The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: When we were talking this morning16 you said that before we discussed Palestine tomorrow you would look over Mr. Bevin’s various suggestions. As I mentioned to you, Mr [Page 811] Bevin points out that the annual pilgrimage to Mecca takes place in November, culminating on November 14th, and that this may result in pressure being brought to bear on the various Arab governments to harden their attitude in respect of Jewish immigration. If, therefore, any announcement were made which could be regarded by the Arabs as weighted against them, there might be serious anti-Jewish demonstrations, and the acceptance by the Arab world of any compromise solution might be prejudiced.

There have already, as you know, been pretty bad riots in Egypt and demonstrations in the Levant States which are likely to result in a stiffening of Arab opinion. And, as I mentioned to you today, the postponement of a statement in deference to the wishes of the United States Government has inevitably led to the choice of a date which is unfortunate from the point of view of Moslem reactions.16a Mr. Bevin feels that this makes it all the more important that the terms of reference of the proposed committee should not be such as to appear to them to prejudge the case. For if Arab opinion were to become even more difficult than it is, this might lead them to boycott any committee in whose terms of reference Jewish immigration into Palestine appeared to be featured with excessive prominence. And the findings of a committee which was able to hear only the Jewish side would not only be of little value but might be extremely dangerous.

Mr. Bevin therefore hopes that you will be able to help us through this in the same way as we tried to help you, and that you will feel able to agree to terms of reference which are not likely to produce a refusal of Arab cooperation.

I am enclosing copies of a statement showing the alternative terms of reference which have so far been proposed. In the light of the above, Mr. Bevin earnestly hopes that you may after all be able to agree to (A).17 If, however, you feel, as I hope you will not, that this is absolutely impossible for you, he would, I think, in the last resort be able to accept (B).18 But in view of the worsening of the atmosphere it would, I judge, be virtually impossible for him to accept much change in (B), and in particular to agree to an inversion of the order of, or to further alterations in, clauses 1 and 2. I have tried to set out these alternative drafts in comprehensible shape, and to put [Page 812] Mr. Bevin’s cards squarely on table! I am sure you will do the best you can to help him.19

Believe me [etc.]


P.S. Mr. Vinson20 and Mr. Clayton21 have asked me to attend a meeting on our other business22 at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow. I hope that this will not conflict with whatever time you have in mind for our talk.

[During a conversation between the Secretary of State and the British Ambassador in Washington on November 6, 1945, they discussed the changes to be made in the Terms of Reference. They agreed that the following terms would be referred to President Truman for his approval:

  • “1. To examine the position of the Jews in those countries in Europe where they have been the victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution and the practical measures taken or contemplated to be taken in those countries to enable them to live free from discrimination and oppression.
  • 2. To make estimates of those who wish or will be impelled by their conditions to migrate to Palestine or other countries outside Europe and to make such recommendations to His Majesty’s Government and to the Government of the United States as may be necessary to meet the immediate needs arising from conditions subject to examination under paragraph (1) above, by remedial action in the European countries in question or by the provision of facilities for emigration to Palestine or settlement in countries outside Europe.
  • 3. To examine political, economic and social conditions in Palestine as they bear upon the problem of Jewish immigration and settlement therein and the well-being of the peoples now living therein.
  • 4. To hear the views of competent witnesses and to consult representative Arabs and Jews on the problems of Palestine as such problems are affected by conditions subject to examination under paragraph (1) and (2) above and by other relevant facts and circumstances, and to make recommendations to His Majesty’s Government and the Government of the United States for ad interim handling of these problems as well as for their permanent solution.” (Memorandum of conversation: 740.00119FEAC/10–2245)]

  1. The Secretary of State and Lord Halifax had had a meeting devoted essentially to consideration of subjects other than Palestine.
  2. During a conversation on October 29 between Lord Halifax and Secretary Byrnes, they reached the conclusion that no statement would be issued before November 11.
  3. Terms of reference proposed in note from the British Ambassador, October 19, p. 771.
  4. Terms of reference proposed in note from the British Ambassador, October 25, p. 788. A third section, labeled (C), enumerated the terms of reference specified in the memorandum by the Secretary of State, October 24, p. 785.
  5. In an annex entitled “Footnote” the view was set forth that the British Government wished concurrently with the announcement of terms of reference for the enquiry to make public the British intention to deal with the Palestine issue in three stages, which were then specified: these phases were earlier described in paragraphs 10 and 13 of Lord Halifax’s note of October 19, p. 771.
  6. Fred M. Vinson, Secretary of the Treasury.
  7. William C. Clayton, Assistant Secretary of State.
  8. Reference presumably is to the American-British financial negotiations; for documentation regarding this subject, see vol. vi, pp. 1 ff.