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Weizmann Tells Truman Choice for Jewish People is Statehood or Extermination

(April 9, 1948)

New York, April 9, 1948.

Dear Mr. President: I had intended to take the liberty of addressing you in writing immediately after the interview which you kindly accorded me on March 18th. The events which followed, however, impelled me to wait until I could formulate some clearer impressions on the new situation which has developed. In inviting your consideration of my views at this time, I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for the personal kindness which you have so often shown me, and for the sympathetic interest which you have constantly devoted to the cause of our people in its grave ordeal.

I noted with satisfaction that in your statement of March 25 you indicated that the United States had not abandoned Partition as the ultimate political settlement in Palestine. I welcome this assurance because my long experience of this problem has convinced me beyond doubt that no more realistic solution exists. Palestine is inhabited by two peoples. These peoples have separate political aspirations and common economic interests. The settlement by Partition and economic union recognizes this logic. Partition is further reinforced by the support of two distinguished investigating Commissions (in 1937 and 1947), by the binding force of the General Assembly’s Resolution and by the fact that a virtual Partition is now crystallising in Palestine. Jews and Arabs are both mature for independence and are already obedient in a large degree to their own institutions, while the central British Administration is in virtual collapse. In large areas Jews and Arabs are virtually in control of their own lives and interests. The clock cannot be put back to the situation which existed before November 29. I would also draw attention to the psychological effects of promising Jewish independence in November and attempting to cancel it in March.

It is the logic of partition and of the present situation in Palestine which compelled me to go on record against the idea of trusteeship. One fails to see how any of the admitted difficulties of Partition are avoided by Trusteeship. The problem of enforcement becomes even more acute, as neither the Arabs nor the Jews of Palestine have accepted Trusteeship which appears likely to deprive each of them of Statehood. It is proposed to institute a Trusteeship in a country threatened by foreign Arab aggression, torn by internal warfare, and already moving inexorably towards Partition under a valid international resolution. The proposal is made without any assurance that a trustee is available, that Arabs or Jews will cooperate, that the General Assembly will approve an agreement or that any effective measures can be improvised by May 15th.

The difficult but clear course of implementing Partition is thus replaced by a leap into the unknown, and I am forced to regret, Mr. President, the great increase of trouble, danger and responsibility which must ensue for the United States from the unfortunate reversal on March 19th, with its inauguration of new uncertainty and new political conflict.

If I may venture to leave you, Mr. President, with one or two reflections on the major aspects of the problem, I would sound a note of solemn warning against any prolongation of British rule in Palestine. As you may know, I have cherished the British-Jewish relationship all my life. I have upheld it in difficult times. I have been grieviously disappointed by its recent decline. It is because I hope for its renewal that I tremble to think of the wave of violence and repression which would sweep Palestine if the conditions and auspices of the recent unhappy years were to be continued under British, or indeed any foreign rule. I also know how passionately the British people desire the end of this troubled chapter. Should your administration, despite all this, press for any prolongation of British tenure, it would incur a responsibility for terrible events and, almost certainly, the equal resentment of the British and Jewish peoples.

I recall that it is exactly two years since the Anglo-American Committee so emphatically endorsed your moving plea for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jews from the Displaced Persons Camps to Palestine. They are still in those camps. Reports have reached me of the grave effect produced on their dwindling resources of hope and morale by the United States declaration of March 19th. I cannot for a moment believe, Mr. President, that you would be a party to the further disappointment of pathetic hopes, which you yourself have raised so high. Their hope is solely for personal and national integration in a Jewish State in Palestine.

In conclusion, I am convinced that the present situation in Palestine is making a profound impact on the conscience of the American people. Having recognized the right of our people to independence last November, the great powers now expose them to the risk of extermination and do not even grant them the arms to provide for their own defense. Arab aggression is now more confident than ever. Arabs believe that an international decision has been revised in their favour purely because they dared to use force against it. Mr. President, I cannot see how this belief can honestly be refuted. The practical question now is whether your Administration will proceed to leave our people unarmed in the face of an attack which it apparently feels it is unable to stop; and whether it can allow us to come directly or indirectly under Arab domination which is sworn to our destruction.

The choice for our people, Mr. President, is between Statehood and extermination. History and providence have placed this issue in your hands, and I am confident that you will yet decide it in the spirit of the moral law.1

Respectfully yours,

Chaim Weizmann

Source: Foreign Relations Of The United States, 1948, The Near East, South Asia, And Africa, Volume V, Part 2, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, (Washington: DC, Government Printing Office, 1976).