British policy toward the Arab/Israel dispute, 1970

Foreign Office Planning Committee, “Future British Policy Towards the Arab/Israel Dispute”, 14 September 1970

“Neither [a pro-Arab nor a pro-Israel policy]…is practicable.  A pro-Arab policy would be unacceptable to British public opinion and opposed by the US government. A pro-Israeli policy would destroy all hopes of preserving British economic and political interests in the Arab Middle East… A pro-Arab policy in any thoroughgoing form would… be hard or impossible to adopt: (a) because of British public and political commitment to Israel as an ideal and the political force of support for Israel in the country; (b) because of the pressure which the United States government undoubtedly exert on HMG to keep us in line in any public pronouncements or negotiations on the dispute”.

The paper then considers middle options. The first is “active pursuit of a settlement with disassociation from the US” and, another, “active neutrality”. The first would mean the government doing “all we can to promote a settlement but without running the risk to our world-wide interests that would be involved in actively disassociating ourselves from the US position”. This has advantages and disadvantages but the first disadvantage is that “as long as we are associated with the US government in active policies toward the dispute, we shall confirm the Arab belief that we are pro-Israel”. The second option of “active neutrality” would mean “we should have to say and do things the US government did not like and to be more pro-Arab (or at least less pro-Israeli) than the Americans”. The disadvantages of this are the damage “to our world-wide relationship with the US”, that it would be criticised by some public opinion in the UK, that UK “could not affect the power structure of the conflict” (ie, have much influence) and that “there is no prospect of a European political entity” playing a “third force” role.

Therefore the paper argues for “the low risk policy”, described as “the less continuously active variant” of the last option above. “This policy should mean, in practical terms, that our efforts should first and foremost take the form of private pressure upon the US to do all in their power to bring about a settlement”. This would mean UK would have a “strictly limited role” and “modest contributions and not peace plans should be our aim”, keeping doing business with Arab world, including arms sales, and maintaining links with Israel, especially commercial…”

“In terms of the national interest, there would be much to be gained by adopting a thoroughgoing pro-Arab policy… It would, however, be difficult to defend such a policy on grounds of principle and it would be extremely unpopular in this country. The US government would dislike it intensely and oppose it strongly if it entailed (as logically it should) showing sympathy for the Arab point of view in the international effort to help bring about a settlement. It would be incompatible with support for, or even acquiescence in, the US position in the quest for a settlement…”

“Our almost total lack of influence on the combatant countries means that our capacity to contribute to progress toward a settlement is very limited. We cannot make even that modest contribution effective (or convince the Arabs we are doing all we can) if we remain closely associated with the US position”.

Reference: PRO/ FCO 49/295


  1. Michael says:

    I haven’t seen any mention of this report: “The UN Report Prepared for Ralphe Bunche”:

    also here:

    As the Palestinians are being blamed for making Israelis’ life hell, even as Israel shows the world who really is in charge, perhaps some of us should start discussing the skeletons in Israel’s cupboard – namely, their terrorist campaign against the British in the 1940s – an “endeavour” designed to force the British out of Palestine in order that Jews could move in, evict the Arabs, and create a Jewish state.

    I’m not a historian, so I can’t put all this in context, but here is some of what is mentioned in the report:

    November 14, 1946, London. …Jewish terrorist groups…threatened to export their terrorism to England.

    April 23, 1947, Palestine. The Irgun [Jewish terrorist group] proclaimed its own “military courts” to “try” BRITISH troops and policemen who resisted them.

    July 30, 1947, Palestine. Irgun [Jewish] terrorists announced that they have hanged two BRITISH sergeants…whom they had held as hostages since July 12, for “crimes against the Jewish community.” Two more BRITISH soldiers were killed by a land mine near Hadera.

    July 31, 1947, Nethanya. The bodies of the two murdered BRITISH sergeants were found hanging from eucalyptus trees one and a half miles from Nethanya about 5:30 AM. A booby trap blew Martin’s body to bits when it was cut down. Enraged British troops stormed into Tel Aviv, wrecked shops, attacked pedestrians and sprayed a bus with gunfire killing five Jews: two men, two women, and a boy.

    August 4, 1947, Paris. An Irgun [Jewish terrorist] leader in Paris states that his organization has sentenced high BRITISH military and civilian officials in Palestine TO DEATH “in absentia” and will hang them upon capture.

    August 4, 1947, Palestine. Jewish terrorists robbed BARCLAYS’ BANK in Tel Aviv of $5,200.

    August 5, 1947, Palestine. Irgunists [Jewish terrorists] blew up the Department of Labor in Jerusalem, killing three BRITISH constables.

    On December 30, 1947, after the kidnapping and flogging of a British Major and three sergeants by Jewish terrorists, “the Dollis Hill Synagogue in London was set on fire and 12 sacred scrolls were destroyed by angry British citizens who scrawled on the burned edifice, “You whip – we burn”

    Other Jewish terrorist acts included: plots to blow up British military headquarters, kidnapping and hanging British military officials, killing British policemen, tens of letter bombs to British government officials, machine gun attacks on Palestinian cities, bombing hotels, blowing up trains, blowing up oil pipelines, detonating bombs at British embassies, detonating trucks laden with explosives, and bank robbery.

