The Chargé in Saudi Arabia (Shullaw) to the Secretary of State

No. 108

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s strictly confidential instruction no. 36 dated March 20, 194352 with which was transmitted a memorandum of a conversation53 relating to Palestine between Dr. Chaim Weizmann and certain of his associates and officers of the Department.

In the past there have been three great bases for Ibn Saud’s policies: firstly, his religion; secondly, his Arabism; and thirdly, his friendship with the British Government. Of the three the first has always been dominant and in the event of any conflict with the third factor of friendship with the British Government, the religious motif would undoubtedly prevail. Aside from the religious convictions [Page 781] of Ibn Saud which would prevent him from ever agreeing to Palestine becoming a Jewish state, practical considerations of his position in his own country would bar acceptance of any such plan. In the larger sphere of the Arab world any indication that he was willing to consider a scheme which would place an Arab state under Jewish control would be sufficient to seriously weaken or destroy his prestige. This Ibn Saud fully realizes and quite apart from considerations of his own prestige he undoubtedly feels most sincerely his responsibilities to the Arab world as an Arab leader.

There is little likelihood that Ibn Saud under any circumstances would receive a Jewish delegation such as that mentioned in the memorandum under reference. His reaction could conceivably vary from a flat refusal to a suggestion that anything which Jewish leaders might wish to tell him should be transmitted through regular diplomatic channels. In no case could it be expected that the King’s position would be altered by any communications addressed to him by the Zionists. His stand was taken in the letter of November 1938 addressed to President Roosevelt54 and as reported in my telegram no. 40 dated May 3, 7 p.m., this exposition of Ibn Saud’s views will shortly be reiterated in a second letter to the President.

In this connection the statement made by Dr. Weizmann that Ibn Saud had written the 1938 letter because “no Arab could afford to speak less loudly than the other” at that time regarding the establishment of a Jewish national home is true only so far as it relates to the timing of the letter. The same comment might be made at the present time when Ibn Saud is sending a second letter on the subject of Palestine to the President. Now the voices of many Arab leaders are being raised with various proposals and counter proposals and the King no doubt feels that he should also make some use of his influence in the cause of Arabism. There is no question now, or was there previously, of Ibn Saud’s sincere interest in the Arab position in Palestine.

Respectfully yours,

J. Harold Shullaw
  1. Not printed.
  2. March 3, p. 757.
  3. November 20, 1938, Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. ii, p. 994.