"The First Major Test": The UN Secretary-General and the Palestine Problem, 1947‒9

International History Review

Author/s (editor/s):

Ellen Ravndal

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Ellen Ravndal, ‘ “The First Major Test”: The UN Secretary-General and the Palestine Problem, 1947‒9, International History Review, 38(1) 2016: 196‒213.

The Palestine problem was one of the first conflicts the newly formed United Nations (UN) was obliged to contend with. Secretary-General Trygve Lie played an active part in the proceedings, and his consistent support for the partition plan and Israeli UN membership has led to charges of Zionist sympathies and that his actions were based on this personal political bias. What explains the UN Secretary-General’s actions in regard to the Palestine problem? This article argues that Palestine represented a threefold ‘test’ for the new world organisation: a test of its ability to solve regional conflicts; a test of its ability to bring about agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union; and a test of the Secretary-General’s ability to protect and promote the UN. Due to the timing of the Palestine problem, as well as the attention it attracted from both the media and the general public, the UN’s handling of the matter would have consequences for the organisation’s standing in the world. In Secretary-General Lie’s opinion, Palestine was ‘the first major test’ for the UN, and his perception of the high stakes inherent to the organisation’s approach in Palestine provided the primary motivation for the Secretary-General’s actions.

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