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The United States under President Franklin D. Roosevelt was interested in cultivating the friendship of Arab countries because of the need to protect US petroleum interests, and in particular, Roosevelt was interested in the friendship of Saudi Arabia. According to some sources, King Ibn Saud was interested in a plan for a Jewish state that was formulated by his adviser and confidante, British archeologist and diplomat Harry St. John Philby (father of cold war spy Kim Philby). This plan was put to Chaim Weizmann and other Zionist leaders. Eventually the US administration became interested. At the beginning of July 1943, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull gave Colonel Henry Hoskins (not Harry Hopkins, as stated in some accounts) a directive from Roosevelt ordering him to proceed to Saudi Arabia to ascertain whether Ibn Saud "would enter into discussions with Dr. Chaim Weizmann or other representatives selected by the Jewish Agency for the purpose of seeking a solution of basic problems affecting Palestine acceptable to both Arabs and Jews?"
Hoskins met King Abdul Aziz on Aug. 14, 1943, but according to Hoskins, Saud rebuffed the Philby plan and what he claimed was Weizmann's proposal to bribe him. Later, Roosevelt met Saud in February 1945. On board the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake of the Suez canal, President Roosevelt tried to persuade Saud to acquiesce to a plan for Jewish emigration to Palestine, but Saud was adamant in his opposition. One week before his death, in a letter dated April 5, 1945, Roosevelt promised King Saud that he, as president of the United States, would take no hostile action against the Arabs and that the United States would not change its basic policy toward the Palestine issue without prior consultations with both Arabs and Jews.
Roosevelt's policy was reversed by his successor, Harry Truman.
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GREAT AND GOOD FRIEND:
I have received the communication which Your Majesty sent me under date of March 10, 1945, in which you refer to the question of Palestine and to the continuing interest of the Arabs in current developments affecting that country.
I am gratified that Your Majesty took this occasion to bring your views on this question to my attention and I have given the most careful attention to the statements which you make in your letter. I am also mindful of the memorable conversation which we had not so long ago and in the course of which I had an opportunity to obtain so vivid an impression of Your Majesty's sentiments on this question.
Your Majesty will recall that on previous occasions I communicated to you the attitude of the American Government toward Palestine and made clear our desire that no decision be taken with respect to the basic situation in that country without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews. Your Majesty will also doubtless recall that during our recent conversation I assured you that I would take no action, in my capacity as Chief of the Executive Branch of this Government, which might prove hostile to the Arab people.
It gives me pleasure to renew to Your Majesty the assurances which you have previously received regarding the attitude of my Government and my own, as Chief Executive, with regard to the question of Palestine and to inform you that the policy of this Government in this respect is unchanged.
I desire also at this time to send you my best wishes for Your Majesty's continued good health and for the welfare of your people.
Your Good Friend,
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
ABDUL AZIZ IBN ABDUR RAHMAN AL FAISAL AL SAUD
King of Saudi Arabia
(1) Department of State Bulletin of October 21, 1945, p. 623.
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