Killing the Count – Part 2 Mediation and Assassination
Al Jazeera (2014)
Part 2 begins by tracing the development of Palestine’s Jewish terrorist organizations opposed to British occupation. The first, the Haganah, was created in the late 1930s when Britain severely restricted immigration of European Jews to Palestine. The Irgun and Stern Gang (aka Lehi) were more militant splinter groups of Haganah. Although all three committed bombings, assassinations and other terrorist atrocities against British troops and Arab civilians, the Stern Gang was by far the most violent. Itzak Shamir, a prominent member, would become prime minister of Israel in 1977.
In November 1947, ongoing Jewish terrorism led the newly formed UN General Assembly to recommend the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish regions. Jewish extremists rejected this proposal – their goal was to capture all of Palestine (aka “Greater Israel” as defined in Biblical terms). Haganah responded to partition by commencing military operations against the UN-assigned Arab areas.
Continued Jewish terrorism ultimate forced British troops to withdraw from Palestine on May 14, 1948. Although technically Palestine was now ruled by UN mandate, Jewish militants proclaimed territories under their control as the State of Israel. Within hours, the Egyptian air force bombed the Jewish-controlled regions, and troops from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Iraq crossed into Palestine.
Based on his skillful negotiation with the Nazis to free concentration camp prisoners (see Jewish Terrorism and the Creation of the State of Israel/), the UN Security Council appointed Swedish diplomat Folke Bernodote to negotiate a truce and eventual peace in Palestine. It was Bernodotte who invented the “shuttle diplomacy” that would make Nixon security advisor Henry Kissinger so famous.
Bernodotte visited Israel and all the Arab capitols multiple time to draw up peace terms. The initial conditions he set called for Palestine’s Jewish and Arab territories to be contiguous (unlike the General Assembly partition, which created isolated Jewish and Arab regions across Palestine), the right of Arab refugees to return to land Jews had confiscated and for Jerusalem to be in the Arab-controlled state.
The latter was a fatal error* that Bernadotte subsequently rectified by calling for Jerusalem to be a UN-administered zone.
It was too late. The Stern Gang brutally assassinated him within hours after his final arrival in Israel.
Although members of Ben-Gurion’s government could personally identify the killers, they were never brought to justice.
*Obviously Bernodotte never attended a Seder (Passover celebration), in which the pronouncement “next year in Jerusalem” concludes the ritual.