The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State

No. 2137

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 2116 of February 16, 1939 and previous despatches on the London discussions on Palestine, I have the honor to report that Mr. C. W. Baxter, Chief of the Eastern Department of the British Foreign Office, yesterday informed a member of the Embassy staff that it had not been possible in the discussions of the past fortnight to make any progress in reconciling the opposing viewpoints of the representatives of the Palestine Arabs and of the Jewish Agency.

The Palestine Arab representatives, Mr. Baxter said, had not receded in the slightest degree from their original position and in this they had apparently received the support of the representatives of the neighboring Arab States. According to the press, the representatives of those States yesterday presented the British Government’s representatives, through Ali Maher Pasha, Chief Egyptian delegate, with a joint declaration affirming their support of the Palestine Arabs’ demand for complete independence.

While the Arab representatives thus maintain the Palestine Arabs’ claim to an independent national Arab State in Palestine, the Mc-Mahon correspondence which the Palestine Arabs contend sustains their legal claim to such a status and which, as reported in my despatch No. 2116 of February 16, 1939, is soon to be published, is being studied by an Anglo-Arab sub-committee with a view to establishing its bearing on the question of independence.

In commenting on the situation, Mr. Baxter stated that a great deal of time had been wasted in the meetings with the Arabs by the insistence of the latter on making a series of lengthy general statements. It had been hoped, he said, that the representatives of the neighboring States would exert a moderating and helpful influence but thus far they have shown no tendency to do so. At their preliminary gathering at Cairo, he said, an effort had been made to induce them not to commit themselves too far with respect to the Palestine Arab claims but he was afraid that they might have committed themselves further than they ought perhaps to have done. It was still possible, however, that they would exert a helpful influence when the time should come for the British Government to present its proposals for a settlement of the Palestine problem.

With regard to the Jewish sessions, Mr. Baxter said that the Jewish representatives appeared to be willing to make concessions on immigration [Page 713] and land policy, though with respect to the latter [former?] they were opposed to accepting any definite upper limit on total Jewish immigration which would specifically condemn them to remaining a permanent minority in Palestine. The Jewish representatives, he continued, had indicated that if they could discuss the general problem directly with the Arabs they felt they might be able to make some progress. He personally was afraid that it was going to prove “quite impossible” to bring the Jews and the Palestine Arabs together. The latter seemed determined to do nothing that could be construed as recognition of the Jewish Agency or the Mandate.

He went on to say that the British Government had as yet made no proposals of its own. Its representatives had restricted themselves to permitting the Arabs and the Jews to present their views and to discussing with them various objections and possible alternatives in an effort to discover possible bases for compromise.

A general summing up of the position, he said, would be submitted to the British Cabinet to-morrow (February 22) and he believed that toward the latter part of this weds it would be possible to determine definitely whether anything could be done on the basis of the Arab and Jewish proposals. He indicated that in his opinion the British Government would now have to make proposals of its own. It was here, he said, that it was hoped that the representatives of the neighboring States might still be helpful, though the British authorities had no definite knowledge as to the basis, short of acceptance of his complete demands, on which the Mufti of Jerusalem might be willing to end the revolt.

It may be mentioned, in passing, that Yakub Effendi Farraj, who arrived in London on Sunday evening (February 19), took part in yesterday’s Arab-British session. Since Ragheb Bey has regularly attended the meetings since the beginning of last week, the Nashashibi group was for the first time represented at full strength. The Second Iraqi delegate, Taufiq Suwaidi, who also arrived in London Sunday evening, also attended yesterday’s session.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Herschel V. Johnson

Counselor of Embassy