeship arrangement for Jerusalem very little support was evidenced for the plan.[2] We stated our attitude as follows: - There were two possible alternatives:-

(a) To introduce a long term arrangement for the Jerusalem area, or (b) To institute short term Ad Hoc measures for the immediate protection of the City and its inhabitants. The Trusteeship Plan fulfilled neither of these requirements and was furthermore inherently unworkable and of doubtful legality. It would also throw an impossible burden of Administration on the Trusteeship Council, a kind of task for which the Council was never intended. Australia would have preferred that at least a beginning with a long term arrangement should be made by the adoption of relevant provisions of the Statute of Jerusalem.[3] If this, however, was not sufficiently supported we thought that the realistic approach would be to take account of the fact that a Jerusalem Municipal Commissioner had already been appointed[4] with extensive powers at the request of the General Assembly and to take the appropriate steps to bring him into relationship with the arrangement proposed for the rest of Palestine and under sanction of United Nations.

4. In final vote in First Committee Trusteeship Plan received 16 affirmative votes with none against and 26 abstentions (including Australia).[5]

5. At conclusion of discussion on both Resolutions and as a final stage in proceedings of Political Committee we made short statement as follows - Australia had abstained from the vote on the Plan for an interim arrangement in Palestine for two related reasons - (a) That the Committee had[6] proposal to make reference in the Resolution to the Assembly decision on 29th November, and (b) That a Resolution in the name of Australia was still before the Committee[7] which would direct the Palestine Commission to proceed with the remaining stages in the execution of the 29th November Resolution essential to the purpose of this Resolution, as borne out by the attitude of the Australian Delegation throughout the discussion, was to sustain the validity of United Nations decisions once taken. In this respect there was no doubt that the Australian Resolution had expressed the real conscience of more than a few Delegations. However, the Committee had now voted a proposal which, although of the scantiest nature, did at least give some minimum recognition to the momentum of events set in motion by the November Resolution and to the responsibility of the United Nations in switching over those events. In the circumstances the Australian Resolution would be withdrawn.

6. After a short recess the Plenary Assembly met at Flushing at 5 p.m. In an endeavour to conclude proceedings by 6 p.m. the President ruled that speeches would be limited to five minutes. This, however, proved unavailing and Session did not in fact end until 8.30 p.m.

7. In Plenary meeting Trusteeship Plan for Jerusalem failed to secure two-thirds majority, final vote being 20 affirmative, 15 negative, with 10 abstentions including Australia. In view of this lapse of any United Nations plan to meet the situation in Jerusalem we then submitted an amendment to the Resolution for an interim arrangement in Palestine calling on the Jerusalem Municipal Commissioner to consult and co-operate with the United Nations mediator in order to ensure that protection of Jerusalem and the Holy Places pending the establishment of an international regime in Jerusalem under United Nations Administration. This amendment received 10 votes (including France, Norway, New Zealand and Canada) with 14 against and 24 abstentions.

8. In the vote in the interim arrangement for Palestine we opposed the inclusion of the final paragraph relieving the Palestine Commission of its responsibilities and abstained from the final vote on this ground as well as failure to include any reference to Jerusalem. The Resolution was adopted on the final vote by 31 affirmative, 7 against and 16 abstentions.

[1] The resolution would empower a mediator to exercise certain functions. These were, chiefly: (a) to arrange the necessary common services for the people of Palestine, assure the protection of holy places, promote peaceful adjustment of the situation in Palestine and: (b) to co-operate with the Truce Commissioner appointed by the Security Council in its resolution of 23 April 1948. The resolution would also suspend the functions of the Palestine Commission as from 1 June 1948. (See cablegrams UN432, dispatched 12 May 1948, and UN437, dispatched 14 May 1948.) [2] The plan was for a temporary UN administration of Jerusalem. It would be based on the authority given in chapter 12 of the Charter but be exercised in accordance with articles set out in the recommendation. The arrangement would end on 31 December 1949. (See cablegram UN437, dispatched 14 May 1948.) [3] The statute had been drafted by the Trusteeship Council and provided for a special international regime under UN administration.

[4] See Document 37.

[5] The vote was to forward the proposal to the General Assembly without recommendation.

[6] A sign here indicates '3 groups missing'.

[7] See Document 31.

[AA : A1838, 852/19/2, I]