New York Post


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.

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It is not Bevin’s 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 Cyprus—for 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 dilemma—Egypt or Israel—the British will hate to choose, but they will probably prefer Israel.

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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 Negev—three quarters of the State of Israel—be 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.

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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 energy—let them try it.

Then the Zionists went to the hottest spot on earth—and 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.

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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 Bernadotte’s 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.