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Proposals for the Future of Palestine/Bevin Plan


(3)

The Proposals submitted by the British Delegation to the Palestine Conference on 7th February, 1947, and also Communicated to Representatives of the Jewish Agency

1. Article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine defines the responsibilities of the Mandatory Power in the following terms:

(a) To place the country "under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble."

(b) To place the country under such conditions as will "secure the development of self-governing institutions."

(c) To safeguard the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.

Article 6 of the Mandate, which deals with Jewish immigration and the settlement of the Jews on the land, reads in part as follows:

"The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions."

2. During the last, twenty-five years, efforts have been made by the Mandatory Government to associate the population of the country with the Administration, but these have invariably broken down because it has not been possible to find a basis of cooperation acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. It has therefore not been possible to establish political institutions leading towards self-government.

3. A time has come when development in the direction of self-­government can no longer be delayed. So long as government is imposed from without, neither community has the incentive to develop that sense of responsibility without which the two peoples in Palestine cannot live together in harmony. Forms of government must therefore be established which have their roots in the people of the country and which offer a prospect of full independence within a reasonably short period.

4. To this end it is proposed that the people of the country shall be given a large measure of responsibility for local affairs and shall be associated with the Central Government as soon as the new policy is put into effect; that British participation in the Government shall not continue for longer than is necessary to effect the transition from Trusteeship to complete independence; and that a definite time limit shall be fixed for this period of transition. The period suggested is five years. In other words, it is proposed that His Majesty's Government should administer a five-year Trusteeship over Palestine, with the declared object of preparing the country for independence.

5. Under these proposals, His Majesty's Government would be carrying on the obligations which already rest upon them under the Mandate. At the same time, they would be looking forward to an early termination of the Trust, and would be acting in full conformity with the provisions of Article 76 of the United Nations Charter.

If it emerged from the present discussions that the initiation of such a policy would command substantial acquiescence from both communities m Palestine, interim arrangements in harmony with this policy could no doubt be made in advance of its formal approval by the United Nations.

6. The essential features of the proposed Trusteeship Agreement are outlined in the succeeding paragraphs.

Local Government

7. Areas of local administration would be delimited in such a way as to include in each a substantial majority either of Arabs or of Jews. To the local Administrations the central Government would devolve a wide range of powers, legislative, administrative and financial, including some share in responsibility for the police. As the local administrative boundaries would not have the character of State frontiers, it would not necessarily follow that all the Arab or all the Jewish territory need be contiguous.

8. Safeguards would be provided for the rights of the Jewish popula­tion in Arab areas and of the Arab population in Jewish areas. The rights of these minorities would include: (a) Adequate representation in local legislatures;

(b) A reasonable proportion of posts in the local Administration;

(c) Freedom of religious practice in accordance with the status quo, including the maintenance of separate religious courts for matters of personal status;

(d) The right to maintain their own educational institutions;

(e) The right to use their own language in their communications with the Administration and in the Courts of Law.

It would be a special responsibility of the High Commissioner to ensure the maintenance of these rights.

Immigration

9. The British Delegation cannot accept the contention of the repre­sentatives of the Jewish Agency that the rate of Jewish immigration into Palestine as a whole should be determined by the Jews alone. Nor can they accept the demand of the Arab Delegations that all Jewish immigra­tion into Palestine should cease forthwith. They do not contemplate either a settlement which would bring to an end the development of the Jewish National Home, or the admission of Jewish immigrants without reference to the effect of their entry on the rights and position of the population of the country. Any provisions made for future Jewish immigration must rest upon consideration for the well-being of Palestine as a whole.

10. With this end in view the Trusteeship Agreement would provide for Jewish immigration, at a rate of 4,000 monthly, for a period of two years. This would guarantee the entry of approximately 100,000 additional Jewish immigrants. During the remainder of the period of Trusteeship, the continuance of immigration and the rate of entry would be determined, with due regard to the principle of economic absorptive capacity, by the High Commissioner in consultation with his Advisory Council; and in the event of disagreement the final decision would rest with an arbitration tribunal appointed by the United Nations.

Land Transfers

11. Control over transfers of land, including the power to amend the existing Land Transfers Regulations, would be conferred on the local authorities.

Central Government

12. The High Commissioner would continue to exercise supreme legis­lative and executive authority. He would, however, endeavour to form an Advisory Council so composed as to include representatives, not only of the Arab and Jewish local Administrations, but also of labour and other organised interests. Despite this composition, it is probable that voting in the Advisory Council would tend at first to follow communal lines. Since, however, the functions of the Council would be advisory and not legis­lative, the High Commissioner would be required to give due attention to the views of minorities. On the conclusion of the Trusteeship Agreement, the Jewish members of the Advisory Council would supersede the Jewish Agency for Palestine as the official channel of communication between the Jewish community and the High Commissioner.

13. During the period of trusteeship, the High Commissioner would introduce Palestinians into his Executive Council, and would progressively increase the proportion of Palestinian members in that Council.

14. It would be the duty of the central Government to stimulate the economic development of the country through the agency of Development Boards including both Arab and Jewish members.

15. The central Government would be responsible for ensuring that adequate provision was made by the local Administrations for the enforce­ment of minimum wage rates and conditions of labour.

Termination of Trusteeship Agreement

16. At the end of four years a Constituent Assembly would be elected. If agreement was reached between a majority of the Jewish representatives and a majority of the Arab representatives in the Constituent Assembly, the High Commissioner, would proceed forthwith to take whatever steps were necessary to establish the institutions of the independent State.

17. In the event of disagreement in the Constituent Assembly, the various drafts prepared for its consideration and the record of its debates would be submitted to the Trusteeship Council which would be asked to advise upon future procedure.

Conclusion

18. Throughout the period of mandatory rule in Palestine, it has been the object of His Majesty's Government to lay the foundations for an indepen­dent Palestinian State in which Arabs and Jews would enjoy equal rights. The state of tension between the two peoples which has existed hitherto has continually thwarted the attempts of the mandatory Power to progress towards this end. His Majesty's Government are not prepared to continue indefinitely to govern Palestine themselves merely because Arabs and Jews cannot agree upon the means of sharing its government between them. The proposals contained in the present Memorandum are designed to give the two peoples an opportunity of demonstrating their ability to work together for the good of Palestine as n whole and so providing a stable foundation for an independent State.