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Labor Action, 15 August 1949


Al Findley

Israeli Government Plays Politics
with Arab Problem


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 33, 15 August 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


For a number of months the United Nations Palestine Conciliation Commission has been meeting at Lausanne in an attempt to work out a peace settlement for Palestine.

Nobody, except possibly the U.S., has been in any great hurry to reach an agreement. The Arab governments wanted to delay formal ratification of their defeat as long as possible. The issue they seized on was the question of Arab refugees who had fled from their homes during the fighting in Palestine and now were stranded in DP camps. They demanded a settlement of the refugee question be made before any peace discussion. “We are not against peace, but, after all, human suffering comes first,” was their implied position.

The Israeli government, although headed by the Mapai (Labor Party), did not utilize the negotiations to advance proposals that would appeal to the Arab masses, as the Bolsheviks did at Brest-Litovsk, for example. Instead they attempted to play the TRADITIONAL diplomatic game. But even in the diplomatic game they failed. The Israeli government that had outmaneuvered the Arab states in all other diplomatic questions, this time played right into the hands of the Arab leaders.

By taking the attitude that Israel owed nothing to the refugees and everything it would do in a final peace treaty was only charity, they alienated public opinion. But the government was not too much concerned. They believed that time was on their side and the mass immigration would give them greater bargaining power in the final negotiation.

Grudging Refugee Policy

The U.S. until now was in no position to crack the whip. The State Department still had to decide what kind of peace it would accept, to what extent it could keep its ally England in line, and, above all, how much it would be willing to “contribute.”

The sharpened British economic crisis. England’s need for Iraqi oil refined at Haifa, and U.S. adoption of the McGhee plan finally enabled the U.S., by “pressure and promise,” to break the ice and make the negotiations begin to move. Under U.S. pressure the Israeli government announced it would accept 100,000 Arab refugees as its share of the Arab refugees under the following conditions:

  1. Arabs who had already returned and those to be returned under Israel’s policy of uniting families are to be deducted.
  2. Israel is to do the picking – no members of Husseini’s family or any cither participant in anti-Zionist acts, are to be admitted.
  3. Arab refugees would not be allowed in certain border areas and could not be guaranteed the return of their homes, but would have to make their opportunities like other immigrants to Israel.

The announcement of the Israeli position brought a spurt of hope to the Lausanne conference. While the possibility of cash from the U.S. has made the Arab states accept Israel’s position as a basis for decision, a great deal of haggling will take place before even this question is cleared away and the delegates get down to discussing borders. The McGhee plan that the U.S. supply money for the settlement of refugees is not in definitive form as yet. A great deal depends on how much it offers in final form.

The compromise position of the Israeli government on the question of Arab refugees received a hostile reception by most Israeli parties, including parties of the coalition government and right-wing elements of Mapai itself, such as the Misrachi, who criticized the number as too high. The Mapam (left-wing but pro-Stalinist labor party) attacked the government for submitting to American pressure and, secondly, for publicizing its decision and thus reducing Israel’s bargaining power. The Heiruth (party of the former Irgun) opposed admission of ANY Arab refugees.

Look to France

While Independent Socialists can take some satisfaction in this halting partial step in the right direction toward the solution of the Arab refugee question, the Israeli labor movement really missed the boat on this issue. This could and should have been a vital step in creating an alliance between the Jewish labor movement and the Arab masses. Had the return of refugees been allowed before and above all voluntarily, with a conscious acceptance of its responsibilities and significance, it would have given the Jews a real appeal to the Arab masses and served as a beginning in the necessary process of driving a wedge between the Arab masses and their warmongering governments.

But by declaring their unwillingness and submitting only to pressure, the Israeli labor movement has vitiated most of the progressive content from this move. It only again points up the fact that the Israeli government led by the Labor Party (Mapai) is relying exclusively on intergovernmental maneuverings and ignoring the potential actions of the people for peace.

This fundamentally wrong approach to peace and the problems of the Near East is further emphasized by the reports that Israel is negotiating an alliance with France in the Near East. The first to advocate such an alliance was the Heiruth party; it has now become the pet project of all sorts of politicians. Having no concept of appealing to the Arab masses for an immediate alliance, the Israeli government is casting about for a “big power” associate, and believes it has found one in France. Russia is excluded since an Israeli-Russian alliance is against the interests of Israel and would also antagonize the U.S. In addition, the anti-Zionist acts of the entire Eastern bloc and the anti-Semitic developments in Russia have reduced the appeal of such an alliance.

Since England remains the chief opponent of Israel in the Near East, an alliance with England’s Near East rival, France, appeals to the “Realpolitiker” of the Israeli government. France, which was completely eliminated from the power politics of the Near East, is making a comeback. The “power politicians” feel that neither the U.S. nor Russia will object too seriously to such an alliance. This remains to be seen.

Vatican Intervenes

Final peace in Palestine, however, is far off. The big question, of course, is that of boundaries. The Arab states cannot accept anything less than the partition boundaries if they are to save a little face. The attitude of the U.S. – the determining power – is still undetermined. The U.S. is officially committed not to accept any changes in boundaries not acceptable to Israel.

At the same time, the State Department insists that any addition to the original partition boundaries must be “compensated” by concessions in other areas. Israel, however, has officially and categorically rejected the original resolution of November 29, 1947, and insists that the present boundaries be the basis for discussion.

The question of Jerusalem is another, and perhaps the most difficult, obstacle. Were the matter left to the Jews and Abdullah, the issue would easily be settled by dividing the city. However, the Vatican has begun a world-wide campaign for internationalizing the city. This has caused a number of shifts.

Russia, which had insisted on internationalization, now, as a result of its struggle with the Catholic Church, may favor partition, even though the Old City would probably go to Abdullah, an English puppet. The U.S., having made the Vatican its ally in Eastern Europe, is under great pressure to reverse its previous position, from favoring division to favoring internationalization.

Miss Call Tto Near East

Another problem is the fate of Arab Palestine. Arab Palestine is now occupied by Abdullah, who has proclaimed the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom, with the obvious intention of incorporating Arab Palestine into his realm. But now it is reported that Abdullah’s “protector,” the British Foreign Office, is opposed to the deal. They fear that Abdullah will be strengthened too greatly and will be better able to pursue his own dynastic ambitions, even when they do not coincide with British imperialist interests.

The proposal currently receiving the blessings of the imperialists is for an independent Arab Palestine with Abdullah as monarch of both Transjordania and the new Arab state. This has another plan of to some extent complying with the letter of the original partition plan.

The lack of a clear-cut proposal by the imperialists for the fate of Arab Palestine offers a real opportunity to the Israeli labor movement to “awaken” the Near East by a proposal for a People’s Federation of the Near East. Unfortunately, the labor leaders are so addicted to diplomacy that they do not even think in these terms.

The bankruptcy of this “diplomatic” and “realistic” policy becomes obvious when one realizes that the “Realpolitiker” of Israel’s Foreign Office despair of peace in the near future. This was indicated by Foreign Minister Sharret’s statement that Israel “does not feel that signatures on a pact are necessary before peace conditions begin to take effect, as long as those states involved make a public declaration, attested to by the United Nations.”

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