Menu JTA Search

Britain Wanted Palestine Partition in 1943; Roosevelt Wanted Trusteeship

The British Government leaned toward partition of Palestine as early as 1943, while President Roosevelt at that time entertained an idea that the Holy Land should be placed under a trusteeship composed of representatives of the Moslem, Christian and Jewish faiths, according to documents dating back to that era made public here yesterday by the State Department.

The authority for the Roosevelt views is Lt. Col. Harold B. Hoskins, Known then for his pro-Arabic attitude, whom the wartime President had sent as an emissary to the Middle East, Col. Hoskin’s report on what Mr. Roosevelt had presumably said emerged in the State Department’s “Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume IV, the Near East and Africa,” summarizing cables, letters and memoranda pertaining directly or indirectly to the Palestine question.

In a 1943 memorandum on his meeting with President Roosevelt, after returning from a Middle Eastern tour, Col. Hoskins reported: “As to a solution of the Palestine problem, the President stated that his own thinking leaned toward a wider use of the idea of trusteeship for Palestine, making Palestine a real Holy Land for all religions, with a Jew, a Christian and a Moslem as the three responsible trustees. He said he realized it might be difficult to get the agreement of the Jews to such a plan but, if the Moslems and the Christians of the world agreed, he hoped the Jews could also be persuaded.”

STATE DEPARTMENT ADVOCATED MINIMUM JEWISH REPRESENTATION

The documents show that the State Department, during 1943, lost no time trying to water down the idea of equal representation on a possible Palestine trusteeship for Jews, Moslems and Christians. A memorandum done a few weeks after the Hoskins meeting with Roosevelt, written by the State Department’s chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, Mr. Merriam, spelled out the kind of Jewish representation he had in mind. Under the Merriam formula, membership in the trusteeship body would have been based on the number of believers in the three religions–Christian, Jewish and Moslem–throughout the world.

The Merriam memorandum stated: “Considering that there are in the world some 585,000,000 Christians, 220,000, 000 Moslems and 15,000,000 Jews, the body might have a membership of six, consisting of three Christians, two Moslems and one Jew. If it is desired to reflect the number of communicants more accurately, the body could consist of six Christians, two Moslems and one Jew.”

To make sure that Jews have only minimal representation, the Merriam plan proposed further that the single Jewish member be “rotated,” so that this Jew would “represent Zionists, non-Zionists and anti-Zionists at the moment the foregoing appears to reflect the major attitudes of Jewry toward Palestine.”

TWO ROOSEVELT EMISSARIES TO ARABS DIFFER IN REPORTS

The Hoskins memorandum also stated that it was impossible to obtain agreement on the Palestine problem between Saudi Arabia’s King Saud and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, then president of the World Zionist Organization. The reason was, according to Hoskins, that King Saud had been offended by an alleged Weizmann offer of a “bribe” of 25, 000, 000 pounds sterling. Another document in the volume indicated that King Saud had Kept silent when the alleged “bribe” offer was made.

Not only was King Saud opposed to meeting with Dr. Weizmann or making an agreement with Zionists, according to the State Department volume, but he also indicated that he would also insist on the removal from Palestine of the Jews who had legally immigrated into that land during the war.

However, the book indicates that another Roosevelt emissary to the Middle East, Gen. Patrick Hurley, had painted a different picture in a report to President Roosevelt. Gen. Hurley had reported that “among the Arabs, there is little or no anti-Jewish sentiment as we ordinarily use the term, nor is there serious opposition to the concept of a Jewish national home.”

NEXT STORY