45 Chifley to Attlee

Message, [CANBERRA], 4 June 1948


Palestine 1. The Minister for External Affairs and I have discussed the matter with Cabinet. The general view prevailing favours de facto recognition of the Provisional Government of Israel, providing that at the same time we made it clear that we would be prepared also to recognise an appropriate Arab Government substantially covering that portion of Palestine assigned to them by the United Nations Assembly decision, which has not been rescinded or revoked.

2. At the same time, we desire to act in a way which will not prove embarrassing to the United Kingdom Government: especially having in view strategic interests.

3. It is only right to point out that, in the matter of Palestinian Government, the United Kingdom Government pronounced itself strictly neutral, at the United Nations Assembly. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were at liberty to support, and did support, in accordance with the majority report of U.N.S.C.O.P.[1], the threefold solution which seemed fair and just in the circumstances, viz., political partition, economic unity and trusteeship for Jerusalem.

4. In the circumstances now existing, we suggest that the United Kingdom, Australia, and, if possible, New Zealand and Canada should make a public declaration in relation to de facto recognition of the Provisional Government of Israel. Such declaration would properly indicate willingness to agree in principle to the recognition of the Provisional Government of Israel, and at the same time willingness to recognize de facto the Arab authorities in actual control of Arab Sections of Palestine.

5. In our view, the general approach clearly stated in Mr. Fraser's telegram of 21st May, 1948, seems to cover the general principle. It is not a case of one Government supplanting another within the territory of a recognized State, but a case of a complete withdrawal of the exclusive de jure and de facto Government (i.e. the United Kingdom Government) from the territory. Such withdrawal creates a jurisdictional and governmental gap which gap should be filled at once, though only provisionally, and without prejudice to final decision.

6. Moreover, it seems very unwise to allow the position to drift on merely because one or both sides to the Palestinian dispute will be displeased. The fact is that continued delay of recognition will lessen or cut off many facilities in relation to trade and communication.

7. We hope, therefore, that you can agree to a declaration along the lines suggested in 4 above.

8. We are sending a copy of this message to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

[1] United Nations Special Committee on Palestine.

[AA : A1838, TS78/7]