Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Murray) to the Acting Secretary of State

There is attached a brief memorandum46 for the President seeking his approval of a telegram which we have drafted in reply to Baghdad’s 110, March 18, regarding an inquiry made of our Chargé d’Affaires by the Iraqi Prime Minister. This inquiry was prompted by a Reuter’s report which stated that the President had reaffirmed to Rabbi Wise his pledge of last October on Palestine.

The reference is undoubtedly to a statement made by Rabbi Wise on March 16 after seeing the President, to the effect that the President was still in favor of unrestricted Jewish immigration and a Jewish state in Palestine. On inquiring at the White House, we were told by one of the President’s secretaries that the President did in fact authorize Rabbi Wise to make such a statement.

This, of course, will have serious repercussions in the Near East when the matter becomes known and will have a most far-reaching effect upon American interests throughout the area. Specifically, the result will undoubtedly be the undoing to a considerable degree of the good effect of the President’s recent meeting with King Ibn Saud. This is particularly so in view of the assurances which the President gave Ibn Saud at their meeting that he would make no move hostile to [Page 695]the Arab people and would not assist the Jews against the Arabs in Palestine also be borne in mind that on several occasions in 1943 and 1944 the President assured the heads of certain Near Eastern governments that in the view of this Government there should be no decision respecting the basic situation of Palestine without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews.47

Coming so soon after the President’s visit to the Near East, the statement which he authorized Rabbi Wise to make is certain to cause consternation and dismay in the Arab world and may well set off another anti-American campaign with consequent damage to our position in the Near East. In his recent talks with the President and with Mr. Churchill, King Ibn Saud made his attitude abundantly clear and left no doubts as to the determination of the Arabs to fight, if necessary, in defense of their position in Palestine. The President’s continued support of Zionism may thus lead to actual bloodshed in the Near East and even endanger the security of our immensely valuable oil concession in Saudi Arabia.

An additional aspect which concerns us is the Russian angle. As I you know, the Soviets have been traditionally hostile to Zionist activities, they have made no commitments in favor of Zionism, and we have had clear indications that they are in fact opposed to a Jewish state. Consequently, in our memorandum on Palestine for the President’s use at Yalta,48 we strongly advised against attempting to reach any settlement of this question without the full agreement of the Soviet Government. In the face of this situation, the continued endorsement by the President of Zionist objectives may well result in throwing the entire Arab world into the arms of Soviet Russia.

The attached telegram49 is an attempt on our part to provide an explanation, and, as you will note, it takes the line that the Rabbi’s statement, like the President’s pledge of last October, refers to action at some future time if conditions make such action practicable. We do not think that this reply will satisfy the Arabs, but we think it is the only one which can be made in the circumstances.

Wallace Murray
  1. March 22, p. 696.
  2. For documentation regarding such assurances by the United States Government, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, pp. 773 802, passim, and ibid., 1944, vol. v, pp. 589 598, passim.
  3. Ibid., p. 655.
  4. See telegram 116, March 24, 1 p.m., to Baghdad, p. 696.