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To the Editor:
I write in response to the article by Prof. Hilde Henriksen Waage, “The Winner Takes All: The 1949 Island of Rhodes Armistice Negotiations Revisited,” (The Middle East Journal, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring, 2011). The subject article contains so many factual errors that, once listed, they will surely demonstrate the untenability of the argument which she derives from them. Here are some of the more blatant ones:
pp. 289–290: UN Secretary General Lie “secretly passing information from the confidential negotiations to ... the American delegations at the UN” [She confuses the American Section of the Jewish Agency with the US Government delegation.]
p. 289: Lie gave “all of Bunche’s reports” secretly “to the American delegation” [Actually, he did so for the representatives of the US, France, and Turkey, who comprised the membership of the UN’s Palestine Conciliation Commission [PCC], which was coordinating with Acting Mediator Bunche, the former seeking to establish negotiations for a final peace settlement, while Bunche, of course, in Rhodes was working toward agreements on military armistices.]
p. 290: (a) “UN Security Council Resolution 62 of November 16, 1948 marked the end of the efforts to negotiate a permanent peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors;” instead, the goal now was only armistices, “and not peace agreements.” “... peace negotiations ... were expected to commence within a year.” [As noted, the UN retained the goal of a final peace by establishing the PCC, whereas the Rhodes negotiations were in realistic recognition that a prerequisite for peace was the establishment of a more stable military situation than could be obtained by mere cease-fires and truces. There was no one year delay in UN efforts, through the PCC, to start peace negotiations.]
(b) “William Epstein, a Jewish member of the Canadian mission to the UN” helped Israel secretly “engineer” the Security Council resolution of November 16, 1948. [This charge contains a factual inaccuracy compounded by a rather unpleasant innuendo based on the mere assumption of a person’s religion. The factual error is that Epstein was actually a UN official on Bunche’s staff. The innuendo is of a similar kind to the author’s attributing Lie’s efforts to implement the partition resolution to his [End Page 762] love of Jews “ever since childhood” — p. 288.]
Passim: (a) the author consistently misdescribes the UK as on longer on “the list of relevant actors in a position to influence the future outcome of the conflict in the Middle East” — e.g., p. 286. Also on that page: Britain was pressing for “Egypt to retain parts of the Negev desert.” This betrays a profound misunderstanding of the UK’s goal of having Transjordan on the Meditarranean coast near the Suez Canal.
p. 283: “Fighting broke out again” after the expiration in July of the first truce period. [The Arab States, not Israel, rejected extension of the truce and re-opened the fighting.]
p. 283: The “compromise solution” worked out by the mediator in June was “never adopted” by the UN. [The author fails to understand, or even note, that that plan was scratched in favor of a totally revised “Bernadotte Plan” submitted on the eve of the General Assembly in September.]
p. 284: Eban was at this time “Ambassador to the US and the UN.” [He would, in fact, not become ambassador to the US until 1950; moreover, in this period, diplomatic relations between the two countries were not at the ambassadorial level.]