Menu JTA Search

Britain to Retain Mandate Until Arab, Jewish Interests Are Secured, Commons Told

Britain will maintain its mandate in Palestine until both Arab and Jewish interests are secured and thereafter will keep sufficient military forces on hand to protect British interests, Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald said in the House of Commons today as the debate on the White Paper opened.

American Jewish investments will be protected, Richard A. Butler, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, stated.

“The United States Government has been fully informed of all proposals affecting the future status of Palestine,” he said, “and will certainly be informed of any proposals which it may eventually be intended to put before the Council of the League for termination of the mandate.”

“The Government’s proposals,” Mr. MacDonald continued, “are conceived in a spirit of absolute impartiality between Jews and Arabs. We must be satisfied that the interests of both majority and minority in Palestine are secured before we surrender completely our mandatory control. In our treaty with Palestine, there must be provision for maintaining sufficient military and air forces to secure our interests, provision for appropriate consultation on all military matters, and for mutual assistance in case of trouble.

“No doubt physically,” the Colonial Secretary went on, “we could force on the Arabs of Palestine any kind of Jewish national home, but we could not do that with any moral justification. His Majesty’s Government will use its utmost endeavor to see established a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. A national home for the Jewish people. What is the meaning of that novel, carefully chosen expression? The authors of the Balfour Declaration did not say a ‘Jewish State.’ They used a less definite expression. They had high hopes, but they felt the need of proceeding cautiously.

“It has sometimes been suggested that it meant definitely that Palestine should become a Jewish State. Certainly the possibility of a Jewish State was not excluded. But it was recognized that Jewish settlement in Palestine on a grand scale was an experiment, the extent whereof must depend upon certain then-incalculable factors.”

The Colonial Secretary went on to admit that the British Government itself had adopted economic absorptivity as the sole criterion of Jewish immigration into Palestine. The application of this principle, he brought out, had sent Jewish population up from 80,000 in 1922 to 450,000 today. On the other hand, he said, as a result of social services established by Britain with Jewish collaboration, the Arab population had risen in the last 20 years from 600,000 to more than 1,000,000.

“We must keep our promises to the Jews, but we must also keep faith with the Arab world,” Mr. MacDonald said. “The Government is disappointed that the Arabs have preferred liberty to the prospect of material progress. It is a question of forcing continued Jewish immigration on the Arabs. In the eyes of the Government, the political absorption of new elements is just as important as their economic absorption.

“This isn’t a military problem, it is a political problem. If we don’t do something to remove the unrest which the Arab feels, if we merely go back to a policy of unlimited immigration which would confirm and augment his fear of being dominated, then we are only sowing dragon’s teeth which will one day spring up again as armed men.

“We propose that the influx of Jews should continue for another five years, even regardless of Arab wishes. We have decided on that largely because we believe Palestine could and should still make further substantial contribution towards relieving the tragedy of the Jewish refugees of Central Europe.

“It was said in a statement issued by the Jewish Agency that our proposal transferred authority over Palestine to the present Arab majority and put the Jewish population at the mercy of that majority. If that criticism were true, I agree that this proposal should be condemned. We cannot in honor put the Jewish national home at the mercy of a possibly hostile majority. But I do not believe the limit assigned to immigration could hurt the development of the Jewish community.”

A federal solution of the Palestine problem, extending beyond the artificial frontiers created 20 years ago, was advocated today by members of the Royal Commission which in 1937 concluded there was an “irreconcilable conflict” in the Holy Land and recommended tripartition. Pending “fullest consideration” of such a solution, the commissioners, in a joint letter to the Times, counselled acceptance of federal principles as a provisional basis of agreement, declaring they believed this to be the “only honorable truce and just solution between Arabs and Jews.”

If an independent state is to be unitary, the letter said, it was difficult to expect Jewish cooperation since the majority of Arab nationalists had not concealed their antagonism to a Jewish national home. An Arab majority in a unitary state, the commissioners contended, would mean Arab domination and cessation of Jewish immigration would doom the Jews to a permanent minority status.

NEXT STORY