Bernadotte Plan - Count Folke Bernadotte was a Swedish diplomat appointed as mediator in the Israel-Arab war by the UN. He furthered two plans for resolution of the conflict that were blatantly pro-Arab, and was assassinated by the LEHI group on September 17, 1948. The "Bernadotte Plan" generally refers to the second of these proposals (Text given at Second plan of Count Bernadotte for settlement of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 ), though both were similar.
As Vice President of the Swedish Red Cross during World War II, Bernadotte had mediated the rescue of European prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates in Nazi Germany, apparently due to his personal relationship with Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler. Himmler also inveigled Bernadotte in an offer to surrender the Nazi forces in the Western front, and allow them to continue to fight the Soviet Union.
In 1948 Bernadotte was appointed to mediate a cease fire and settlement between Israelis and Arabs following the Arab invasion of Israel (See Israel War of Independence). He presented two plans, always being careful to note that his ideas were "suggestions." Obviously, his "suggestions" were meant to have the force of law.
His plans reflected the positions of troops on the ground at the time as well as pressures applied by the British foreign office to implement their own plan for the "solution" of the conflict - Namely to turn the Negev into a part of Jordan and allow Britain a base on the Mediterranean.
First Bernadotte Plan
In June, Bernadotte's first plan envisaged simply abolition of the Jewish state entirely, via the euphemism of a "union" of two members - Transjordan and the Jewish enclave or area - in this "union" the Jews would be outnumbered more than 2 to 1. This was nothing more or less than the original proposal of Abdullah King of Jordan, that had been made to Jewish negotiators in November of 1947 and repeated in May of 1948. The Jewish area would be a tiny enclave not including the Negev or Jerusalem, which would be given to the Arabs. The main points of this "plan:"
- Inclusion of all or most of the Negev in Arab territory.
- Inclusion of the whole or part of Western Galilee in the Jewish territory.
- Inclusion of the City of Jerusalem in Arab territory, with municipal autonomy for the Jewish community and special arrangements for the protection of the Holy Places.
- Limitation of Jewish immigration.
- Consideration of the status of Jaffa.
- Establishment of a free port at Haifa, the area of the free port to include the refineries and terminals.
- Establishment of a free airport at Lod.
The text is given in the First Plan of Count Bernadotte for settling the Arab-Israel war of 1948. The plan was rejected by both Arabs and Jews. At the time there was some logic to the proposal, because Egypt controlled the Negev. The internationalization of Jerusalem proposed originally in UN General Assembly Resolution 181 was effectively a dead letter, since the British had not let the UN establish any presence in Jerusalem, and the Arabs who controlled most of the area opposed it. The fact that it rewarded aggression, denied the right of self determination to the Jews and nullified a UN resolution was of no concern to Bernadotte it seems. Bernadotte was able to bring about the first cease fire in the war on June 10. Because Arab states envisioned that a cease fire would allow them to augment and rearm their troops, they agreed to Bernadotte's proposal. Israel was under an arms embargo, but this did not apply to the Arab states, so it was natural to assume that they could easily get large supplies of arms. In the event, this proved quite difficult. Britain had to stop supplying the Transjordanian Legion, because the U.S. forbade them to use arms they had acquired under World War II lend-lease agreements. Therefore, the cease fire, intended to help the Arab side, actually helped Israel.
Second Bernadotte Plan
Bernadotte's second plan was presented September 16, 1948. It was almost equally unfavorable, but this time allowed for an independent Jewish state, albeit a tiny one, and for internationalization of Jerusalem. The main points were:
- Peace must return to Palestine and every feasible measure should be taken to ensure that hostilities will not be resumed and that harmonious relations between Arab and Jew will ultimately be restored.
- A Jewish State called Israel exists in Palestine and there are no sound reasons for assuming that it will not continue to do so.
- The boundaries of this new State must finally be fixed either by formal agreement between the parties concerned or failing that, by the United Nations.
- Adherence to the principle of geographical homogeneity and integration, which should be the major objective of the boundary arrangements, should apply equally to Arab and Jewish territories, whose frontiers should not therefore, be rigidly controlled by the territorial arrangements envisaged in the resolution of 29 November.