    The U.N. report writes: “There appears to be no way to control the Jews or their determinations to drive all of the Arabs out of Jerusalem by force if necessary.

    “The initial Arab response to Jewish harassment over the past year has been very slow in coming, but it seems to be quite inevitable, and a terrible civil war is foreseen.

    “The Arabs, initially living in peace with the Jewish minority, have been increasingly victimized by the Jews who, now that the British are leaving, are turning their savage behavior against them.”

    Over one 15-month period, over 200,000 Jews entered Palestine illegally.

    In 1980, the Stern Gang (also known as Lehi) was officially honoured by the Israeli government as “freedom fighters”. The Stern Gang was one of the most active terrorist Jewish groups during the 1940s, whose stated goal was to “forcibly evict the British authorities from Palestine, allowing unrestricted immigration of Jews and the formation of a Jewish state”. A special Lehi ribbon – a military decoration – was designed for the former members.

    Finally, the report says: “As many of the Zionists are Russian or Polish in origin, these Communist Russians have been received gladly by the Jewish extremists and quickly blend in with the local populations. Soviet interest in MIDDLE EAST OIL and an overriding interest in obtaining WARM-WATER PORTS are a prime factor in their interest in a Jewish state in Palestine.”

  2. davidprice says:

    All of the comments listed above are out of context because they only look at the israeli situation thro a small window of time. they nowhere near show how deliberately the British government of tmes going back to 1922 and previous forsook its promise to help a small struggling people to have their own God given country.Please get a copy of the DVD”The Forsaken promise”.and see how many innocent Isaeli’s
    it must be hundreds of thousands that we in the Uk are responsible for killing by unwillingness to help.

  3. Richard says:

    In response to DavidPrice, you seem confused. Israel did NOT exist at that time. Hundreds of thousands of Jews illegally entered Palestine during the 1940s – they weren’t there originally! The original Jews were ARABS, not, as many are now in Israel – white-as-snow Caucasians!

    This all seems so one-sided. The facts are 123 Israeli children have died since 2000, whilst close to 1,500 Palestinian children have been killed (source: ifamericansknew dot org). Palestinians are being forced to live in appalling, prison-like conditions by the Jews, whilst Jews breathe fresh, clean air.

    If murdering children is wrong, why does Israel KNOWINGLY murder so many?

    No religious group that I know of has EVER stolen another country from another people – the Jews being the exception!

    Jews are NOT a people – they are a religious group! Hitler claimed Jews were a race in order to eradicate “bad” genes from the gene pool. Hitler believed in Eugenics, a discredited pseudo-science.

    As for the British government; that’s another story. They weren’t out to persecute Israeli Jews at the time because Israel never existed prior to 1948.

    Just to remind those that have forgotten: Hitler and Germany carried out the Holocaust, not the Arabs or the British.

    As a teenager, I read diaries and other books by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust (note that there was also a Gypsy Holocaust, which Israelis studiously fail to mention). I had sympathy for the Jews then. However, all that sympathy has now gone. I am now appalled and outraged.

    As for reading up on how some Jews were allegedly treated a century ago. I’m sorry, after the recent cold-blooded murder of Palestinian children in Gaza, it’s out of the question. I’m not interested!

    (A Palestinian astrophysicist, who works for NASA, had his home bombed by Israel, killing his 11-year-old son in the process. He said he had built the home so that he and his wife could share it with a Jewish family, so that his kids could play with their kids. His son is now dead. What did he or his son do to deserve that?)

  4. Richard says:

    Just an update. What makes me so angry is invidiuals like DavidPrice above who don’t care how many Palestinians are murdered – or Arabs or British or Americans. It’s all about the Jews. And people like DavidPrice make out that the whole world is persecuting Jews, and that no other group IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD has ever been persecuted.

    The latest atrocities by the occupiers of former Palestine:

    Israel fired a tear cannister at the head of an unarmed American peace activist, Tristan Anderson, critically injuring him. Anderson was taken to hospital, with no one knowing whether he would live or die. Israel defended the assault on the grounds that Anderson’s peaceful protest was an “act of war”.

    Michael Sfard, an attorney for Anderson’s family, said, “If [an] unarmed civilian demonstration is classified by Israel as an ‘act of war,’ then clearly Israel admits that it is at war with civilians.”

    As if that wasn’t enough, Human Rights Watch reported that Israeli soldiers “unlawfully shot and killed at least eleven Palestinian civilians, including five women and four children, who were in groups waving white flags to make clear that they were civilians and not combatants” (this news courtesy of “Democracy Now”).

    I’m reminded of James Miller, a British cameraman, also shot and killed whilst waving a white flag. Israel said the soldier responsible was not guilty. However, an inquest held in the UK – which Israel boycotted! – found Israel guilty as charged.

    Five and a half years after the slaying, the family were given £1.5 million for their loss:

    Tom Hurndall, a British student, was also killed by Israeil soldiers. His crime? Looking after the welfare of Palestinian children!

    I was disgusted at the behaviour of the Nazi regime, and I’m equally disgusted at the behaviour of the Israeli regime.

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