Mr. A. J. Balfour 3 to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Hughes: You will remember that some days ago I mentioned my great anxiety to get the agreements in regard to the Mandate for Palestine4 advanced a stage in order that the Council of the League of Nations might give it their blessing at the meeting which is now, I think, going on at Geneva. We have all been so busy that you have not been able to find a moment in which to discuss this matter with me, at which I am by no means surprised; but as it is pressing I venture again to trouble you about it.

The task which the British Government have undertaken in Palestine is one of extreme difficulty and delicacy. At Paris I always warmly advocated that it should be undertaken, not by Britain, but by the U.S.A.; and though subsequent events have shewn me that such a policy would never have commended itself to the American people I still think that, so far as the Middle East is concerned, it would have been the best. However this may be, the duty has devolved upon Great Britain; and I hope the American Government will do what they can to lighten the load.

Your Ambassador in London will have forwarded you the official Note upon the subject. Let me add to what Lord Curzon has said one or two further remarks.

We have got in Palestine to deal with a country in which the majority of the population are Arabs, in which there is an important Jewish minority to whom we desire largely to entrust the task of fitting the country, with the help of outside Jewish assistance, to be a home for the Jewish race; and we have Christian ecclesiastical interests—Greek, Roman and Protestant—divided not merely by [Page 269] theological, but also by national differences, and jealously watching anything which can be twisted into interference with their position or their traditional interests in the Holy Places.

If such a situation is to be dealt with successfully by the civilian Government, the position of that Government must not only be secure, but must seem secure in the eyes of the populations concerned. Without this it cannot possess the necessary prestige, or exercise the necessary influence. Now it cannot be doubted that the long delay in settling this Mandate question,—partly due to the fact that peace has not yet been signed by Turkey and the Allied Powers, partly to the fact that the Mandate has not yet been approved, and partly to the fact that, owing to these circumstances, military administration has not yet been wholly replaced by a civilian system,—has made the task, which would in any case be difficult, almost impossible. I am sure the United States Government regret this as much as we do; and it is for that reason, and that reason alone, that I venture to ask your special attention to the problem which has been already brought to your notice through more formal channels.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour
  1. Member of the British Delegation to the Disarmament Conference, held at Washington, Dee. 12, 1921, to Feb. 6, 1922.
  2. For text of draft mandate for Palestine, see Foreign Relations, 1921, vol. i, p. 110.