- The right of innocent people, uprooted from their homes by the present terror and ravages of war, to return to their homes, should be affirmed and made effective, with assurance of adequate compensation for the property of those who may choose not to return.
- The City of Jerusalem, because of its religious and international significance and the complexity of interests involved, should be accorded special and separate treatment.
- International responsibility should be expressed where desirable and necessary in the form of international guarantees, as a means of allaying existing fears, and particularly with regard to boundaries and human rights.
The proposal "suggested" that:
- The existing truce should be superseded by a formal peace, or at the minimum, an armistice.
- The frontiers between the Arab and Jewish territories, in the absence of agreement between Arabs and Jews, should be established by the United Nations.
- The Negev should be defined as Arab territory.
- The border of Israel should run from Faluja north northeast to Ramleh and Lydda (both of which would be in Arab territory).
- Galilee should be defined as Jewish territory.
- Haifa should be declared a free port, and Lydda airport should be declared a free airport.
- The City of Jerusalem, covering the area defined in the resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November, should be treated separately and should be placed under effective United Nations control with maximum feasible local autonomy for its Arab and Jewish communities with full safeguards for the protection of the Holy Places and sites and free access to them and for religious freedom.
- The United Nations should establish a Palestine conciliation commission.
- The right of the Arab refugees to return to their homes in Jewish-controlled territory at the earliest possible date should be affirmed by the United Nations, and their repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation, and payment of adequate compensation for the property of those choosing not to return, should be supervised and assisted by the United Nations conciliation commission.
There would be no Palestinian state apparently. Bernadotte wrote:
- The disposition of the territory of Palestine not included within the boundaries of the Jewish State should be left to the Governments of the Arab States in full consultation with the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, with the recommendation, however, that in view of the historical connexion and common interests of Transjordan and Palestine there would be compelling reasons for merging the Arab territory of Palestine with the territory of Transjordan, subject to such frontier rectifications regarding other Arab States as may be found practicable and desirable.
A map of the boundaries proposed in the plan is shown below. Israel had rejected this plan, but the Lehi did not know this. In any case, the above "recommendations" were likely to be incorporated in a binding UN resolution.
In most respects, this plan was remarkably like the British Peel commission plan of 1937. The proposal to abolish the Palestinian state envisioned in Resolution 181 was consistent with British plans for a greater Jordan. This is no accident. For example, a British memorandum of September 24, 1948 stated:
The Chiefs of Staff will be aware that we are now seeking a settlement of the Palestine question which might result in the emergence of a greatly enlarged Transjordan. This Greater Transjordan might include the whole of the Negeb or only the northern part thereof, the southern part being give to Egypt." (Foreign Office 371/688860/G12387/11665/G)
Assassination of Folke Bernadotte
Bernadotte was assassinated on September 17 1948 by the LEHI, sometimes known as the Stern Gang. The assassination was approved by the three-man Lehi 'center': Yitzhak Shamir, Natan Yellin-Mor, and Yisrael Eldad, and planned by the Lehi operations chief in Jerusalem, Yehoshua Zetler.
A four-man team lead by Meshulam Makover ambushed Bernadotte's automobile in Jerusalem neighborhood. Allegedly, Yehoshua Cohen fired into Bernadotte's car. Bernadotte and his aide, UN observer Colonel André Serot, were killed. General Aage Lundstrom, who was in the car, described the incident as follows:
"In the Katamon quarter, we were held up by a Jewish Army type jeep placed in a road block and filled with men in Jewish Army uniforms. At the same moment, I saw an armed man coming from this jeep. I took little notice of this because I merely thought it was another checkpoint. However, he put a Tommy gun through the open window on my side of the car, and fired point blank at Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot. I also heard shots fired from other points, and there was considerable confusion. The Jewish liaison officer came running to our car and told Mr. Begley, who was at that time outside the car, to drive away as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the man was still firing.
