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Macdonald, Answering Smuts, Denies British Palestine Plan a Retreat from Balfour Pledge

Claiming that the new British policy on Palestine is not a retreat from the Balfour Declaration, Premier MacDonald, in a cable replying to General Jan Christian Smuts’ cabled expression of perturbation over the British White Paper, told the general that when he had read the full texts of the Simpson report and the government’s statement he would admit “in light of the facts recently brought to our notice that the statement of policy cannot be fairly described as a retreat from the Balfour Declaration.”

The full text of Premier MacDonald’s reply follows:

“The Balfour Declaration explicitly provided that nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Since the acceptance of the Palestine Mandate the trend of events, particularly in some methods adopted in the extablishment of the Jewish National Home, has tended to endanger the position of the non-Jewish communities to a degree which, in light of the Simpson report, has given us great concern and has convinced us of the necessity for special measures to ensure that the double obligation of the Mandate be fulfilled.

“The government has affirmed the view endorsed by the Mandates Com- mission and the Council of the League of Nations that the obligations of the Mandate regarding the two sections of the population are of equal weight. You will also recall that the Mandates Commission expressed the view that had the Mandatory Power concerned itself more closely with the social and economic adaptation of the Arab population to the new conditions due to Jewish immigration it would have served the interests of both sections of the population.

POLICY CONFORMS WITH SUGGESTION

“Our present policy, in conformity with that suggestion, envisages a scheme of more methodical agricultural development which, as shown in the Simpson report, is the only method whereby additional Jewish agricultural settlement will be possible consistently with the conditions of Article 6 of the Mandate enjoining against not prejudicing the rights and position of other sections of the population.

“The government has made it clear in its statement of policy that the measures of development envisaged benefits which Jews and Arabs can both share. Neither as regards land policy nor immigration does the government aim at crystallizing the National Home at its present stage of development. The statement of policy contains no stoppage or even suspension of colonization on a large amount of land as yet undeveloped and already in Jewish ownership.

NON-RURAL IMMIGRATION

“As regards non-rural immigration it has been the consistent policy of succeeding governments that Jewish immigration do not exceed the economic capacity of the country to absorb new entrants. The new statement reaffirms this principle in language recognizing that, owing to various causes, it has been imperfectly applied in the past. The government recognized that the policy it outlined was bound to be a disappointment to the hopes of the more zealous elements of both communities but it is confident that on a fuller appreciation of the facts and consideration of the policy based upon them an increasing body of unbiased opinion will be convinced that the main lines of the policy are not only in accordance with our Mandatory obligations but will be designed in the best interests of the two sections of the Palestine population whose welfare is a matter of sincere concern to the government.”

Thanking Premier MacDonald for his full and prompt reply, General Smuts cabled the Premier that he hopes “it will remove some of the misconceptions. I especially welcome your assurance that the recent statements do not definitely crystallize the government’s policy on the Jewish National Home, as my impression remains that both as regards land purchase and immigration the statement does not correspond to the active obligation for the national home as undertaken in the Balfour Declaration.”

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