London (Dec. 20)
A new commission to investigate the whole working of the Palestine Mandate and to carry out a searching inquiry into the major question of the policy and administration of the Mandate was urged in a gravely-worded joint statement to the London “Times” today by the three members of the British war-time cabinet, which was responsible for the Balfour Declaration and for the policy of a national home for the Jews which it foreshadowed, Lord Balfour, David Lloyd George and General Jan Christian Smuts.
Viewing the present situation in Palestine with anxiety, the trio of British statesmen declare that:
“As members of the war cabinet which was responsible for the Balfour Declaration twelve years ago and for the policy of a national home for the Jewish people which it foreshadowed, we view with deep anxiety the present situation in Palestine. On the events of last August which are now the subject of an inquiry by a special commission we forbear comment. But it seems clear that whatever the finding of the commission may be on the responsibility for the August outbreak, the work to which Britain set, her hand at the close of the war is not proceeding satisfactorily.
“The Balfour declaration pledged us to a policy; the Palestine mandate entrusted us with vital administrative duties; but causes which are still obscure have impeded the task of administration and consequently the full carrying out of the policy.
“In these circumstances we would urge on the government the appointment of an authoritative commission to investigate the whole working of the mandate. The commission at present in Palestine was appointed with limited terms of reference to inquire into specific matters. This commission, in our view, must, as soon as it has reported, be supplemented by a searching inquiry into major questions of policy and administration. Our pledge is unequivocal, but in order to fulfill it in letter and spirit, a considerable readjustment of the administrative machine may be desirable.
“Such a commission would be an advertisement to the world that Britain has not weakened in a task to which her honor is pledged and at the same time an assurance to Jews and Arabs alike that any proven defects in the present system of government will be made good.”
Commenting on the letter, the London “Times” says that unusual interest attaches to it, since it is signed by Lord Balfour, Lloyd George and General Smuts, who were members of the war-time cabinet which took upon itself the responsibility for the Balfour Declaration. The “Times” points out that at that time. Lloyd George was the head of the government which demanded and obtained the Mandate for Palestine. These three, says the “Times,” should be extremely well-informed about the conditions of the mandated territory and it is not sur- (Continued on Page 2)
Continuing, the “Times” says: “The news which they read from Palestine during the last two months certainly did a good deal to explain and justify their apprehensions. It was not to be expected that the country would settle down immediately after several days of sanguinary rioting, which would have developed into civil war but for the arrival of troops from Egypt and the Mediterranean garrisons. But there is evidence that the political crime in the outrages against the property of the Jewish colonists and the anti-Jewish boycott has been a source of profit to its organizers and of anxiety to the authorities. In short, the relations between these two communities are nearly as bad as they could be and show no signs of improving as long as the protracted proceedings before the Inquiry Commission continue to present the whole problem of Palestine as a feud between Arab and Jew.
“It would clearly have been better, in light of the present events, that the Commission should have been got to work at greater speed, and it is clearly desirable now that they should complete as soon as possible their comparatively limited task and allow the development of Palestine, which is the real purpose of the Mandate, to overshadow the quarrels of race and religion. Lord Balfour and his fellow-signatories, ask for a deeper investigation with wider terms and with reference to the whole working of the Mandate, and in view of the attacks that have been made upon it, there is something to be said for their view. It is possible that the present Commission Inquiry may find that the recent troubles have been chiefly caused by personal inadequacies either in Jerusalem or nearer home. In such case a change of personnel and administration will be all that is required. It is also possible that the investigators will conclude that the task set the administration is too heavy, that the removal of practically all reliable armed forces from the country exposed it overmuch to the hazards of civil commotion, that a reconciliation of the policy laid down in the Balfour Declaration with the admitted rights of the Arabs required more constant attention than it actually received at Whitehall.
“Yet the Mandate was apparently working well. In recent years the country was prospering. The policy that Lord Plumer carried out with conspicuous success in the interests of Palestine of first and foremost equal toleration for all religions, Christian, Moslem and Jew, seemed gradually to be reducing the religious factor in national politics. That was to be the policy of his successor, whose troubles soon after his appointment immensely complicated his task and won universal sympathy. In any case, if the government, after studying the report of the Inquiry Commission, decides that the administrative machine needs readjustment, then at least they will be well advised to repeat to the world in general and to the inhabitants of Palestine in particular, that there is no question of the abandonment of the Mandate or a repudiation of the Balfour Declaration. The success of the Palestine Mandate is of major interest to the British Empire, nor will the obligations of honor and the prompting of national sentiment inspired by associations in the Holy Land counsel the abandonment of our plain duty.”