The British Embassy to the Department of State


His Majesty’s Embassy are instructed to communicate, for the confidential information of the State Department, the accompanying [Page 733] document giving the substance of the final British proposals regarding Palestine.

In doing so His Majesty’s Embassy are to explain in confidence that the constitutional changes proposed by His Majesty’s Government are designed to give effect to that part of Article 2 of the Palestine Mandate which refers to the necessity of securing the development of self-governing institutions. Hitherto, through no fault of His Majesty’s Government but solely on account of non-cooperation on the part of Arabs or Jews, it has not proved possible to make much progress in this direction.

The Palestinian Arabs, during the present conference, have demanded the establishment of an independent Arab state in Palestine. His Majesty’s Government have, of course, not been able to accept this demand nor have His Majesty’s Government finally committed themselves as regards the nature of the future independent Palestinian state. They have, however, maintained that a transitional period of indeterminate length will be necessary before Palestine can achieve her independence, and that full independence cannot be granted until there is a sufficient measure of cooperation between Arabs and Jews in Palestine to make good government possible. This means that the Arabs will not be able to obtain their share of independence until they have succeeded in winning the confidence and cooperation of the Jews and should give the Jews every opportunity of safeguarding their own interests.

As regards immigration the time has obviously now come for His Majesty’s Government to put an end to the state of uncertainty which has been the main cause of the present disturbed conditions in Palestine. His Majesty’s Government have already facilitated the arrival in Palestine of approximately 400,000 Jews in pursuance of their obligations as laid down in the Mandate to secure the establishment of a Jewish national home. It will be remembered that the Arabs were never consulted regarding the Mandate and have refused to agree to or recognise either the Mandate or the Balfour Declaration. The Arabs have hitherto had no assurance where this process of admitting Jews to Palestine without their consent will end; they are insisting that all further Jewish immigration should at once be stopped. His Majesty’s Government have not agreed to this but they have decided that it is reasonable that, after a period of five years during which immigration will on the average slightly exceed its present level, the Jews should have to obtain Arab consent to any further Jewish immigration.

If the Jews are required to obtain Arab consent to what they regard as the vital question of further immigration and the Arabs have to obtain Jewish consent before they can secure an independent Palestine, it would seem that the elements of a compromise are present. [Page 734] His Majesty’s Government feel that the most important consideration regarding Palestine is that Arabs and Jews should learn to work together and they think the present scheme offers the best prospect of favouring the growth of such cooperation.

It is unlikely that the present proposals, though they involve a change of policy, would require an amendment of the Mandate.


Substance of Final British Proposals Regarding Palestine

A. Constitution.

(1) His Majesty’s Government’s ultimate objective is the termination of the mandate and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, possibly of a federal nature, in such treaty relations with Great Britain as would provide satisfactorily for her commercial and strategic interests.

(2) His Majesty’s Government have no intention that Palestine should become a Jewish state or an Arab state; nor do they regard their pledges to either Jews or Arabs as requiring them to promote either of these alternatives. It should be a state in which the Arabs and the Jews share in the government in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each are safeguarded.

(3) The constitution of the independent state would be drafted in due course by a national assembly of the people of Palestine, either elected or nominated as may be agreed. His Majesty’s Government would be represented on the assembly and would have to be satisfied as to the provisions of the constitution, and in particular as regards (a) the security of and access to the Holy Places; (b) the protection of the different communities in Palestine in accordance with the obligations of His Majesty’s Government to both Arabs and Jews, and as regards securing the special position in Palestine of the Jewish national home.

His Majesty’s Government would also require to be satisfied that the interests of certain foreign countries in Palestine, for the preservation of which His Majesty’s Government are at present responsible, were adequately safeguarded.

(4) The establishment of the independent state would be preceded by a transitional period throughout which His Majesty’s Government, as mandatory power, would retain responsibility for the government of the country.

(5) As soon as peace and order are sufficiently restored, the first steps are to be taken towards giving the people of Palestine, during [Page 735] the transitional period, an increasing part in the government of the country, (a) The first stage of this process would be as follows; in the legislative sphere—the addition of a certain number of Palestinians (Arabs and Jews) by nomination, to the Advisory Council; the numbers of Arab and Jewish representatives being fixed approximately in proportion to population and so as to give a majority of Palestinian members.

In the executive sphere—the selection of Palestinian members of the Advisory Council to sit on Executive Council; the numbers of Arab and Jewish representatives being fixed approximately in proportion to the population and so that half of the members of the Council would be Palestinians.

(b) The next stage would be—in the legislative sphere—the conversion of the Advisory Council into a legislative council with an elected Palestinian element. Certain powers would be reserved to the High Commissioner.

In the executive sphere—certain departments would be placed in charge of Palestinian members of the Executive Council.

(c) Further advances towards self-government in the transitional period might be in the direction of increasing the powers of the Legislative Council and placing more departments under the charge of Palestinian members of Executive Council.

(6) His Majesty’s Government would be prepared, if conditions in Palestine permit, to hold elections for a Legislative Council (the composition and powers of which would be a matter for consultation between the original parties) within two years. Beyond this no timetable can be fixed now for the advance from stage to stage of constitutional development in the transitional period; nor can a date be fixed for the end of the transitional period and establishment of an independent state. His Majesty’s Government would hope that the whole process could be completed in ten years, but this must depend upon the situation in Palestine and upon the success of the various constitutional changes during the transitional period and upon the likelihood of effective cooperation in government by the people of Palestine. His Majesty’s Government could not contemplate relinquishing all responsibility for the government of Palestine unless there were assurance that the measure of agreement between the communities in Palestine was such as to make good government possible.

B. Immigration.

Immigration during the next five years would be at a rate which, if economic absorptive capacity permits, would bring the Jewish population up to approximately one third of the population. This would mean an addition of 115,000 to the present official figures of the Jewish population. From this must be deducted a figure of [Page 736] 40,000 representing the estimated number of illegal immigrants now in Palestine. Immigration over the next five years would therefore attain, if economic absorptive capacity permits, a figure of 75,000 to be admitted as follows—10,000 per year plus 25,000 Jewish refugees, special consideration being given to children and dependents, the refugees to be admitted as soon as the High Commissioner is satisfied that adequate provision is secured for them.
The existing machinery for ascertaining the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine would be retained and the High Commissioner would have ultimate responsibility for deciding what the economic capacity allowed. Before a decision was reached appropriate Jewish and Arab representatives would be consulted.
After the period of five years no further Jewish immigration would be permitted without the acquiescence of all parties, to be obtained through the medium of the appropriate constitutional organs functioning during the transitional period, or by means of a conference representative of Arabs, Jews and His Majesty’s Government.
His Majesty’s Government are determined to check illegal immigration and further preventive measures are being adopted and will be firmly enforced. The numbers of any Jewish illegal immigrants who despite these measures succeed in coming into the country and cannot be deported would be deducted from yearly quotas.

C. Land.

The High Commissioner would be given general powers to prohibit and regulate transfers of land. The High Commissioner would be instructed to fix areas in which transfer was to be permitted freely, regulated, or prohibited, in the light of the findings of the Peel and Woodhead reports. He would retain this power throughout the transitional period.