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Request for Added Palestine Defense Fund Stirs Storm in Commons

March 9, 1938
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Angry scenes today marked attempts to convert a house of Commons vote on supplementary estimates of L423,000 (about $2,115,000) for Palestine defense into a general debate on British policy in the Holy Land.

David Lloyd George (Independent) asserted that Palestine “disturbances are entirely due to matters of policy” and the House should not have to vote sums for troops without the right to investigate the causes, while Morgan Jones (Laborite) attacked the procedure of sending a second commission to Palestine.

In the course of the discussion William G.A. Ormsby-Gore, Colonial Secretary, revealed that the British General Staff was considering the question of the defensibility of frontiers of the proposed Jewish State, to be established if the three-way partition plan for Palestine is consummated.

The Colonial Secretary declared that one reason for the delay in sending to Palestine the Partition Commission was to complete unprepared data, adding that hydrographic surveys were being pushed in Palestine and Transjordan.

Replying to a question, Mr. Ormsby-Gore declared that the military strength of Palestine was now the equivalent of two full brigades without artillery.

When the estimates were prepared in the Spring, 1937, the country was in a better state and appeared to be settling down, Mr. Ormsby-Gore said, but a recrudescence of trouble in Autumn necessitated the use of a large number of troops the cost of which the present supplementary cover.

He added that additional funds for a hydrographic survey were necessary if the Partition Commission was to have data on irrigation possibilities for a judgment on partition.

Replying to Lloyd George’s interpellation, the Colonial Secretary admitted that the estimates did not cover the cost of examining the defensibility of the suggested frontiers. He revealed that “the matter is being gone into by the General Staff” and that the commission would obtain the necessary information from military exports before starting its report.

Mr. Jones opened the attack with a blunt statement that he had listened to Mr. Ormsby-Gore carefully, but could not discover whether the Government had any policy at all to announce on Palestine. The Colonial Secretary interjected that policy was not discussed under supplementary.

Mr. Jones then asked what the soldiers were doing in Palestine. “They aren’t there for love and must be there for some purpose,” he asserted. He questioned the right of the House to vote the sums if it believed that alteration of policy would make the presence of large forces unnecessary. The Speaker intervened, declaring the House could not take up the whole policy question.

Mr. Jones later criticized the whole procedure of sending a second commission. He declared that the delay in settling the Palestine question was causing doubt and uncertainty in Palestine.

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