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Bevin, Ernest°


BEVIN, ERNEST° (1881–1951), British trade union leader and statesman. He was a member of the British War Cabinet in World War ii (1941–45), and foreign secretary in the Labor government (1945–50) when Palestine was transferred de facto from the aegis of the Colonial Office to that of the Foreign Office. Bevin's Palestine policy was based on two premises: first, he felt that since the vast majority of the Middle East population was Arab, nothing should be done against their will, lest this set the Arab world against Great Britain and the West in their global struggle with the U.S.S.R. and Communism; second, he believed that Palestine could not essentially solve the Jewish problem as Jews should continue residing in Europe and contributing to its welfare. Rather than impose a Jewish state on the Arabs, he desired some kind of settlement between Jews and Arabs. In an attempt to obtain U.S. government approval for his Palestine policy, Bevin proposed appointing an Anglo-American commission whose task would be to plan a solution to the Palestine question. In the summer of 1946 he rejected the committee's proposals for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees from Europe and the annulment of the provisos in the Macdonald White Paper restricting the acquisition of land by Jews. As a result, the situation in Palestine deteriorated, and Bevin began applying severe repressive measures against the yishuv. Leading members of the Jewish Agency and the Va'ad Le'ummi were arrested, "illegal" immigrants were deported to detention camps in Cyprus, and the Exodus, bearing 4,500 such immigrants, was shipped back to Germany. At the same time, Bevin proposed other ways of solving the problem. One of these was the cantonization of Palestine, better known as the Morrison Scheme, which allocated about 17% of the country to the Jews; another was the Bevin Plan to give the British government a five-year trusteeship over Palestine with the declared object of preparing the country for independence. On Feb. 15, 1947, after both plans had been rejected by Jews and Arabs, Bevin announced that he was referring the entire matter to the United Nations. As a result, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (unscop) was appointed and, on Nov. 29, 1947, the un voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab State. Bevin gradually became reconciled to the idea of a Jewish state; in January 1949, eight months after the proclamation of the State of Israel, he granted it de facto recognition.


F. Williams, Ernest Bevin (Eng., 1952); J.C. Hurewitz, The Struggle for Palestine (1950); R.H.S. Crossman, A Nation Reborn (1960), ch. 2; idem, Palestine Mission (1946); B.C. Crum, Behind the Silken Curtain (1947); Jewish Agency, The Jewish Plan for Palestine (1947). add. bibliography: A. Bullock, Ernest Bevin: Foreign Secretary (1984); odnb online.

[Moshe Rosetti]

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