867N.00/634a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)69

3586. You are requested to inform the Foreign Secretary without delay that this Government is deeply concerned over Arab-Jewish tension in Palestine. Reliable information made available to our representatives, principally by British official sources, in Palestine and neighboring areas is to the effect that both Arabs and Jews are well armed and confident and that each side is merely awaiting what it deems to be suitable provocation before resorting to force in furtherance or defense of its supposed interests.

The serious effects which such an eventuality would have upon the populations of vast areas which are vital to the military effort require, of course, no elaboration. Moreover, Zionist political agitation in [Page 791] the United States and elsewhere has already caused in the Arab countries alarm and political reactions which in turn produce a still higher pitch of Zionist activity. A spiral of increasing tension has thus been created which feeds on itself and, unless the tension is abated, disastrous results might well occur in the immediate future. In any event, it would appear that the large amount of attention and energy which is being devoted to the Palestine question is causing serious distraction from the war effort.

It appears to us, and we hope the British Government will agree, that the time has come to deal effectively with the situation. To that end we suggest the issuance of the following statement which is designed to postpone a decision on the Palestine question for the duration of the war. The suggested statement is believed to be in harmony with declared British policy, and the text given below has the approval of the President:

“The United Nations, having in mind the terms of their Declaration of January 1, 1942, are agreed that while public discussions on controversial international questions are in general desirable, in order to promote an informed public opinion and clarification of the issues involved, it is undesirable that special viewpoints should be pressed while the war is in progress to such a degree as to create undue anxieties among United Nations and other friendly governments and peoples.

In this connection, the United Nations have taken note of public discussions and activities of a political nature relating to Palestine and consider that it would be helpful to the war effort if these were to cease. As in the case of other territorial problems, it is not in their view essential that a settlement of the Palestine question be achieved prior to the conclusion of the war. Nevertheless, if the interested Arabs and Jews can reach a friendly understanding through their own efforts before the end of the war, such a development would be highly desirable. In any case, no decision altering the basic situation of Palestine should be reached without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews.”

It will be observed that the statement has been drafted for issuance by the United Nations. We feel that there are definite disadvantages as well as advantages in having a statement on the subject by all of the United Nations. For this and other obvious and essential reasons we are seeking the views of the British Government before taking the matter up in any other quarter.

Among the disadvantages are the length of time which would be required to consult the other United Nations; the possibility that one or more of them might not feel able to subscribe to the statement; and the fact that some of them presumably have little interest in the Palestine question. On the other hand, a statement by the United Nations would have great weight.

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We are prepared to consider whether, taking things all around, issuance of the statement (with changes of wording to take account of the fact that it would not be issued by the United Nations) might not be preferable on the part of a smaller group of countries such as China, Great Britain, Soviet Russia and the United States.

For your information, we should not object to issuance of a joint statement or of essentially similar and concurrent separate statements by the British and American Governments should the British suggest and show a marked preference for either procedure in which case you are authorized so to state.

  1. Notation on the original: “OK FDR.”