Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Lovett)

Participants: The British Ambassador
Mr. Lovett
Mr. Wailes1

The British Ambassador called by appointment at 12 o’clock today and handed me the attached memorandum2 listing certain points [Page 1182] which Mr. Creech Jones proposed to include in a further statement on Palestine to be made by him in the near future. I asked the Ambassador if a copy of this document had been made available to our delegation in New York, and he replied that he was not sure, but that he would see that this was done.

The Ambassador then said that he had been instructed to make the following oral observations on the subject of Palestine:

His Government wondered whether we had given full consideration to the implementation of the proposed majority solution. He then described at some length the severe fighting, and difficulties the British had encountered in the Arab revolt of 1934 or 19353 and said this now led his Government to believe that a volunteer constabulary in Palestine would hardly be sufficient to handle any major Arab disturbances. I replied that this phase of the Palestine problem had been given the most careful consideration by this Department, other interested agencies and top officials of the Government. I inquired whether the Ambassador’s comments meant that the British delegation was not going to support the majority plan and the Ambassador replied rather evasively that he was not sufficiently versed in the voting technique at the United Nations to know whether a country directly involved in the problem, such as the United Kingdom was in the Palestine situation, would be expected to vote or not.
The Ambassador then inquired whether we had given consideration to the time element involved in the maintenance of peace through the volunteer constabulary. I replied that we likewise had given serious thought to this matter and mentioned that the majority report referred to a two-year transitional period. The Ambassador stated that the serious problem with respect to the Arabs might last for an indefinite period, and I said that we appreciated this fact. The Ambassador stressed the point that serious difficulties with the Arab world would naturally affect British and American interests in the area, the general defense situation, et cetera. I said that we realized the dangers inherent in any plan which was not entirely acceptable to both the Arabs and the Jews, as well as the dangers which would exist if we did nothing. I pointed out that his Government had played a prominent part in proposing a committee of inquiry and that the majority plan was the result thereof.
The Ambassador stated that his Government wondered whether we had considered the question of the viability of the Jewish state from the standpoint of defense and of the Arab state from the economic point of view. I replied that we had also given these matters careful consideration.
The Ambassador said that he had been greatly surprised at the position taken by the Soviet Government with respect to the majority report. He frankly failed to see what they would gain by it. In fact assuming that their desire was to stir up trouble, it would seem that it would be better if they were to back up the Arabs as the Arabs had felt they were going to do. I said that we, too, were mystified as to the reasons for the Soviet position.

[Here follows the final paragraph dealing with a matter other than Palestine.]



Mr. Creech Jones will make a further statement on Palestine at Lake Success shortly1 in which the following points, amongst others, will be made.

Paragraph 7 of the United States statement on Palestine2 seems to imply that His Majesty’s Government have the responsibility for the administration of Palestine until some alternative regime is set up in pursuance of an Assembly recommendation. His Majesty’s Government do not share this view. They do not think that even in the days of the League of Nations a mandatory power could have been compelled indefinitely to continue administering a mandate against its will, or that it could have been prevented from resigning the mandate upon giving adequate notice of its desire to be free. Since the dissolution of the League it has been very doubtful how far the mandates system retains any obligatory force and His Majesty’s Government do not think that they can be regarded as continuing to administer except on a voluntary basis. What they have said is that in certain circumstances they will not continue to administer it any longer.

As there seems to be some confusion on this last point and as it does not seem to be realised that His Majesty’s Government are determined in certain circumstances to withdraw their administration as well as their forces, Mr. Creech Jones will underline the points made in his earlier statement. There is only one hypothesis on which His Majesty’s Government will continue to administer Palestine, namely that the Jews and Arabs agree. In this case His Majesty’s Government will be ready to stay for a limited transitional period in order to help them [Page 1184] put the agreement into effect. If the Assembly fail to agree on a recommendation, or if they recommend a solution which is not acceptable to both the Arabs and the Jews, His Majesty’s Government will not feel bound to continue to bear responsibility for administering Palestine until a settlement is implemented and they will proceed to plan the withdrawal both of the British administration and of the British forces.

If the Assembly recommend international enforcement of a settlement which is not agreed by the Arabs and the Jews, His Majesty’s Government will consider whether the settlement is sufficiently just and sufficiently easy to enforce to justify their participation in such international administration and such international forces as may be appointed to put it into effect. The extent of their administrative or military participation would naturally have to be decided in the light of circumstances and His Majesty’s Government would not in any case have the responsibility for the administration. The existence of a United Nations volunteer police force would not make any difference to their determination to give up responsibility for the administration.

It is thus most important from the point of view of His Majesty’s Government that the Assembly should not vote on the nature of a settlement for Palestine independently of measures to implement it.

  1. Edward T. Wailes, Chief of the Division of British Commonwealth Affairs.
  2. Infra.
  3. The Arab revolt began in 1936.
  4. For the summary record of the statement made by Mr. Creech Jones before the Ad Hoc Committee on October 16, see GA (II), Ad Hoc Committee, pp. 96–98.
  5. Ambassador Johnson’s statement of October 11; see editorial note, p. 1180.