Previously classified documents from French archive

Ben-Gurion on Bevin in a conversation with the French consul in Tel Aviv, March 1, 1948 Mr. Ben-Gurion thinks that the British administration would effectively abandon Palestine on May 15, but he is less sure about the evacuation of the troops on August 1. "Mr. Bevin," he said, "has an aversion to Jews because they personify everything that he detests: capitalists, intellectuals and men of the internationalist left. This personal prejudice is reinforced by the hostility to the Jewish cause of British officials whose views he adopts in this matter as in many others." Sasson to the Israeli Foreign Ministry on his conversation with Kamil Riyad, Farouk's special envoy in Paris, September 23, 1948 At this point of the conversation, he went into detail on the "nasty deeds" of the British. If it wasn't for their misleading information, if it wasn't for their encouragement and promises - he said - the Arab states wouldn't have gone to war against Israel. The British had purchased, he said, most of the press in Egypt, Iraq and Syria, etc., and influenced public opinion in the direction they wanted. In many instances, they had put in the mouths of the leaders things that they hadn't said, or declarations they hadn't made, and prevented them from correcting them or denying them. They also conveyed information on Jewish "plots" which later proved to be baseless. In addition, the British planted the seeds of ambition in the hearts of the Arab kings and leaders. They explained to Shukri al-Quwatly in Damascus that the war against the Zionists would not only put an end to the plan for a Greater Syria, but it would also lead to the extension of Syria's borders to include Israel's Galilee region. They told Farouk that that he could become an Arab emperor, etc., and told Abdullah that he would probably succeed in adding all of Israel to his country, not just the Arab part. They opened the British coffers to the secretary of the Arab League Azzam Pasha and other influential Arab leaders. Report by a French officer of a meeting with Eliahu Sasson in the Eden Hotel, Jerusalem, January 1948 Asked by the French officer about the Americans' fears inspired by the infiltration of Soviet agents into the Stern gang, Sasson denies such infiltrations, then becomes animated and declares that the Jewish people have noticed, since December 1, that its most solid support was the Hagana and not the terrorist groups. "And if this information is true, would America be so foolish as to go back on its decision regarding partition? It is too late, partition is an established fact. It's now a question of life or death for the Jewish people. Behind us lies the sea, in front of us stands the enemy." It appears that one must take into consideration the declaration, expressed with visible emotion, by a man normally so composed and realistic as Sasson, and I believe that one should admit that it represents accurately enough the feelings of the entire Jewish people. King Abdullah of Jordan's letter to Muhammad V, the sultan of Morocco, May 5, 1947 (This is one of six letters exchanged between Abdullah and the sultan of Morocco.) Top Secret I'm bringing you the big news that a very great Briton has asked me to convey to you - that the government of His Majesty the King of Great Britain sees in you the only one who is worthy of reigning over all of the Arab Maghreb, and that with Allah's permission, in the event of a decisive victory, he would not regard you as king of Morocco only, but would extend your sovereignty over all the Maghreb states, including Algeria and Tunisia. Report by Bonnet, French ambassador to Washington, on May 11, 1948, on a conversation with Moshe Sharett [Shertok] He [Shertok] announced that the Jewish Agency had decided to declare the establishment of the new Zionist state on May 15, when the Mandate expires... The resistance of the Arabs of Palestine is crushed, he said, and the Zionists, moreover, don't want an inch of land beyond the borders fixed by the United Nations. They will return Jaffa to the Arabs as soon as they are assured that it won't become a base for military operations. French Legation in Beirut, May 11, 1948 Military, Naval and Air Attaché Intelligence Report No. 68 It appears that the resolve of the Arab states regarding the struggle over Palestine has grown stronger over the last few days. They have suddenly realized their considerable loss of prestige in the entire world if they abandon Palestine to the Jewish enterprise after so much ranting. They would prefer risking a military defeat rather than inaction, which they consider to be a disgrace. All the states have decided on an extensive military effort with quick and massive action, whatever the price, against the Jewish state itself, hoping that a sudden and violent strike, using all the means available to the Arabs, would lead to a favorable outcome before the Jews, under vigorous attack in the vital areas of their territory, would have time to rally and organize themselves. Arab military circles rely on the lack of heavy weapons (artillery, tanks) and war planes on the Jewish side, for the success of the operation. The beginning of action is planned for May 15, and it appears that 1) the first main objective of the regular armies will be Tel Aviv itself, and 2) the Arabs have considered the aerial bombardment of this city. The region of Tel Aviv will be the goal of the Egyptian army. (Knowing the Arabs, we can't rule out, without making any guesses, that not many of them would be prepared for a blitzkrieg.) The following numbers can be anticipated (their reinforcement has already been studied for Egypt and Syria): Egypt: 1 armored brigade 1 mobile infantry brigade 1 artillery regiment 3 groups of bombers from 8,000 to 10,000 men Iraq: 1 armored brigade 1 mobile infantry brigade 3 artillery batteries 1 aviation group from 6,000 to 8,000 men Transjordan: Arab Legion 5,000 men Syria: 2 or 3 battalions 3 artillery batteries Tanks (about 40) Airplanes 3,000 men Lebanon: 2 battalions Various other elements 2,000 men The Egyptian troops will be gathering at El-Arish. The British oppose their crossing the Palestinian border before May 15. The Iraqi troops are concentrated in Mafraq, the Syrian troops in Kuneitra. The Lebanese troops, already in place on the Lebanese-Palestinian border, don't appear to have to take an active part in the operations, but to make only some demonstration intended to hold back a part of the Zionist strength. The removal of Ismail Pasha Safwat from his post as commander of the Arab forces must have been motivated by his refusal to acquiesce in the British orders concerning the future progression of operations in Palestine, notably the question of Haifa, which Safwat wanted to attack and take over. The British opposed this, wanting to keep the port for the evacuation of their troops. Safwat protested. Abdullah and the Iraqi regent gave in to the British demands. Safwat was removed from office and replaced by the Iraqi division general, Nur a-Din Mahmoud, the regent's man, whose compliance with the British is well known. The American government's proposal - conveyed a few days ago to the Arab states and consisting of extending the British Mandate over Palestine by 10 days in order to facilitate an agreement between the Arabs and Jews - would have been accepted, it appears, straightaway by Azzam Pasha, Riad al-Sulh, Jamil Mardam and Haj Amin al-Husseini, but rejected by King Abdullah. The others, even if they didn't want to, would then agree with him, in the present circumstances - not wanting to appear less enthusiastic defenders of an Arab Palestine than the Hashemite sovereign. Certain circles in Damascus fear the consequences, after May 16, of the USSR's recognition of the establishment of the Jewish state and the immediate conclusion of a Judeo-Soviet treaty, on the positions of the Americans and the British vis-à-vis the Jewish state.