Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the British Ambassador (Halifax)

[Here follow brief remarks regarding the Soviet Union and a statement of remarks by Lord Halifax along the lines set forth in the “Informal Record of Conversation”, printed Supra.]

Secretary Byrnes: Does he72 set forth his views on a permanent solution?

Lord Halifax: No, he doesn’t except that naturally we should have every regard and give great weight to whatever findings might come out of this Committee.

Secretary Byrnes: I wonder when he speaks of a proposal being submitted to the United Nations Organization what scheme he had that would affect the United Nations Organization.

Lord Halifax: His thought would no doubt be that in the light of recommendations the Committee might make, if you came in, they should put up a scheme placing Palestine under the trusteeship of the Trusteeship Council of the League on some basis to be decided upon. No doubt he would formulate that after seeing the recommendations and the thought of the Committee. I shouldn’t think it would move further than that at this stage.

There are a few other points he wished to give you. It saves you trouble perhaps to have them on paper. He wants to make a statement on the 25th. I realize that is rather quick but he is under very great pressure as you may suppose. Indeed some of the pressure comes from this side. Therefore, if you could get your great mind on to that fairly soon.…

Secretary Byrnes: I am trying to figure what would be the result of it, just at this time. Looking at that calendar over there—I am not turning my head away from you—that is next Thursday.

Lord Halifax: The last day Parliament meets in that week you see. They don’t want to miss another weekend. That would be their thought.

Byrnes. Quite frankly, I am thinking of the New York city election the following Tuesday and when this is submitted to the President he has to think about that.

Lord Halifax: Would this not be rather good?

Secretary Byrnes: I am wondering whether it would or not. I have not followed it but I know that other people do. I know it has a lot to do with that election and I am going to reach about it with much interest.

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Lord Halifax: Is it the following Tuesday—the New York election?

Secretary Byrnes: Yes. We will just have to think that one over. I am thinking of the alternative. The alternative is that for the present nothing would be done. I had thought that when Mr. Attlee came over there would be a discussion by the President and Mr. Attlee.73 That, however, will be some weeks. That date is uncertain.

Lord Halifax: I believe the date has not been announced.

Secretary Byrnes: No, unless you have.

Lord Halifax: No. There were two dates.

Secretary Byrnes: It is that very next week isn’t it?

Lord Halifax: Between the 5th and the 11th of November. If it is at all possible for you—I quite realize the importance of this other thing for you—but if it is at all possible I would hate to have them announce in London—I don’t know quite what they would announce—it would be rather silly and flat to announce later that you were going to join in. I don’t know how they will feel. They originally wanted to put it on the third, which was Tuesday. They are under very great pressure.

Secretary Byrnes: Does he really believe that this would be a wise disposition of the matter at this time? I judge that he concluded that his cabinet will not agree to any more than 1,500. I just assume from your statement of his views here that having that conviction and having the pressure for some change that he hoped that he could keep this thing reasonably quiet by saying he was going to have an investigation to determine whether there was justification for increasing the number.

Lord Halifax: He points out in there, as of course you know, that your responsibilities are not only to get the Jews in Palestine but to see the rights of the people there are not prejudiced. I don’t think that we could possibly, without consultation with the Arabs, do anything in the way of basic change of the immigration decision, as is stated under the terms of the President’s letter to King Ibn Saud. That is obviously a temporary arrangement, pending recommendations of the Committee which would carry greater weight, if you are able to join.

Secretary Byrnes: Your idea is that he is going to make to Commons a speech along the lines of this memorandum?

Lord Halifax: He would make a statement there, yes. One other point. He told me when he sent this, to “See Byrnes and President”. I haven’t said anything to the President and I always hesitate to bother anyone who is so busy. Should I see him or not?

Secretary Byrnes: I would present it to him anyway. I don’t think it is necessary. It isn’t necessary because I am going to give him these documents to read. He will read them because he is very much [Page 779] interested in them. He is greatly disturbed about this thing. Of course when the President signed those letters—he signed a letter substantially the same as President Roosevelt’s—that was immediately after he had become President. It was presented by the State Department, by Mr. Grew.

Lord Halifax: Did he write to King Ibn Saud?

Secretary Byrnes: No, but he did to some other Arab—at least one letter, maybe two. Therefore, he is embarrassed. If he were, making that statement today, I don’t think it would be made. That statement was made by President Roosevelt and they called attention to the fact it was just one week before his death. It must have been the day he left Washington. I was going to look that up. I know that he was in no condition at all to be transacting business.

Lord Halifax: No he wasn’t. I saw him that day.

Secretary Byrnes: I remember seeing you when I came out. That was the first day that I realized that the President was an ill man. He looked terrible. That was the day he signed this letter and I imagine he would not have signed so quickly under other circumstances.

Lord Halifax: Still Truman’s letter . . . .

Secretary Byrnes: I don’t think he would have supported any action without basic consideration, without consultation with the Jews and the Arabs. I see no harm in that. You have to do it anyway. I am sure he will be exceedingly anxious. In fact, I am going to send it over to him as soon as I read it.

Lord Halifax: Very good. Then as far as I am concerned I need not bother at this stage?

Byrnes: No, I will tell him. If he does want to talk to you, he will let you know.

  1. The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ernest Bevin.
  2. See footnote 15, p. 17.