Memorandum by Lieutenant Colonel Harold B. Hoskins
Cairo , August 31, 1943.
- In accordance with Secretary Hull’s directive of July 7, 1943, I have visited Riyadh and put to His Majesty King Ibn Saud the question requested as to whether he would enter into discussions with Dr. Chaim Weizmann or some representative selected by the Jewish [Page 808] Agency for the purpose of seeking a solution of the basic problems affecting Palestine acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.
- During the week in which the King considered the matter I saw him daily. In long conversations he voluntarily outlined fully and frankly his ideas on various subjects. The fact that he could talk to me directly in Arabic, often without any one else present, allowed him, he said, to be more frank than would otherwise have been the case since his best interpreters are not Saudi Arabians by birth. He said he was most anxious to have the President and the State Department know as nearly first hand as possible his ideas and he welcomed a chance to tell them to some one specially sent from Washington who was going back there directly. I therefore had only to be a good listener and make very few comments since he carried on ninety-five percent of the conversation.
- His conversations, of which I made full notes, covered the
following general subjects:
- His domestic problems including his pressing need for silver coins and for an additional two hundred motor cars, both items to be available before the next pilgrimage which begins about the latter part of November.
- His relations past and present with various foreign powers.
- His relations with each of his neighboring states and his frank estimates of the various political figures in power there.
- His ideas on Arab federation. On this subject I wrote a memorandum of our conversation,94 with a summary of his ideas as 1 understood them, that I submitted to His Majesty and to which I received his specific approval.
- As from my daily conversations with the King I became increasingly impressed with the certainty of his refusal to meet Dr. Weizmann personally, I thought it advisable to develop more specifically an alternative question to which there might be a favorable response. This second question was as follows: If the King will not meet Dr. Weizmann himself, will he appoint a representative who might meet elsewhere than in Riyadh, perhaps even outside the country, in Cairo, for instance, with Dr. Weizmann or his representative?
- At the end of a week the King gave me verbally his answers to the two questions I had put to him and in both instances they were clear and categorical refusals. He expressed again great appreciation at my having been sent to see him and outlined in a most friendly way his reasons in detail for his refusals. These reasons he confirmed in a memorandum94 which he handed me at the end of our conversation.
- His refusals and his reasons seemed to me entirely consistent with his character and with his policies as he had explained them to [Page 809] me during the previous week. They are based on his own religious and patriotic principles and reflect his sound political sense in recognizing clearly his limitations, both spiritual and physical, in this matter. He realizes that, despite his position of leadership in the Arab world, he cannot, without prior consultation, speak for Palestine much less “deliver” Palestine to the Jews, even if he were willing for even an instant to consider such a proposal.
- His Majesty went on to explain, he said for the first time to anyone, the reason for his personal hatred of Dr. Weizmann. He said that during the first year of the present world war Dr. Weizmann had impugned his (the King’s) character and motives by an attempted bribe of £20 million sterling. Furthermore, the promise of payment, the King was advised, would be guaranteed by President Roosevelt. His Majesty said he had been so incensed at the offer and equally at the inclusion of the President in such a shameful matter that he had never mentioned it again. He now explained it in detail and gave me the name of the intermediary, St. John Philby, so that I could understand more clearly his reasons for having nothing whatsoever to do with Dr. Weizmann or any of his associates.
- As a result of my visit I had a chance to become convinced that there has been no change in the attitude of His Majesty toward the Jewish question in Palestine as expressed in his two confidential letters to President Roosevelt under dates of November 19 , 193895 and April 30, 1943.96 His recent statement to an editor of Life magazine merely gave public utterance to what he had already written privately and reflects his sincere opinion from which there will, I believe, be no deviation. Furthermore, he cannot but have realized, by the flood of telegrams and letters of congratulations which he received from Moslems in all parts of the world, that, by his frank and unequivocal statement regarding Palestine, he has gained still greater moral and even political prestige not only throughout the Arab world but among Moslems in Turkey, Russia, India and even China.
- The King did not say so, but he clearly has the political acumen to realize that, even if he had no religious convictions on the subject, he still could not afford to support any Jewish claims to Palestine. For in the light of what he has said and written he would by so doing lose the moral and spiritual leadership of Moslems everywhere that he now enjoys.
- The conclusion, it seems quite clear from my visit to Riyadh, is that His Majesty’s silence in regard to Dr. Weizmann’s proposal put to him by Philby has been completely misinterpreted by certain British officials as implying a possible willingness on the part of the King to consider the proposal. Actually I am convinced that there [Page 810] never was any possibility of acceptance and there is none today. The King may not feel he can prevent by force the establishment of either Palestine as a Jewish State or even a Jewish State in Palestine. He is, however, firmly opposed to both solutions and I see no possibility of his being of any assistance to the Zionists in their efforts to come to terms with the Arabs in Palestine.
- In addition to the two written memoranda which I am bringing with me, the King has given me a personal letter97 to the President and has asked me to transmit certain personal messages. Also His Majesty has agreed to our communicating to the British Government the contents of these two memoranda if the President, after he has seen them, desires to do so.
H[arold] B. H[oskins]