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Macdonald Gets Plan for Negev Refugee Settlement

July 6, 1939
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A plan to settle Jewish refugees in the Negev region of southern Palestine has been submitted to Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald by a non-partisan delegation headed by Sir Frank Sanderson, Conservative M.P., it was announced today by the Colonial Office.

Sir Frank expressed the opinion that Jewish colonists could restore to the Negev the prosperity it knew during the Roman Empire and emphasized its potential and strategic value to the British Empire. He outlined the following three-point plan for development of the underpopulated district:

1) Partition of the Negev as an autonomous region, completely separated from Palestine; 2) immediate measures to establish Jewish refugees there; 3) immediate measures for construction of rail and highway communications of imperial, strategic and commercial importance, including construction of a harbor at Rafa, with Jewish refugees supplying the labor for these works.

Sir Frank stressed that the region, exclusive of the Beersheba district, is populated only by about 5,000 Bedouins. Mr. MacDonald said that, in principle, he favored investigation of the Negev’s potentialities for colonization, and promised that he would examine the plan with the British High Commissioner in Palestine.

Mr. MacDonald assured Commons today that the Palestine mandate would not be relinquished by Great Britain unless the Government and the League of Nations are satisfied that security has been properly provided. Replying to a question by Vyvyan Adams, Conservative, on the recent destruction by Arab terrorists of a holy sepulchre in Tiberias, Mr. MacDonald said the Palestine Government was endeavoring to protect holy places from attacks from any quarter.

The Colonial Secretary denied emphatically that the British Government was sympathetic toward illegal immigration to Palestine. Referring to rumors arising from the recent trial of immigrant smugglers in Jerusalem, Mr. MacDonald said the Government was using its best endeavors to prevent the illegal traffic and was deducting the number of illegal immigrants landed in Palestine from the regular immigration quotas.

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