British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin at his desk near a telephone
British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin

December 22, 1948

From the Center for Israel Education

US Chargé d’affaires Julius Holmes in a cable to the State Department recounted British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin’s (shown in photo) luncheon meeting of two days earlier, focused on Palestine and its future. Bevin noted that Palestine developments were disappointing. He cited Arab state pessimism with the US and the UK and the growing “divisions between Arab states.”  He hoped for the earliest possible settlement of the Palestine issue, but that “prospects for UK obtaining its strategic requirements from Israel in the foreseeable future are poor and the possibility must be faced that within five years, Israel may be a Communist state.”

Bevin infers this from the fact that new Jewish immigrants come largely from countries behind the Iron Curtain where they have been exposed to Communist philosophy. There was no great exodus to Israel from the US and the UK where democratic philosophy could have been absorbed. To have a communist Israel lying athwart vital strategic roads in the Middle East such as Auja-Beersheba, Gaza-Beersheba and El Kuntilla-Aqaba, would be a serious blow to UK strategic plans for the area.  Bevin said that if these roads and airfield areas in the Gaza coastal strip were safely in Arab hands, the UK would not object to Israel receiving part of the Negev and recognized this was inevitable.

One of Bevin’s military advisers spoke forcefully of the danger to the defense of the Suez Canal if there was Communist infiltration in the Middle East. Defense of British control over and near the Suez Canal had been vitally important to His Majesty’s Government desire to control Palestine after WWI; the strategic importance of the Canal remained paramount in British imperial minds more than three decades later and would remain important for Western interests down to the present. Among key policy makers in the US State Department was the shared concern that Israel’s demography composed of immigrants from areas where communism was strong, would tilt the Jewish state into the Soviet Bloc. It proved to be a mythical fear.

Photo Credit: British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin

Find more details at the Center for Israel Education

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