867 N.01/10–1945

The British Embassy to the Department of State

Informal Record of Conversation

His Majesty’s Government feel that the problem of Palestine is a terrible legacy. A further attempt must be made as soon as possible to settle it.

The aim of His Majesty’s Government is to try and get a satisfactory long-term settlement to be submitted to the United Nations Organization under the trusteeship system.
Meanwhile His Majesty’s Government would be lacking in frankness if they did not make it clear that the approach to the problem in the United States is being most embarrassing to them and is embittering relations between the two countries at a moment when we ought to be getting closer together in our common interests.
His Majesty’s Government therefore invite the United States Government to take part in an Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, to be set up immediately with rotating chairmanship, to study and report (a) on the position in future of the Jews in British and American occupied Europe, and (b) the possibility of relieving the position in Europe by immigration into other countries outside Europe (including Palestine).
His Majesty’s Government cannot accept the view that all the Jews or the bulk of them must necessarily leave Germany, and still less Europe. That would be to accept Hitler’s thesis.
There are reports that the Zionists are using every possible form of intimidation to stop Jews leaving Palestine in order to go back to Europe and to play their part in its reconstruction. This requires close examination. The first thing to do is to ascertain what is the view of the Jews in Europe. Are they going to survive, and under what conditions? His Majesty’s Government are not satisfied with Mr. Earl Harrison’s report.
No doubt, when the problem has been settled of the future of Jews in Europe, there will still be many Jews who want to go to Palestine. Then arises the question, what can Palestine absorb? Figures have been submitted which at first sight seem fantastic. Arguments have been advanced that the south of Palestine can be developed and that [Page 776] great opportunities out of that desert are possible. This is a specific question. His Majesty’s Government hope that the United States Government will join with them in investigating and obtaining impartial evidence. There is also the question of the Jordan scheme advocated by Mr. Lowdermilk.71 What are its possibilities? His Majesty’s Government would like to have an enquiry in order to put it to the test.
It is not right to go on asserting that there are great opportunities in Palestine unless we can show to the Arabs that they are practicable and that the admission of more Jews will not necessarily increase the pressure on the land.
To fly in the face of the Arabs after all the undertakings that have been given would cause a breakdown at the beginning. His Majesty’s Government have therefore confined themselves for the moment to seeking the consent of the Arab countries to continue the present arrangement for limited immigration, but their whole plan is a clear indication of a desire for a settlement without waiting until the United Nations Organization, to which the problem must be referred in the end, is ready to deal with it.
As regards the possible government of Palestine, Mr. Bevin recently had a talk with Dr. Weizmann, who appears now to be against partition and talked about a Swiss constitution with cantons which would be a bilingual state with opportunities for both races to be represented abroad, and which would provide common services within. His Majesty’s Government would be willing for consideration to be given to this as well.
Mr. Bevin is anxious to make a statement in Parliament on October 25th. His Majesty’s Government hope that the United States Government will agree to co-operate with His Majesty’s Government in the establishment at once of a joint Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, and that the fact could be announced simultaneously.
The personality, standing and impartiality of members of the proposed commission would be of the utmost importance. In selecting the British representatives, His Majesty’s Government would be guided primarily by these qualifications. Their selection might include at least one member of the House of Lords or the House of Commons.
His Majesty’s Government suggest that three British and three American members would be a suitable number.
  1. See memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt, January 4, p. 678.