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Thursday, September 23, 2004
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Thursday, September 23, 2004

UK archives reveal Palestine plan

By Rick Fountain
BBC, London

WeizmannSECRET wartime discussions about Palestine between Winston Churchill and the future Israeli President Chaim Weizmann (right) led to an icy exchange with Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, according to official papers just released in London.

A top-secret Colonial Office file from 1943 shows that Mr Churchill favoured a plan to try to bribe King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, with £20m and the leadership of a new Arab confederation, in exchange for the Saudi monarch's help in handing over Palestine to the Jews.

As Mr Eden pointed out to his boss, such a move would be the opposite of British official policy.

The idea was put to Mr Churchill by Dr Weizmann, at that time head of the Jewish Agency, the body which acted for the Jewish community in Palestine in the years of the League of Nations mandate.

Mr Churchill was sympathetic to the Jewish cause and had long been a supporter of the 1917 Balfour Declaration which proposed a national home for the Jews.

But the usually emollient and diplomatic Mr Eden was angered when he heard from Washington that Dr Weizmann, talking to one of President Roosevelt's foreign policy advisers, Sumner Welles, had referred to the project as "the PM's plan".

EdenMr Eden (right) wrote glacially to Mr Churchill:

"I do not know how far Dr Weizmann has authority to speak in your name but I am a little worried about the danger of confusion arising in Washington.

"Our present Palestine policy has been accepted by Parliament.

"I know well your personal feeling on this but there has been no discussion suggesting that the US government should be approached as regards the possibility of modifying it.

"I must also record my view that Ibn Saud would not be willing to receive Dr Weizmann to discuss the future of Palestine nor would he agree to recommend to the Arab world any scheme remotely resembling present Zionist aspirations."

Mr Eden pointed out that the 1939 London White Paper on Palestine was unequivocally against letting it become a Jewish state.

In his reply, a day or so later, Mr Churchill wrote:

"Dr Weizmann has no authority to speak in my name. At the same time, I expressed these views to him when we met some time ago and you have often heard them from me yourself."

ChurchillMr Churchill acknowledged however that even if the King, then aged 67, was persuaded, he might not live long enough to carry it through.

"The great difficulty is the age of Ibn Saud," he wrote.

Perhaps aiming to soothe his foreign secretary's anger, Mr Churchill added: "I regard all discussion on these points as premature at present and only liable to cause dissension."



Chaim Weizmann's meetings with Churchill, Dec 1944 | Churchill's meeting with King Farouk, King Ibn Saud and President Kuwatli of Syria on Feb 17, 1945

The above material has been researched by David Irving for the third volume of his Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream."


The draft volume iii MS also contains this passage:

"Richard Casey also reported [Sept 12, 1943] that the American Colonel Hoskins had just visited Ibn Saud on Roosevelt's behalf a fortnight ago, to ask him if he would see Dr Weizmann; Ibn Saud had given him a raspberry, 'based largely on Dr Weizmann having suggested three years ago (apparently through [Kim] Philby) that he (Ibn Saud) should accept twenty million pounds in order to disinterest himself in the Arabs of Palestine. Ibn Saud took this as a gross insult which has apparently rankled ever since.' Having said which, Casey added that he hoped that Weizmann would be encouraged to visit Palestine shortly &endash; 'His calm and balanced outlook would be valuable with the more collate and impatient members of the Jewish agency in Palestine.' [source: Casey to Churchill, MOS84, Sep 12, 1943 (PRO file CAB.120/250).]

© Focal Point 2004 F Irving write to David Irving