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Britain Opens Talks with Jews and Arabs on Post-war Understanding in Palestine

February 17, 1943
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Important conversations between British officials and Jewish leaders are reported today to have taken place recently, parallel with similar conversations between Government representatives and Arab spokesmen, in an attempt to pave the way for a post-war Jewish-Arab understanding, in which the British Government is particularly interested.

Though the conversations were not of an official nature, they apparently were initiated by the British Government as a prelude to more concrete negotiations which may clarify the basis on which Arabs and Jews can meet when presenting their post-war demands. With Palestine no longer in danger of invasion and with the pro-Nazi Arab elements in the Near East discouraged by the defeat of the German armies, it is felt in certain British circles that an attempt should be made, first through private talks and later through official parleys, to smooth out the sharp edges of the Arab-Jewish problem and thus bring about an Arab-Jewish understanding before the war is over.

British political leaders who do not sympathize with the White Paper under which no more than about 30,000 additional Jews’ can immigrate to Palestine, point out that this limitation is out of step with the Jewish situation created by the war. They argue that when the terms of the White Paper expire in 1944, the British Government will hardly be justified in leaving it up to the Arabs in Palestine to decide whether Jews from Europe should be admitted. It is obvious, they declare, that in the light of the present Nazi mass-executions of Jews, a large Jewish emigration to Palestine can be expected in 1944 when, it is hoped, Europe will be partly or wholly liberated from the Nazis.

As the White Paper, which was issued in 1939, has not been approved as yet by the League of Nations, which entrusted the mandate over Palestine to Britain, it is felt here that its provisions can still be legally contested by the Jewish Agency, especially since the majority of the Mandates’ Commission of the League have never expressed agreement with these provisions. The White Paper, opposed by the Jews, was issued by the British Government shortly before the outbreak of the war. The Jewish Agency for Palestine was prepared to contest it before the Council of the League of Nations, but the war prevented the League from meeting. In the meantime the League is still the legal body to whom the British Government, as mandatory power, is responsible for all its actions with regard to Palestine.

The White Paper of 1939 provided for the admission to Palestine of some 75,000 Jewish immigrants between 1939 and 1944. “After the period of five years no further Jewish immigration will be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it,” the document stipulated.

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