867N.01/1487

The Chargé in the United Kingdom ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

No. 2243

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 2191 of March 1, 1939 reporting that the Palestine discussions had reached a critical state because of the action of the Jewish delegation in taking the position that the [Page 730] preliminary British suggestions did not in its view constitute a basis for further discussion, I have the honor to report that, notwithstanding that action, the Jewish delegates have continued to participate in “informal” discussions and the Arabs in “formal” ones, but that no progress has been made in arriving at a meeting of minds.

There have been almost daily discussions between the Jewish and the British delegates on the one hand and between the Arab and British delegates on the other. Moreover on March 7 a tripartite meeting was held in which the various interested groups, with the exception of the Palestine Arabs, took part. At that meeting Lord Halifax and Mr. Malcolm MacDonald made a further effort to reconcile the opposing viewpoints of Arabs and Jews, but without success.

The Jewish delegates have maintained their fundamental objections, as outlined in their statement of February 27 last, and though urged by the British delegates to put forward an alternative plan of their own, have thus far declined to do so.

The Arab delegates gave their considered reaction to the British suggestions at a meeting held on March 1. They took the position that the British suggestions were unsatisfactory and advanced a series of counter suggestions. These looked toward shortening the suggested transition period before independence, abandonment of the idea of a Round Table Conference, prompt steps for creating an Independent Palestine and immediate cessation of land sales to Jews and Jewish immigration! In commenting on these suggestions, The Times observed that although the Jews had certainly been unyielding, the latest Arab claims recalled Disraeli’s definition of an Arab as a “Jew on horseback.”

The general situation was discussed yesterday afternoon with Mr. C. W. Baxter, Chief of the Eastern Department of the Foreign Office, who confirmed that no progress toward an agreed solution had been made. The British delegation, he said, was now framing positive proposals which would be submitted to the Arab and Jewish delegations in three or four days and which would be the British delegation’s final effort to bring about an agreed solution. They would be susceptible of change in details but not in principle. If they proved unacceptable, he said, the British Government would then announce a plan of its own.

Mr. Baxter stated that the Arabs had thus far showed no sign of a willingness to compromise on their three fundamental demands, namely, the creation of a National Arab State, the complete cessation of Jewish immigration, and the discontinuance of land sales to Jews. The Jews had also maintained their position that the Jewish National Home must be maintained and that they would not accept a permanent minority status.

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Apropos of the Jewish delegation’s refusal thus far to suggest a plan for discussion, Mr. Baxter said that the British delegation had recently taxed them with this and Dr. Weizmann had replied that they were willing to discuss a plan based on (a) permanent retention of the Mandate, (b) partition or (c) parity.

Mr. Baxter went on to say that if the discussions had not contributed to any apparent approach of the Arab and Jewish viewpoints, they had at least been helpful to the British in determining the impracticability of a number of ideas that they had originally considered. He was unable at this time, he said, to give an outline of the impending British proposals but would let the Embassy have them when they were more precisely formulated. He thought that the coming week would see definite developments.

Respectfully yours,

Herschel V. Johnson