Memorandum by Dr. Chaim Weizmann70

The appointment with the President was set for June 11th, 12 noon, but Mr. Sumner Welles suggested that I should meet him in the State Department at 11.45, and he would bring me to the President.

I met Mr. Welles about 11.50 a.m. and he took me over by a short cut from the State Department to the White House, which we reached about a few minutes before 12, and while we were waiting to be received by the President, I had a short talk with Mr. Welles. I pointed out to him that I was anxious to discuss with the President the situation in Palestine, along the same lines as we had pursued in our various interviews, namely, that the matter cannot be allowed to drift; that the Arabs must be told that the Jews have a right to Palestine.

To this Mr. Welles replied that it is quite right that the President should be told explicitly what our wishes are … Mr. Welles stated that the next three or four months will be a period of crystallization and a great many things are being discussed and will be shaped, and therefore it is very timely that the Palestine problem should be dealt with now.

At this stage we were interrupted and asked to come into the President’s room. He greeted us very cordially and began by saying that he had a talk with Mr. Churchill71 about our affairs; that he had [Page 793] gotten Mr. Churchill to agree to the idea of calling together the Jews and the Arabs, and I understood him to say that he and Mr. Churchill would be present at such a meeting.

I at once remarked that it is most important that the mistakes made at the St. James Conference in London72 should not be repeated; that such mistakes can be avoided if the Arabs are told beforehand that the Democracies mean to affirm the Jewish rights to Palestine; that the Arabs have got out of the two wars a great deal, owing to the blood and treasure spent by the Democracies, who therefore have the right to determine what sort of settlement they consider fair. The Arabs must be told that the reasons which have brought about the Balfour Declaration and the subsequent development in Palestine have not lost their meaning,—on the contrary.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The President then asked another question: He is being told that Jewish colonization is running a deficit all the time, which deficit is being filled up by charitable contributions from abroad, chiefly from America, I replied that such a report is incorrect, that any country which receives new immigrants is bound to spend money on development, and therefore would have apparently an unfavorable trade balance, but if one estimates the moneys spent for the development of Palestine and the assets created, and takes into account the production of Palestine, then the trade balance is far from being unfavorable.

The President then reverted to the idea of the conference, on which he and Mr. Churchill agreed, and he said,—of course, you will see Mr. Churchill and you will discuss it with him,—and then interjected the question,—Did you see Mr. Churchill here? And I said, no, Mr. Churchill doesn’t like to see me because he has very little to tell me. At which he laughed and said he knows that it is the case; that it may be different now in London.

I then emphasized the necessity of doing things now and not waiting for the end of the war; (a) because one would not like to allow things to harden; (b) Something may happen in Palestine which may create a very difficult position; (c) and this uncertainty is always contributing towards tension. Mr. Welles at that stage said, with the approval of the President, that he fully agrees with such a view, and there is not going to be a line of demarcation between the cessation of hostilities and the beginning of peace. A great many questions are beginning to shape themselves now, like the Food Conference.73

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The President then asked, Where would you be if a conference does take place? To which I replied that, all being well, I shall see that I find myself on the spot where the conference does take place.

Mr. Welles then asked the President whether he would like to send someone to Ibn Saud to prepare the ground, to which the President said that that would be an excellent idea, but Mr. Churchill must be consulted first, and his agreement secured. Several names were mentioned in this connection, like Philby74 and Mr. Hoskins. Mr. Welles suggested that Mr. Hoskins may serve us well in this capacity.

Dr. Weizmann then took the opportunity of reverting again to the main problem by suggesting that the present situation is most unsatisfactory and dangerous, and these 500,000 Jews in Palestine have begun to feel themselves in a trap, and this, added to the general position of Jewry, naturally creates a very serious state of mind, and the sooner this position is settled and the Jews know that there is a future for them in Palestine, the better. The idea that the Arabs would revolt is always there and I do not think that it would materialize if the Arabs would really feel that the democracies really mean business.

The President then raised the question of the difficulty of finding Arab leaders, to which I said that that is a really serious difficulty. When there was a competent and authoritative leader, it was not difficult for him and myself to come to a very important agreement,—and I briefly told the story of my first talk with Feisal75 and Lawrence,76—which obviously was new to the President.

That terminated the interview, which lasted about a short hour. I thanked Mr. Welles most warmly in the presence of the President for the great kindness and services which he has rendered in this difficult situation, and when Mr. Welles took leave from me outside the gates of the White House I again thanked him, to which Mr. Welles said: You should know, Dr. Weizmann, that I am deeply interested.

On our way out of the office Mr. Welles said that I may hear from him in about six weeks, and that if I want to communicate something to him I can do it through Ambassador Winant.

  1. In a memorandum of September 21 to the Secretary of State, forwarding the Weizmann memorandum, the Adviser on Political Relations (Murray) wrote: “The original of this memorandum was prepared by Dr. Weizmann for the British Foreign Office and a copy of it was furnished to Colonel Harold Hoskins during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia on a special mission for the President. As far as I am aware, no other record exists of these important conversations regarding the future of Palestine which took place in the White House last June.” (867N.01/1993½)
  2. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister.
  3. The so-called London conferences, or Round Table Conference, of February–March, 1939; see Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. iv, pp. 694810, passim.
  4. The United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture, held at Hot Springs, Virginia, May 18–June 3; for correspondence regarding this Conference, see vol. i, pp. 820 ff.
  5. H. St. John Philby, British Orientalist, formerly British Political Agent and later personal adviser to King Ibn Saud.
  6. A son of Hussein, Sherif of Mecca and leader of the Arab Revolt of 1916 against Ottoman Turkey, Feisal was briefly King of Syria (Greater Syria) in 1920 and King of Iraq, 1921–33.
  7. Col. Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), British Army officer who won fame as an organizer of the Arab Revolt of 1916.