Learn about the beta

740.00119 Stettinius Mission/3–1744

Memorandum by Mr. Evan M. Wilson of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Palestine: Topics for Discussion With the British

1. Implementation of the White Paper.

The immigration clauses of the British White Paper of 1939, under which Jewish immigration into Palestine would be prohibited after March 31, 1944 except with the consent of the Arabs of Palestine, have been modified in fact if not in substance by the recent decision to permit some 31,000 potential immigrants now in occupied Europe to proceed to Palestine after that date. The Arabs have protested this arrangement and will undoubtedly oppose any further modification of the White Paper provisions. The Jews are putting pressure both on ourselves and on the British Government to have the White Paper abrogated and to permit free entry of Jews into Palestine. We understand that the British Cabinet is split on this question, with certain members in favor of making no further concessions to the Jews and others, including Mr. Churchill, opposed to the White Paper policy and presumably favoring some relaxation of its provisions. We have received no definite indication of the intentions of the British Government in this regard, and it would be of the greatest interest if we could learn whether a decision has been reached, and if so, what the Government plans to do.

2. British Conversations with Zionist Leaders.

Several prominent Zionists, including Rabbi Israel Goldstein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America, and Dr. Nahum Goldmann, who represents the World Jewish Congress and the Jewish Agency78 in this country, are now in London where they are conferring with Dr. Weizmann, the head of the world Zionist organization, and presumably with high British officials. Various rumors are [Page 593]circulating as to these conversations, and it is obvious that the Zionists have lost no opportunity to put pressure on the British Government to adopt a solution favorable to the Jews. We should, of course, be interested in learning the nature of these conversations and of any decision reached.

3. Partition.

The British may suggest partition of Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews. This solution, when first advanced in 1937,79 was rejected by both Arabs and Jews and was superseded by the White Paper of 1939. There have been many reports in recent months that this question has been or will be revived by the British, but we have obtained no confirmation of these reports. If the British raise the question with us, we should avoid any commitment on this point at present.

4. Post-war settlement.

A study has been made in the Department of the post-war status of Palestine and a tentative plan has been reached, of which a summary is attached. This plan is based upon the idea of trusteeship and provides for the constitution of Palestine as an international territory with a Board of Overseers representing the three world religions as an advisory body. The plan names Great Britain as the trustee power. We may wish to discuss this plan informally with the British and in any case, it would be useful to ascertain what views, if any, they have regarding a post-war settlement for Palestine and whether they are receptive to the idea of trusteeship.

5. Proposed Joint American-British Statement on Palestine.

The President has approved a proposed joint American-British statement, submitted to him by the Department, deferring a decision on the Palestine question until after the war. We want to get British concurrence to this statement. They agreed to such a statement last year but we were not able to concur at that time. We are attempting to clear the attached statement with the British in the immediate future, but if this cannot be accomplished, the matter will have to be discussed with the British in London. In any case, we should take this statement with us so as to be able to show the actual text to the British.

[Page 594]
[Annex 1]


(A Summary)

With the failure of twenty-five years of government in Palestine, a radically different settlement, freed from the commitments arising from World War I, seems to be required.
A Trusteeship for Palestine exercised by the three religious groups would be a failure. However, there is moral and political justification for the proposal that the three principal religious groups should be associated with the future plan of government.
It is recommended that Palestine be constituted as an International Territory under a charter; that a great power be appointed Trustee; that a Board of Overseers representing the three world religions be set up as an advisory body. The reasons and conditions that support this recommendation are as follows:
The administrator of Palestine must be capable of firm, decisive and prompt action. This requires experienced officials under central control.
Firm, decisive and prompt action cannot be taken if sectarian and political differences are allowed to exercise their divisive and delaying influences.
The political and economic problems being highly complex and interwoven with hitherto irreconcilable religious differences, only a centralized and experienced rulership will guarantee justice.
It is recommended that the Trusteeship should be awarded to Great Britain by the United Nations Organization under the charter. The charter would recognize the interest in Palestine of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. It would establish the Arab and Jewish communities as autonomous political entities with wide powers of local self-government.
The advantages of the proposed settlement are:
It would eliminate the difficulties that arise because of the conflicting commitments of the past.
It would place Palestine outside the bounds of both nationalist and imperialist ambitions.
It would provide means by which to solve the basic economic problems.
It offers a better prospect than any other plan yet proposed for cooperation in the government of Palestine and for eventual self-government of the people of Palestine.
[Page 595]
[Annex 2]

Draft Statement

The Governments of the United States and of the United Kingdom have been in consultation in regard to Palestine. The common war effort compels both Governments to concentrate all energies on the primary objective of winning the war. They therefore look with concern on any activities which may delay the final victory.

The American and British military authorities attach the highest importance to the maintenance of order in the Middle East. Accordingly the two Governments are agreed

that no decision affecting the basic situation in Palestine will be taken without full and prior consultation with all concerned, including both Arabs and Jews;
that if, prior to the conclusion of the war, the interested Arabs and Jews can reach a friendly understanding through their own efforts such a development will be most welcome; and
that in the absence of such an understanding, there will be a review of the Palestine situation after the war has been won, with the objective of establishing a just and definitive solution equitable to all parties concerned.

In the meantime the British Government, which is responsible for the administration and security of Palestine, wishes to make it clear that it has no intention of permitting or acquiescing in any changes brought about by force in the status of that country or in its administration.

  1. Article 4 of the Mandate for Palestine made provision for the recognition of a Jewish Agency “… as a public body for the purpose of advising and cooperating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine …” ( Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 214), and from 1922 until 1928 the (World) Zionist Organization acted as such. In 1929 agreement was reached between Zionists and non-Zionists for the inclusion of the latter in the Agency, as provided for in the same Article 4, and the enlarged Jewish Agency was officially recognized by the British Government in a letter dated August 6, 1930. The Executive of the Agency, located at Jerusalem, came to function virtually as a government existing side by side with the Mandatory Government.
  2. See British Cmd. 5479: Palestine Royal Commission Report (the Peel Report), July 1937; see also British Cmd. 5854: Palestine Partition Commission Report (the Woodhead Report), October 1938, for a study of the partition plan by a technical commission; and additionally, British Cmd. 5893, Palestine: Statement by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, November 1938, for announcement of abandonment of the partition policy.