The Amputation of the Negev
Pious Words Cover the Sly Plans of the
British Colonial Office
As soon as the new plan of the late Count Bernadotte
was published, and before there was time to read it twice, it was warmly
endorsed by Bevin. This creates the impression that Bevin was familiar
with the contents of the plan before it was released or even before it
was put into writing. It would seem to indicate that the hand of the British
was in the composition of this document.
The immediate support given by Gen. Marshall to the plan
also leads one to believe that before the document reached Paris, its
contents were considered in the State Dept. If this were not so, the Secretary
of State would not have made such a hasty statement. His utterances are,
to some extent, a trial balloon to test public opinion in the United States.
He therefore did not say as much as Bevin, who endorsed it without reservation,
but he accepted the plan as a good basis for negotiation.
* * *
It is not Bevins hasty applause alone that reveals
his participation in brewing the plan, but the contents of the plan as
well, and the way in which it meets British interests in the area.
The interests of the British in Palestine are economic
and military. The military interest centers on the proximity of the Suez
Canal and on the desire to create a continental military base, in addition
to the insular base on Cyprusfor the entire Middle East, rich in
oil. Of all Arab potentates only Abdullah of Transjordan is a genuine
puppet. His country, to all intents and purposes, is a British colony,
although it is listed as a protectorate.
The transfer of the Negev, therefore, from the Israelis
to Abdullah is equivalent to giving it to the British. Bernadotte further
did not fail to recommend that the Arab part of Palestine be handed over
to Abdullah and not to other Arab countries, though this is certainly
a matter that should be settled among the Arabs themselves.
The Jewish State definitely does not gain by having a
strong military base directly at its back A country as small as the State
of Israel cannot feel secure if under the guise of giving an arid region
to Abdullah, a location is prepared for a large-scale military base for
a power who should have nothing to do either in the State of Israel or
in the Arab part of Palestine.
Certainly there will be opposition to such a plan on
the part of Egypt, who would dislike having the British on the other side
of the Suez Canal. Egypt realizes that neither Abdullah nor Glubb Pasha
is a sincere ally of the Arab cause, but that both are British agents.
Egypt certainly will demand the area for itself, especially as its army
holds part of it. This may suit the British even less than having the
area in Israeli hands. If faced with the dilemmaEgypt or Israelthe
British will hate to choose, but they will probably prefer Israel.
* * *
Economically, too, the British realize that the Negev
may be of interest. It is not excluded that the British have some data
leading them to believe that the area contains oil. At least they conjecture
that the Israelis established settlements there because they know something
about the hidden riches of the territory: the British would hardly believe
that a nation would choose an arid area for agriculture.
The British should show their cards and play a clean
game. It makes no justice to demand that the Negevthree quarters
of the State of Israelbe transferred to Abdullah, as if Abdullah
has not enough grazing land for his sheep in Bashan and Gilead, famous
for that purpose since biblical times. He does not need empty and arid
regions. But the Israelis do need it, for they intend to bring the survivors
of their people from Europe, the scene of their great destruction; they
need space for new arrivals and for internal growth.
How can this be done on a strip of land ten miles wide?
Was Bernadotte so blind as not to see this? He saw it, of course, but
he complied with the wishes of the British, regarding them as the most
important and the most interested party in the dispute.
* * *
I have said that the Negev may be of economic interest;
it is more correct to say that it is. The Dead Sea is in the Negev. This
sea was never exploited until the Zionist movement produced farsighted
men who decided to utilize the salts of the sea. When Novomeyski sought
a concession for that purpose from the mandatory power, and in the early
twenties the case was discussed in the British Parliament, the spokesman
for the British Government supported the application, explaining that
the sea is dead and will kill every attempt to revive it, but if the Zionists
are foolish enough to risk their capital and their energylet them
Then the Zionists went to the hottest spot on earthand
revived the Dead Sea. The result is that the Dead Sea is now the greatest
source to potash in the Old World. It contains untold millions of dollars
of salt. If the Negev is cut off from Israel, the Israelis will have no
part in the production they started.
* * *
The British cloak themselves as defenders of the Moslem
faith, but actually they would like to take the Dead Sea and the Negev
into their sole ownership.
For these reasons they have dropped their earlier idea
of the economic unification of divided Palestine, by which they hoped
to make the Jews keep the treasure chest of Abdullah full. They have recalculated,
and consequently Bernadottes plan does not mention economic unification.
Never did the Arabs occupy the Negev. The Jews built
there scores of settlements and made the Negev bloom. The British make
a plea of pious words in the name of justice and already paint the Negev
on their maps with the color of the Empire.