Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Alling) of a Conversation With the Head of the Eastern Department of the British Foreign Office (Rendel)
After discussing a recent trip which Mr. Rendel had made across Arabia, I stated that I had had instructions from the State Department to stop in while passing through London to discuss the Palestine situation. I explained that from a conversation I had had on Saturday, May 29th, with Mr. Baggallay (then Acting Head of the Eastern Department) I had understood that the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry would not be in final form before the middle of June; that it would then be considered by the Government; and that it would probably not be published before the early part of July. I added that it was my understanding that after considering the report the Government would determine whether to announce its policy simultaneously with the publication of the report or to publish the report first and then to determine on policy after an opportunity had been afforded to study public reaction.[Page 885]
Mr. Rendel replied that the above réumé accurately described the situation except that the report would probably not be in final form before June 20th. Furthermore, he considered it altogether probable that, for obvious reasons, the Government would be likely to announce its policy at the same time the report was published rather than to wait until some later date.
I said that as he knew we had a large and influential Jewish population which was greatly interested, financially and sentimentally, in the Palestine problem and that, as he could surmise, this population was taking a particular interest in the present situation. Mr. Rendel stated that he was naturally aware of this interest, that the Jewish population in the United Kingdom was similarly interested. He hoped that the State Department likewise appreciated the position of the British Government which had to consider not only the interests of the Jews but likewise those of the Arabs. Unfortunately Palestine was not an empty country to which unlimited numbers of Jews could be admitted; it was already populated with a considerable number of Arabs who had lived in Palestine for some thirteen hundred years. To turn the country entirely over to the Jews would be much like asking the present inhabitants of Long Island to withdraw from their homes in order that another population might move in. The Arabs were not, as some people appeared to believe, a savage race like the plains Indians of North America; they were a people with a certain culture and civilization who could not be treated as savages.
I said that I was sure that the State Department was fully alive to this aspect of the situation.
Mr. Rendel continued that unfortunately previous British Governments had made promises to the Jews and promises to the Arabs. It was quite apparent that these promises, which were conflicting, could not be carried out with respect to both peoples. It was therefore the logical thing and the fair thing to attempt to find a reasonable compromise and a fair compromise between these conflicting promises and once this settlement had been arrived at to carry it through without fear or favor. He realized that any such solution would raise cries of protest from both Arabs and Jews but that only by such a radical solution could the problem be finally settled.
I said that of course the State Department wished to make it perfectly clear that it was not endeavoring in any way even to attempt to interfere in the administration of Palestine since that was entirely a British problem. All that the State Department wished to do was informally to advise the Foreign Office of the interest of a large group in America in the Palestine problem. I said that I assumed that the Foreign Office would wish to be informed of that interest and that it would presumably be taken into consideration at the same time [Page 886] that other factors in the situation were being examined. Mr. Rendel replied that the Foreign Office was naturally glad to be told of the interest of American Jews in the Palestine problem. The Foreign Office would of course take into consideration the feeling of Jews in New York just as it would consider the feelings of the Jews in Warsaw and the Arabs and Moslems in countries which were neighbors of Palestine in the Near East.
I asked Mr. Rendel whether he considered it possible that the eventual solution of the Palestine problem would be of such a nature as to require that changes be made in the Mandate—changes which would necessitate the consent of the Council of the League of Nations. He replied that it was altogether possible that the solution finally decided upon would require changes in the Mandate and that naturally any such changes would require the consent of the Council of the League. I then referred to Article 7 of our Palestine Mandate Convention with Great Britain7 providing that no changes in the Mandate would affect the rights of the United States, as defined in the Convention, unless such changes had been assented to by the United States. Mr. Rendel replied that the Foreign Office was of course aware of this provision, but he could not conceive that any changes that might be made in the Mandate would in any way affect the rights of the United States. Those rights were to a large extent of an economic character, providing for equality of commercial opportunity, etc. He did not feel that it would be possible to hold legally that the British Government was under any obligation under the terms of the Mandate Convention to obtain the consent of the United States to changes in the Mandate unless those changes affected American rights as defined in that Convention. He did not see how any changes that might be proposed in the Mandate, as a result of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry would be likely in any way to affect those rights. Consequently he could see no basis on which the United States could claim that it should be consulted respecting such changes as it might prove necessary to make in the Mandate.
Finally Mr. Rendel again thanked me for the information I had given him regarding the views of certain Jewish groups in the United States concerning the Palestine problem.