The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Secretary of State

His Majesty’s Ambassador presents his compliments to the Secretary of State, and under instructions from His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has the honour to make to him the following communication from His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom on the subject of Palestine.

Reports have recently been published to the effect that Jews in British and American occupied Europe are still living in conditions of exceptional hardship. It is unfortunately true that, until conditions in Europe become stable, the future of large numbers of persons of many races and nationalities cannot finally be decided. His Majesty’s Government, so far as they are concerned, cannot accept the view that Jews are at present living under worse conditions than any other victims of Nazi persecution. Constant steps are in fact taken to try to improve the lot of all these unfortunate people. His Majesty’s Government consider that it is of great importance that Jews should be enabled to play an active part in building up the life of the countries from which they came, in common with other nationals of these countries. [Page 772] The extent to which this will in fact ultimately prove to be possible does, however, call for examination.

With this object in view, His Majesty’s Government suggest that a joint Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry should, as a matter. of urgency, be set up at once, under a rotating chairmanship, with the; following terms of reference:
To examine the position of the Jews in British and American occupied Europe as it exists today;
To make an estimate of the number of such Jews whom it may prove impossible to resettle in the country from which they originated;
To examine the possibility of relieving the position in Europe by immigration into other countries outside Europe; and
To consider other available means of meeting the needs of the immediate situation.
The Committee of Enquiry would be invited to deal with its terms of reference with the utmost expedition, though, if the investigation is to be thorough and effective, it must inevitably take time. The Committee would in the first place visit British and American occupied Europe in order to inform themselves of the character and magnitude of the problem created by the war. Having done so, they would turn their attention to countries of disposal. In the light of their investigations they would make recommendations to the two Governments for dealing with the problem in the interim until such time as a permanent solution can be submitted to the appropriate organ of the United Nations.
The question of Jewish immigration into Palestine, among other countries, would fall to be considered by the Committee of Enquiry under the third of their terms of reference. In this connection, His Majesty’s Government desire to inform the Government of the United States of the situation which obtains at present in that country and of the immediate action which they propose to take concerning it.
The Mandate for Palestine requires the mandatory to facilitate Jewish immigration and to encourage close settlement by Jews on the land, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced thereby. His Majesty’s Government have thus a dual obligation, to the Jews on the one side and to the Arabs on the other.
The lack of any clear definition on this dual obligation has been the main cause of the trouble which has been experienced in Palestine during the past twenty-six years. Every effort has been made by the mandatory to devise some arrangement which would enable Arabs land Jews to live together in peace and co-operate for the welfare of the country, but all such efforts have been unavailing. Any arrangement [Page 773] acceptable to one party has been rejected as unacceptable to the other. The whole history of Palestine since the mandate was granted has been one of continual friction between the two races, culminating at intervals in serious disturbances.
The fact has to be faced that there is no common ground between the Arabs and the Jews. They differ in religion and in language; their cultural and social life, their ways of thought and conduct, are as difficult to reconcile as are their national aspirations. These last are the greatest bar to peace. Both communities lay claim to Pales tine; the one on the ground of a millenium of occupation, the other on the ground of historic association and of an undertaking given to it during the first World War. The antithesis is thus complete.
The repercussions of the conflict have spread far beyond the small land in which it has arisen. The Zionist cause has strong sup porters in the United States, in Great Britain, in the Dominions and elsewhere; civilization has been appalled by the sufferings which have been inflicted in recent years on the persecuted Jews of Europe. On the other side of the picture, the cause of the Palestinian Arabs has been espoused by the whole Arab world and more lately has become a matter of keen interest to their ninety million coreligionists in India. In Palestine itself, there is always serious risk of disturbances on the part of one community or the other, and such disturbances are bound to find their reflection in a much wider field. Considerations not only of equity and of humanity but also of international amity and world peace are thus involved in any search for a solution.
His Majesty’s Government are of opinion that-the recommendations of a Committee of Enquiry such as they have suggested would be of immense help in arriving at such a solution. The Committee would, in the course of its investigation, make an examination on the spot of the political, economic, and agricultural conditions which are at present held to restrict immigration into Palestine and, after hearing the views of representative Arabs and Jews, submit proposals for dealing with these problems. It will be necessary for His Majesty’s Government to take action both with a view to securing some satisfactory interim arrangement and for placing Palestine under trusteeship. At both these stages great weight would naturally be given to any recommendations, interim or final which His Majesty’s Government might receive from the Committee of Enquiry.
His Majesty’s Government thus propose to deal with the Palestine issue in three stages, namely:
They will consult the Arabs with a view to an arrangement which will ensure that for the time being (and possibly pending the [Page 774] receipt of any ad interim recommendations which the Committee of Enquiry may make in the matter), there is no interruption of Jewish immigration at the present monthly rate.
They will explore, with the parties primarily concerned, the possibility of devising other temporary arrangements for dealing with the Palestine problem until a permanent solution of it can be reached acting either on their own initiative or on the basis of any ad interim recommendations made by the Committee of Enquiry.
They will prepare a permanent solution for submission to the United Nations, and if possible an agreed one.
In regard to the immediate future, referred to in (i) of the previous paragraph, His Majesty’s Government have decided that the only practicable course is to maintain the present arrangement for immigration. The Government of the United States will realise that His Majesty’s Government have inherited, in Palestine a most difficult legacy and their task is greatly complicated by undertakings, given at various times to various parties, which they feel themselves bound to honour. Any violent departure decided upon in the, face of Arab opposition, would not only afford ground for a charge of breach of faith against His Majesty’s Government but would probably cause serious disturbances throughout the Middle East, involving a large military commitment, and would arouse widespread anxiety in India. Further, Arabs have not forgotten the Insurances given by the late President Roosevelt and by President Truman to the Heads of Arab states of their desire that no decision should be taken in respect to the basic situation in Palestine without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews. It can hardly be contended that a decision to depart from the present policy in respect of immigration would not constitute a decision in respect to the basic situation in that country.
His Majesty’s Government are satisfied that the course which they propose to pursue in the immediate future is not only that which is in accordance with their obligations but also that which, in the long view, is in the best interests of the Jews themselves. It will in no way prejudice either the action to be taken, or the recommendations of the Committee of Enquiry or the terms of the trusteeship agreement, which will supersede the existing mandate and will therefore control ultimate policy in regard to Palestine.
An announcement of His Majesty’s Government’s intentions in regard to Palestine cannot be much longer delayed and it is proposed that a statement shall be made in Parliament on October 25th, defining those intentions on the general lines set out in paragraph 10 above. Should the Government of the United States agree to cooperate with His Majesty’s Government in the establishment of a joint Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, the fact would be announced [Page 775] simultaneously. His Majesty’s Government trust that such agreement will be forthcoming and, further that they will have the support of the Government of the United States in the course which they propose to pursue in the interim period.