"Colonel Serot fell in the seat in back of me, and I saw at once that he was dead. Count Bernadotte bent forward, and I thought at the time he was trying to get cover. I asked him: 'Are you wounded? He nodded, and fell back. I helped him to lie down in the car. I now understood that he was severely wounded; there was a considerable amount of blood on his clothes, mainly around the heart. By this time, the Jewish liaison officer had got into the car, and was urging Begley to drive quickly to Hadassah Hospital, which was only a short distance away. I have the impression that the Jewish liaison officer did everything he possibly could to assist us to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. It could not have taken more than a couple of minutes to make the journey from the scene of the incident to the hospital.
"When we arrived, with the help of some other people, I carried the Count inside and laid him on the bed. We had sent for a medical officer, but while waiting for him to arrive, I took off the Count's jacket and tore away his shirt and undervest. I saw that he was wounded around the heart and that there was also a considerable quantity of blood on his clothes about it.
"When the doctor arrived, I asked if anything could be done, but he replied that it was too late. Major De Geer went in Dr. Facel's car to fetch the Count's personal physician, Dr. Ullmark. He stayed with the Count and was later joined by Major De Geer, Miss Wessel and Dr. Ullmark. I then left and went to see Colonel Serot, who had been placed in another room. The doctor confirmed that he had died instantly.
"After awhile, I went with a car to the Y.M.C.A. and tried to get in touch with Dr. Joseph and Colonel Dayan, military commander of Israel forces in Jerusalem. They arrived at the Y.M.C.A. after a very short time. I said that I would not do anything that would create an impression of panic, but that I had to decide before sunset whether observers should stay at their posts during the night without danger. If in their opinion, there would be considerable danger for observers, they would recall them. They assured me that in their opinion, although of course they could make no guarantee, thee was no added danger, and I decided that observers should remain at their posts. However, I asked Colonel Dayan for a guard to be placed around the Y.M.C.A., where it had been decided that the bodies of Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot would lie in state. Source
The next day the United Nations Security Council condemned the killing of Bernadotte as "a cowardly act which appears to have been committed by a criminal group of terrorists in Jerusalem while the United Nations representative was fulfilling his peace-seeking mission in the Holy Land".
LEHI took responsibility for the killings in the name of Hazit Hamoledet. The Israeli government forcibly disarmed LEHI and arrested many of its members. Yellin-Mor and another LEHI member, Schmuelevich, were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization. They were found guilty but were released and pardoned in a general amnesty. Yellin-Mor had meanwhile been elected to the first Knesset. No suspects in the shooting were found.
The identity of the assassin, Cohen, discovered by David Ben-Gurion's biographer Michael Bar Zohar, while Cohen was working as Ben-Gurion's personal bodyguard. The first public admission of LEHI's role in the killing was made on the anniversary of the assassination in 1977.
From Lundstrom's testimony it should have been clear that the Israeli government had nothing to do with the killings.
The assassination left a bitter legacy. The Swedish government initially believed or pretended to believe that Bernadotte had been assassinated by Israeli government agents. Even before the assassination, the Swedes consistently pretended that there was no such state as Israel (note that Lundstrom referred to "Jewish army"). They publicly attacked the inadequacy of the Israel investigation and campaigned unsuccessfully to delay Israel's admission to the United Nations. In 1950, Sweden recognized Israel. but relations remained frosty despite Israeli attempts to console Sweden such as the planting of a Bernadotte Forest by the JNF in Israel. At a ceremony in Tel-Aviv in May 1995, attended by the Swedish deputy prime minister, Israeli Foreign Minister and Labor Party member Shimon Peres issued a "condemnation of terror, thanks for the rescue of the Jews and regret that Bernadotte was murdered in a terrorist way," adding that "We hope this ceremony will help in healing the wound."
Bernadotte was succeeded as U.N. mediator by his chief aide, the American Ralph Bunche. Bunche abandoned the absurd borders, perhaps under US pressure, and succeeded in bringing about the signing of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, for which he would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The killing set the UN against Israel. Though the absurd border modifications were not implemented, UN General Assembly Resolution 194 did enact the "suggestion" for return of the refugees.
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