Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Merriam) to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)

There is attached a memorandum regarding the effect which the Charter of the United Nations8 may have upon United States policy with respect to Palestine. The memorandum points out that the United States Government will find itself obligated to adopt a definite policy towards the future status of Palestine.

If you concur, we would suggest, contingent, of course, upon whatever decisions or agreements may be made at Potsdam that as soon as the Potsdam results are known, we ask Ray Hare in London to:

make discreet but definite inquiries as to whether or not the British Government intends to place Palestine under the trusteeship system,
ascertain whether, in the event of Palestine being placed under the trusteeship system, the British Government desires to have any part or all of Palestine designated a strategic area, and
if the British reply that they contemplate some form of trusteeship, state that upon completing appropriate studies, we would be glad, whenever the British desire, to take part in consultations on a technical level to discuss the terms of the trusteeship agreement for Palestine as a preliminary step in preparation of the trusteeship agreement to be submitted, ultimately, to the United Nations for approval.

In the meanwhile, we understand that you would like to discuss with us the four basic policy documents on Palestine,9 which you have. We would be glad to do so at your earliest convenience.

Gordon P. Merriam
[Page 718]

Memorandum by Mr. William Yale of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Although none of the basic factors of the Palestine problem have been changed by the Charter of the United Nations, Chapters XI, XII, and XIII of the Charter will have a direct bearing upon United States policy with regard to the future status of Palestine.

By article 77 of Chapter XII, Palestine falls within those categories of territories which may be placed under the trusteeship system. There is nothing, however, in the charter which makes it obligatory upon Great Britain to place Palestine under the trusteeship system.

It is clear, nonetheless, that should Great Britain be unwilling to place Palestine under trusteeship, the British Government cannot continue to administer Palestine under a mandate from the League of Nations, which will cease to exist after the United Nations comes into existence on the ratification of the Charter. It is therefore inevitable that the status of Palestine will be changed. The liquidation of the League of Nations and, with it, that of the League mandatory system will not give Great Britain a free hand in disposing of Palestine. The British Government cannot change the existing rights of the United States in Palestine as defined by the treaty of December 3, 1924,10 without the assent of the United States. Furthermore, both Great Britain and the United States have given assurance to several of the independent Arab States that no decision regarding basic changes should be made in the status of Palestine without prior consultation with both Arabs and Jews.

Therefore, the United States Government may find itself obliged to adopt a definite policy with regard to the future status of Palastine. The British Colonial Office may, with the support of various political groups, propose to include Palestine within the British Commonwealth and Empire under some special status. Although there have been suggestions made to this effect, it seems unlikely that the British Government, confronted by the probable opposition of the Soviet Union and the Arab States to the inclusion of Palestine within the British Empire, would advocate seriously such a status for Palestine. It would appear more likely that Great Britain will propose the placing of Palestine under the trusteeship system, especially so if the United States favored placing of Palestine under trusteeship and agreed to the appointment of Great Britain as the administering authority.

In case the British Government should favor placing Palestine under trusteeship, the British would, under article 79 of the United Nations Charter, be in a position to insist that the terms of trusteeship [Page 719] be acceptable to the British Governments. The United States, however, as one of the states directly concerned with the future status of Palestine would, by article 79 of the Charter, be called upon to agree to the terms of trusteeship. Indirectly as a member of the United Nations and directly as a member of the Trusteeship Council, the United States will assume serious responsibilities for the future of Palestine as a trust territory. It would therefore be incumbent upon the United States Government to formulate a policy with respect to Palestine as a trust territory and to make certain in the drafting of the terms of trusteeship for Palestine that our interests are protected.

In view of the foregoing, it would seem advisable, at an early opportunity, to ask the British Government whether it wishes to place Palestine under trusteeship, and if so, under what type of trusteeship. After receiving this information, it would then seem desirable to state to the British our readiness to take part in discussions, on a technical level, with respect to the terms of a trusteeship agreement for Palestine, whenever the British so desire.

  1. Signed at San Francisco, June 26, 1945, Department of State Treaty Series No. 993, or 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1031.
  2. This is an apparent reference to the studies covered by the four summaries dated January 30, pp. 683686.
  3. Convention between the United States and Great Britain relating to rights in Palestine, signed at London, December 3, 1924, Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 212.