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Strong Opposition in House of Lords Against Dead Sea Concession to Novomejsky

March 22, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

As the date approaches for the final signing of the concession granted in principle to Engineer Moses Novomejsky and Major Tulloch to exploit the salts of the Dead Sea, further opposition is developing.

Following the objection raised in the House of Commons Monday night by Lieutenant Howard-Bury, a motion which would have as its probable result the withdrawing of the concession from the Jewish engineer, was introduced in the House of Lords last night.

An extended debate developed, emphasis being laid on the desire to assure permanent British control of the rich potash deposits of the Dead Sea. Such assurance, the Earl of Plymouth, speaking for the Government, pointed out would be contrary to the terms of the Mandate for Palestine. He also reminded the House of Lords that the concession has already been granted in principle and that final agreement is not subject to further negotiation.

Following the government’s explanation, Lord Templetown withdrew his motion.

Lord Melchett, whose company, the Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd., was one of the unsuccessful tenderers for the concession, defended Novomejsky as the concessionaire and emphasized the interest of the Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency in the project. Lord Melchett’s speech in the House of Lords aroused great interest among the members who assembled to listen to the industrialist’s expert opinion on the Dead Sea.

The motion around which the debate centered was introduced by Viscount Templetown, providing that permanent British control be established over the Dead Sea and subsidiary industries arising therefrom; also that the concessionaires be required to have British financial backing under British control, without direct or indirect connection with the German potash monopoly.

Lord Danesford, supporting the motion, pointed to the necessity of keeping the potash under British control. The lack of potash during the last war, he declared, almost caused a national catastrophe. He emphasized that the concession was not granted to two persons, Novomejsky actually having controlling power as Major Tulloch had transferred to him power of attorney. Lord Danesford said that Novomejsky is of Russian origin and absolutely unknown in Great Britain.

Lord Melchett, replying to Viscount Templetown and Lord Danesford, emphasized that British control is im- (Continued on Page 3)

Lord Melchett objected to Lord Danesford’s remark that the Palestine Government should not consider the interests of the Zionist Organization or the Jewish Agency, pointing out that according to the British government’s undertaking of the Mandate, the Jewish Agency must be consulted on Palestine matters. He also objected to the statement that Moses Novomejsky is of Russian origin, declaring that he is a Palestinian citizen and, like many Zionists, is devoting all his energy to the development of Palestine.

Engineer Pinchas Ruttenburg, who holds the concession for the electrification of Palestine is, like Novomejsky, a Palestinian subject. "It is time people recognized there is such a thing as a Palestinian nation. It is not true that Ruttenburg is a Russian Jews; he is a Palestinian Jew," Lord Melchett declared.

Protesting against the prejudice which Lord Danesford endeavored to inject into the discussion by pointing to the fact that Novomejsky was of Russian origin, Lord Melchett said, "Might I ask whether no Palestinian subject is entitled to a concession in Palestine?" He added that he has known Engineer Moses Novomejsky for many years and he hopes the government will grant the concession to a financially strong company, able to work the concession.

Baron Thomson condemned the vaccilation of the government in granting the concession. The most important consessions do not take ten years to arrange and therefore he believes that there is a "catch somewhere." It has actually been disclosed, after consulting experts, that the chief attraction of the Dead Sea lies in its large quantities of magnesia, Baron Thomson said.

The government’s stand on the motion was presented by the Earl of Plymouth. The government is unable to accept the motion, first, because the Mandate provides against discrimination between nationals seeking industrial concessions. However, the operating company has assured the government on its own initiative that if a public issue of capital is made, priority in (Continued on Page 4)

The second reason why the government cannot accept the motion is that the Palestinian and Transjordanian governments are already committed in principle to granting the concession to Major Tulloch and Engineer Novomejsky. Negotiations regarding terms and conditions of the proposed concession are approaching conclusion and unless the negotiations prove abortive, no alternative offer will be entertained. The final agreement is not subject to further negotiations and will be submitted to Novomejsky and Tulloch, who will either reject or accept the offer.

It is impossible, the Earl of Plymouth added, to impose upon the concessionaires the condition that they have no connection with Germans, first, because it is impossible to discriminate against a German undertaking; secondly, he doubts whether anybody would take the concession with such a restriction imposed because he would be unable to raise finances for the undertaking. However, if the concessionaires enter an arrangement to restrict the output in order to raise and keep up prices, and should this restrict the development of the country, injuring the interests of the natives, the government would be able to take action in order to safeguard the interests of the citizens whom the Mandate obliges the government to protect. This, the Earl of Plymouth said, gives the government a large measure of control.

Following the government’s reply, Lord Templetown withdrew his motion.

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