LONDON (Feb. 24)
The British Government today indicated its intention of abandoning the League of Nations mandate over Palestine and ultimately establishing an independent state in which the rights of both Arabs and Jews would be safeguarded.
Intimation of the Government’s plans was given by Malcolm MacDonald, Secretary of State for the Colonies, first at today’s roundtable discussion with Arabs and Jews and later at an Anglo-Jewish session of the current conferences on Palestine, it was reliably learned.
Establishment of the independent state, Mr. MacDonald intimated, would be preceded by a transitional period of comparatively short duration. During the interim, he indicated, the Jews, Arabs and British would participate in a tripartite advisory council and also in an executive council for Palestine.
Mr. MacDonald revealed no further details of the plan today, except to refer in passing to the fact that some immigration would be necessary. The question of the extent to which sale of land would be permitted was not mentioned. Mr. MacDonald promised to give details of the plan on Monday.
The revelation of the British Government’s intentions shocked the Jewish representatives to the Palestine conferences. The Executive Committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, meeting later, discussed the idea of a walkout from the parleys, but decided to await the Government’s final detailed proposal before deciding on this question.
The indication of Britain’s plan for the solution of the Holy Land problem came after the 17-day-old discussions with Arabs and Jews had failed to produce any sign of an Arab-Jewish agreement for settlement of the issue which engendered nearly three years of violence in the Holy Land.
Between the Arabs’ demands for establishment of an Arab state and prohibition of Jewish immigration, on the one hand, and the Jewish demands for implementation of the Jewish homeland policy and facilitation of Jewish entry to the extent of the country’s absorptive capacity, on the other hand, the British negotiators were able to offer no compromise acceptable to either side.
Mr. MacDonald had suggested to the Jews a tentative plan providing for (1) restriction of Jewish immigration for a stipulated number of years under a modified absorptive capacity criterion which would guarantee an Arab majority, (2) promulgation of a constitution guaranteeing Arab-Jewish equality and (3) restriction of Jewish land-buying to certain areas. This plan was unequivocally rejected by the Jews.
As the conferences appeared to be nearing a deadlock, Britain decided to resort to the doctrine which Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had spoken of in opening the parallel discussions on Feb. 7 — “personal contact” as a method of solving the Problem. Accordingly, representatives of three Arab states (but not the Palestine Arabs) participated in sessions yesterday and today with the Jews and British. However, these three sided sessions also brought forth no hope of amicable solution of the problem.
Britain’s plan represents the second proposal for solution of the Palestine problem which involves scrapping of the mandate. In 1937, the British Government adopted a policy of seeking a practicable scheme to partition Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states and a British corridor. This plan was reported unfeasible by the Woodhead commission, leading Britain to call the present conferences. Now there has emerged a new proposal for dropping the mandate — but foreseeing establishment of one state instead of two.