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27 Department of External Affairs to Hood

Cablegram 181, CANBERRA, 12 April 1948, 5.15 a.m.


My 180. Following text begins.

The Department of External Affairs present its compliments to the Embassy of the United States of America and has the honour to refer to the Aide Memoire presented to the Minister for External Affairs on 9th April, 1948, containing certain general principles put before the Security Council by Ambassador Austin on 5th April, 1948.

2. The United States Government will be aware that as Chairman of the United Nations Palestine Committee the Australian Minister for External Affairs was in a position to give the most careful consideration to the proposals of the Special Committee on Palestine on which the final recommendation of the General Assembly of the United Nations for the partition of Palestine was based. The Australian Government is, therefore very much aware of the detailed study which was given to the question, first by the Special Committee on Palestine then by the Committee of the Assembly and finally by the Assembly itself. Moreover, the final decision in favour of partition was strongly supported by the United States Government.

3. The Department wishes to recall that the question of Palestine was referred to the United Nations by the United Kingdom Government because it had not been found possible to arrive at an agreement between Jews and Arabs. The question of disagreement between the two parties was therefore one of the main questions before the United Nations. It was well understood by members of the Committee that certain aspects of the partition plan would be resisted by one party or the other. For that reason provisions were made not only for establishment of Arab and Jewish militia units in Palestine but also for reference to the Security Council.

4. Consequently, the fact of fighting is nothing new. It is a fact which was taken into consideration in making the decision to adopt a plan for partition. The lack of success of the partition plan seems to have been due more to the vacillation that has taken place in the attitude of some of the powers most concerned and the absence of positive restraints on the Arabs which it was the duty of all members of the United Nations to exercise in carrying out the decision of the Assembly.

5. With regard to the principles set out in the Embassy note no detailed comment need be made at this stage. Certain outstanding features, however call for immediate comment. To begin with, the plan is for a temporary trusteeship agreement. But it is difficult to see how postponement of the decision of the United Nations is likely to make eventual settlement of the problem any easier. On the contrary the fact that it is not intended to implement the partition until both parties agree is merely an encouragement to both parties to continue their resistance. The sixth principle is that the Government of Palestine should include a Cabinet and a democratically elected legislature. It will be recalled that there was absolutely no support at the last Assembly meeting for a suggestion along these lines on the grounds that an Arab majority would by a 'democratic' election be able to overwhelm the Jewish minority. Principle 9, looking to agreement between the two parties on immigration and such matters, merely side-steps the issues involved as it is on these matters that there is at present no agreement. Principle 15 underlines the difficulties already pointed out in relation to Principle 1, that is, that the partition plan can never be implemented if it must wait upon agreement between the two principal communities in Palestine.

6. The Department wishes to point out that the policy of the Australian Government in relation to Palestine is based on certain broad principles of policy applicable to all situations. As stated by the Minister for External Affairs in the House of Representatives on 8th April, 1948 -
To support at all times and faithfully the principles and purposes expressed in the United Nations Charter.

In all international disputes to insist upon independent investigation of all the facts with a view to a settlement based upon right and justice and not upon mere expediency or mere strategical considerations.

7. This question of Palestine to the Australian Government on the facts it has before it, to be one example amongst many examples of a present tendency in international relations for decision based on investigation of fact and on justice to be put aside in favour of policies based on strategic considerations and power politics.

8. The representative of Australia at the Special Assembly will treat every proposal on its merits and co-operate in every way to secure a just settlement in the difficult problem of Palestine.

[AA : A1838, 852/20/2, V]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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