20 Attlee to Evatt
Cablegram 277 LONDON, 27 December 1947, 4.20 p.m.
IMMEDIATE SECRET PERSONAL
Thank you for your message in your telegram No- 347 about Palestine. May I say first how much we valued the co-operation between our Delegations in New York.
2. I am sorry if you formed the impression from the statements made by Cadogan and Martin during the New York discussions that we favoured the gradual assumption of functions in Palestine by United Nations Commission. There was admittedly a period during the discussions in the Sub-Committee when we were examining the possibility of a progressive transfer of responsibilities but our conception of 'progressive' was geographical and not functional.
We came to the conclusion, however, that even this form of piecemeal transfer was impossible so long as the United Kingdom was responsible as Mandatory for the Government of Palestine. We consequently instructed Cadogan to make it clear that so long as we continued to hold the Mandate for Palestine we must insist on undivided control of the country. When the first report of Sub- Committee One was being examined by the Ad Hoc Committee on 20th November Cadogan stated our attitude on this point and it was in the light of this statement that the Sub-Committee revised their report. Martin re-emphasized this point on the 22nd November when he said:
'The authority of the Mandatory Power continues unimpaired until the Mandate is terminated and then it is reduced stage by stage applying only to a limited extent in those areas under military occupation.' 'Progressive transfer in the sense in which it is used in these Articles (B2 and B13) would, in our view, begin after termination of the Mandate.'
3. Our position in this matter was fully explained by the Colonial Secretary in the House of Commons on 11th December. He made the following points:
(a) The Mandatory responsibility for Government in Palestine must be relinquished as a whole on an appointed day;
(b) This day has been provisionally fixed for 15th May, by which time our military withdrawal will make it impossible to retain full Mandatory responsibility;
(c) For reasons of administrative efficiency responsibility and security there should only be a brief overlap between the arrival of the United Nations Mission and the termination of the Mandate;
(d) Meanwhile there is much that the Mission can do outside Palestine to make arrangements for the assumption of its responsibilities.
4. When we expressed to Arab Governments the hope that they would not make trouble while we were still in charge we certainly did not intend to encourage them to make trouble when we withdrew and we shall of course continue to use our influence to persuade them to act with restraint when our responsibility ends. At the same time we must bear in mind when making representations to them the importance both to the United Kingdom and to the Commonwealth generally of good relations with the Arab world.
5. I can assure you that as soon as the United Nations have set up the Commission we shall negotiate with it with a view to reaching some mutually satisfactory arrangement for the transfer of power.
We have no desire to impede the work of the Commission but we feel that it is in their interest as much as in ours that they should be fully seized of the problems ahead of them before they assume responsibility in Palestine where their arrival is bound to provoke reactions which they must be prepared to meet. We are forming a team of negotiators to proceed to New York for this purpose early in January.