Herald Feb 1, 1947

Palestine and Partition

It has now become clear, as was feared from the first, that the Palestine talks in London have failed. Arabs and Jews having refused to sit at the same table, the Conference has never met; neither party has put forward any constructive, still less any conciliatory, proposal. All this might have been expected, and it is a moot point whether the time wasted on these negative proceedings has had any effect in educating world opinion. The probability is that the obvious divisions in the Zionist ranks at the recent Congress and the continuance of terrorism in Palestine have prejudiced the Jewish case, without increasing the not very impressive support for the Arab stonewallers.

The position therefore seems hopeless. But there are no insoluble problems, only problems which men fail to solve; and when two of the three parties lack the will or the statesmanship to agree, the duty falls on the third party to propose and if necessary impose as equitable a settlement as it can provide. Otherwise there is no course open to Britain as the mandatory Power but to abdicate, which would not only be a confession of failure but it would make matters even worse.

Since the two peoples refuse to live together, the only practicable alternative is partition. It will be denounced the the extremists on both sides, and it can unfortunately only be defended as the lesser evil; but at this stage one cannot undo the historical claims of the Jews under the mandate. Partition is inconvenient, both because of the smallness of the areas involved and because it will leave small minorities on either side of the line; and administratively it is bound to involve a duplication of offices and expense. But all that will be worth while if it reduces the present tension and provides a breathing space in which the two incompatibles can learn the elements of toleration.

It is an awkward factor in the situation that the change coincides with the transfer of the old mandatory system to the new trusteeship under U.N.O. This makes some further delay inevitable, at a time when the position is deteriorating; but on the whole it will probably be wise to obtain the approval of the Trusteeship Council rather than run the risk of a charge of sharp practice under a moribund mandate. U.N. O has no constitutional authority to take over Palestine itself, and no other Power has shown any desire to accept so difficult a task; it remains therefore, for the British Government to announce their policy and obtain approval, and meantime to strengthen their hand in Palestine against the terrorists who are a more sinister enemy of the Jews than any Arab opposition.