501.BB Palestine/5–448: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State

top secret   us urgent

1917. For Lovett from Douglas.

Have just discussed fully with Bevin Deptel 1586, May 3. He handed me the following statement which he proposes to make in the House of Commons this afternoon for release 3:30 London time:

[Here follows proposed statement, announcing that the British Government would not depart from its position to retain the mandate over Palestine until May 15. The statement noted also that British forces had intervened to halt Jewish attacks oil the Arabs in Jaffa and Jerusalem and that the British Government had used its influence to prevent invasion of Palestine by Arab countries. Thus Mr. Bevin’s position was that so long as the British remained responsible in Palestine, they would not tolerate aggression. At the same time, there was no question that the British would refrain from enforcing a settlement not agreed to by the Jews and Arabs; but that if there were agreement between them and if the British were approached, “in conjunction with others”, a new situation would be created and the British Government would consider the matter most carefully.]

Bevin is unwilling to make any commitment in advance of a known situation, for fear that it may be misconstrued in several quarters.
I interpret the above statement, when combined with my conversation with Bevin, to mean that (a) if the GA approves of the proposal put forward by US delegation; (b) if an unconditional cease-fire is effected; and (c) if truce is agreed to; Bevin and the cabinet of HMG will consider sympathetically accepting a continuation of responsibility for a very short period. I am also, however, convinced that [Page 897]Britain will not be placed in a position which may lead to a continuation of a solitary acceptance of responsibility.
HMG will, of course, lend utmost cooperation to an effective cease-fire and truce.1
  1. New York advised, on May 4, of the negative British attitude toward the United States proposals for a ten-day ceasefire and for an extension of the mandate for ten days. Mr. Beeley had pointed out the “great legal and time-consuming difficulty of amending present legislation calling for laying down mandate May 15 and related public opinion argument” and the fact that “It is only present deadline of May 15 which has brought parties to point of even considering truce. Any extension of deadline would harden respective positions of parties and greatly impair chances of truce.” He also had indicated the British view that an “extension of mandate would be misinterpreted in light of British troop reinforcements to Palestine over last few days.” (Telegram 565, 501.BB Palestine/5–448)