501.BB Palestine/9–1748: Telegram
The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Douglas ) to the Secretary of State
top secret us urgent
London , September 17, 1948—5 p. m.
4153. Personal for eyes Secretary and Lovett only.
- Believing as I do that work which has been done here and in Washington with British Government on what should constitute a fair and equitable solution of the thorny and even dangerous problem of Palestine is no small achievement, I draft this message with deepest sense of its importance; for it represents what can be the keystone of the arch which we have been building. When one reviews the situation in its historic perspective, the progress that has been made, however tedious, is not far short of being a miracle.
- Bevin sent for me urgently this morning to discuss Palestine. He referred briefly to the likelihood that Mediator’s report may be published as early as September 20 and said that in these circumstances (he does not believe publication Mediator’s report can be postponed as suggested Department’s 3664, September 161) it appeared to him that best plan for US and UK at this time would be to issue statements, supporting Mediator’s proposals as fair and equitable basis for settlement along lines which he imagined Department contemplated [Page 1410] last August (penultimate paragraph, Department’s 3208, August 13 and Embassy’s 4146, September 162). He said that he had read Mediator’s conclusions (Cairo’s 1315, September 16, to Department) and that while they contained a number of features which His Majesty’s Government would have preferred to see handled differently, in main he was satisfied with proposals as a whole as being substantially in accord with US and UK thinking. He felt that proposals would stand or fall as a whole and that although British Government’s views might differ on particular points these views should be sacrificed to general good and solid US–UK front. He therefore accepts plan in its entirety, foregoes any effort to amend it, believes it should not be modified in any respect and that efforts to amend should be resisted. He believes that there would be little left of plan if amending process should once be begun.
- Bevin then handed me draft statement quoted my immediately following telegram (Embassy’s 4154, September 173). He said that it had been drafted with great trepidation because if this made it will “once and for all put His Majesty’s Government flatly on record as favoring partition as a permanent solution for Palestine and thus burn His Majesty’s Government’s boats with Arabs.” However, US and UK have moved together so far forward in this vital matter that he feels time has come for him to ask British Cabinet approval to burn any boats necessary.
- Bevin has in mind following course of action which is based on premise that Mediator’s report will be published September 20.
- Bevin will put statement quoted my 4154 to British Cabinet this afternoon. He will bring Cabinet up to date with regard to exchanges of views which have taken place since meeting August 26 (Embassy’s 3879, August 27). He feels fairly certain British Cabinet will approve this statement for inclusion in foreign affairs debate September 22, at which Bevin personally will speak, provided United States Government will make comparable statement September 20th or 21st.
- Bevin said alternatives to US making statement first were simultaneous statements or UK speaking first. Simultaneous statements would in his view strengthen idea that Bernadotte plan is “deal” between US and UK. If UK were to speak first, and be echoed by later US statement, this would strengthen idea which Zionists have been propagating that US foreign policy is formulated in Whitehall. Moreover, if Bevin made his statement first and US statement were delayed or were to suggest amendments to Bernadotte plan, all we have tried to accomplish in recent weeks would have been to no avail since US and UK would again appear before world as entertaining separate points of view re Palestine settlement. Finally, if Bevin [Page 1411] should speak first and we were to give qualified approval or to suggest modifications, His Majesty’s Government’s remaining influence with Arab states, so vital at this moment, would vanish like snow under a desert sun.
- In accordance with foregoing, it is Bevin’s hope that US reply as to whether or not we will issue a statement can be delivered to him tomorrow September 18th if possible or at latest on afternoon of September 19th when he departs for Paris. (He will return for debate September 22.) Actual release statement Washington will depend upon release date of Mediator’s report. If latter occurs September 20, he hopes that Department’s statement would be issued September 21. In this event he would ask Mayhew to say in Parliament September 21 that a full statement would be made by Bevin in foreign affairs debate September 22. This action would be quite appropriate because there is keen desire both sides of the House for statement and early settlement. If Secretary General should release report September 21, this would be too late for debate September 22, but Department could make release September 22 and Bevin would stay additional day to make his statement September 23.
- Bevin pointed out that his own draft statement (Embassy’s 4154)
has been cast in form he would use in debate September 22. He did
not think US statement, if we agreed to make one, need be as
complicated. The two essential points which he hopes US will cover
- That Bernadotte plan in opinion United States Government offers a fair and equitable basis for a settlement, and
- That USG will give its fullest support to Bernadotte plan as whole.
- To my mind, statements by US and UK of the kind arid in the sequence suggested by Bevin represent our best and perhaps only effective course in present circumstances. Statements would fix the positions of US and UK firmly behind Bernadotte plan as a whole. Working on this basis shoulder to shoulder with UK is best devised, it seems to me, to influence both Arabs and Israelis to acquiesce. If we should become the prey of Zionist forces, which will cause the UK to become the protector of the Arabs, this will only prolong that dangerous sore in Palestine and possibly spread the area of infection. I believe the reasons which Bevin has advanced in paragraph 6 above for US making its statement first are valid. They are in accord with my knowledge of the political situation here. (This I have since confirmed from authoritative Conservative sources.)
- For what my judgment is worth, I recommend with all the force at my disposal that we make the statement suggested above in the circumstances indicated. I believe that this, coupled with the British statement, will be an effective double blow which may go far to achieve [Page 1412] a permanent and workable settlement of what has been a potentially, if not actually, serious threat to our national interest.
- I hope that security aspects of this message will be observed with utmost care (see also caution in final paragraph my reference telegram).