Eighty years ago Prime Minister Winston Churchill strongly resisted pressure from Cabinet Ministers who desired him to implement the 1939 Palestine White Paper produced when Neville Chamberlain was still prime minister. The proposal would have created an Arab-majority state in Palestine that left no room for even a partitioned Jewish state. Churchill, who had been responsible in 1921 for implementing the Balfour Declaration supporting “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, had harsh words for this suggestion.
“I have always considered the White Paper a disastrous policy,” Churchill wrote on 12 January 1944, “and a breach of an undertaking for which I was prominently responsible….The Arabs have done nothing for us during this war, except for [attempting] the rebellion in Iraq….Some form of partition is the only solution.”
Two weeks later Churchill informed the Chiefs of Staff Committee: “The opposition to partition will come from the Arabs, and any violence by the Arabs will be countered by the Jews. It must be remembered that [former Middle East Commander-in-Chief] Lord Wavell has stated that, left to themselves, the Jews would beat the Arabs….Obviously we will shall not proceed with any plan of partition which the Jews do not support.”
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