740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 646
Briefing Book Paper

top secret


The President may wish to discuss the Palestine question in general terms with Mr. Churchill and to stress our interest in learning what plans the British Government may have for the future of that country, with regard both to a long-term settlement and the immediate problem of Jewish immigration.

The fact that the quota for Jewish immigration under the 1939 White Paper1 will probably be completely exhausted by summer or early fall will presumably make it necessary for the British Government to reach a decision in the near future regarding this key issue in the Palestine controversy. The British are understandably reluctant to do so, however, since the present situation in Palestine is so explosive that any decision on immigration is almost certain to provoke serious disorders, and even bloodshed. Zionist Jews are becoming increasingly suspicious of the delays in a settlement of the Palestine question in a manner agreeable to themselves, and are growing restless. There is real danger that the more moderate Zionist leaders would not be able to restrain the extremists in Palestine, who are well armed, in the event that the British should decide to maintain the White Paper policy of no further Jewish immigration. American Zionists are also becoming increasingly belligerent and apparently are determined to force a decision on Palestine this summer.

The Arabs, on the other hand, are also thoroughly aroused and have given every evidence that they will oppose, by force of arms if necessary, any change in the White Paper policy. The Arab countries in the Near East have made it clear that they consider the attitude of the American Government towards Palestine as a test of the sincerity of American statements of interest in and friendliness for the Arab people and of American intentions to live up to the principles of the United Nations.

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In these circumstances it is probable (1) that the British will make some concessions to the Jews on immigration and (2) that if the question comes up for discussion, Mr. Churchill will seek the President’s support for some proposal of this nature. Although it is well known that Mr. Churchill’s personal sympathies are pro-Zionist, the British Cabinet is reported to be split on the question. It is reported that Mr. Churchill has intimated to the Zionists that it is difficult for him to swing the Cabinet around to his position without definite assurances of official American support. We have good reason to suspect that in the past certain British officials have attempted to pass the blame to the United States for various policies pursued by them in Palestine that have been unpopular with the Arabs, by indicating to the Arabs that they have acted under American pressure.

In view of the foregoing, should Mr. Churchill attempt to secure the President’s backing for any given proposals regarding Jewish immigration into Palestine, the President may feel it preferable at this time to confine his remarks on the subject to expressing the hope that the British Government keep us fully and currently informed. This would be in keeping with the Department’s traditional position that Palestine is primarily a responsibility of the British, who administer Palestine under the mandate and are responsible for military security in the area. By not pressing the Zionist point of view in his talks with Mr. Churchill, the President might incur sharp criticism from certain pro-Zionist groups in this country and abroad, but on the other hand by following a pro-Zionist course, he would run the risk of creating hatred for the United States throughout the entire Arab world and of causing millions of Arabs and Moslems to lose confidence in American leadership in world affairs.

Should Mr. Churchill press the point and insist on learning the President’s views on the immigration question, it should first be made clear to him that any proposals which the British Government may subsequently announce in this connection must be clearly identified as the proposals of the British Government only. Once it is fully agreed that the British Government has no intention of attributing any feature of these proposals to pressure from the United States, the President might inform Mr. Churchill that he would be glad to receive the proposals in question so that he could have them subjected to a careful examination.

As regards a long-term settlement of the Palestine question, it is recommended that this subject be discussed at the meeting in the most general terms only, because:

This is one of the issues which could appropriately be considered through the machinery of the United Nations Organization. Shortly before his death, President Roosevelt expressed the view that it [Page 974] should be handled in this way, and as one of the present mandates Palestine will come under the trusteeship arrangements which are being set up at San Francisco and which will subsequently be applied to specific territories. The Department of State has been making studies looking toward a post war settlement for Palestine. The matter is also being examined by the experts of the British Foreign Office. The British arefcommitted (notably in a statement by Lord Cranborne, Colonial Secretary, in 19422) to consult interested parties, including both Arabs and Jews, before reaching a decision regarding the future of Palestine. Our position, as made known to the heads of the different Near Eastern governments by President Roosevelt3 and as reiterated by President Truman, is likewise that there should be consultation with both Arabs and Jews.
The continued tension in the Near East makes it highly important that every effort be made to avoid any interference with the flow of war materials through that area to the Pacific war, or any deterioration in the situation which would undoubtedly result from any concrete proposal for a general settlement at this time.

  1. Palestine: Statement of Policy (London, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1939; Cmd. 6019).
  2. Made in the House of Lords, May 6, 1942. See Parliamentary Debates: House of Lords Official Report, 5th Series, vol. 122, col. 943.
  3. Cf. the letter of April 5, 1945, from Roosevelt to King Ibn Saud, in Department of State Bulletin, vol. xiii, p. 623.