Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

We have seen your statement to the press in reply to the question whether Mr. Roosevelt had made commitments to the King of Saudi [Page 754] Arabia not to make an issue out of the Palestine question.52 We have also noted the proposal of King Ibn Saud, in this connection, to make public the letter written to him on April 5, 1945 by President Roosevelt. A copy of this letter is attached.53

We also attach a statement of the basic views of the Department of State on the question, which we believe you would wish to consider. The essence of the matter is that promises have been made to both the Jews and the Arabs that both parties will be consulted before any basic steps are taken regarding Palestine.

You may perhaps wish the Department to prepare a full summary of the situation, including our recommendations.

Dean Acheson


Subject: Views of the Department of State concerning American Promises regarding Palestine

Both Jewish and Arab leaders have been deeply concerned by the reports which are being widely disseminated that the President has urged the Government of Great Britain to permit the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine. Zionist leaders called at the Department a few days ago to express their concern at what appears to be a tendency to dispose of the problem of Jewish immigration to Palestine without consulting them. The Arabs, moreover, are making strong protests against what they consider to be our failure to live up to frequent promises which we have made to them during recent years that in our view they should be consulted before any decision respecting the basic situation of Palestine is made.

Our assurances of consultation are to be found in several letters addressed by President Roosevelt to Arab leaders and were repeated in a letter from President Truman to the Amir of Trans Jordan.54 The most categorical assurance was contained in President Roosevelt’s letter to King Ibn Saud on April 5, 1945.

The President’s proposal would, if adopted, constituted basic change the Palestine situation, and it is already clear from the violent reaction of the Arabs that it would in fact make an immediate issue out of the Palestine question. The British White Paper, adopted in 1939, [Page 755] established a quota of 75,000 for Jewish immigration into Palestine during the following five years, after which time there was to be no further Jewish immigration without Arab acquiescence. President Truman’s proposal would involve the abrogation of a cardinal feature of the British White Paper policy.

The disposition on our part to fail to carry out our promises would constitute the severest kind of blow to American prestige not only in the Near East but elsewhere. Much of the work done in the Near East in recent years in building up respect for, and confidence in the United States would be undone. Beyond the loss of prestige is the very serious threat to vital American interests in that area which would result from a hostile Arab world. Moreover, the smaller nations of the world, who have looked to the United States for leadership and on whose support we counted so heavily at San Francisco, would be sadly disillusioned if we violated our word in this conspicuous instance.

  1. At a press conference on September 26, President Truman had stated that the late President Roosevelt had made no commitments to King Ibn Saud which excluded consideration of the Palestine question by the United States Government.
  2. Ante. p. 698.
  3. May 17, 1945, p. 707.