History of the Balfour Declaration P.2 of 4.

The profound effects of the British Empire’s actions in the Arab World during the First World War can be seen echoing through the history of the 20th century. The uprising sparked by the Foreign Office authorizing Sir Henry McMahon to enter into negotiations with Sherif Hussein, and the debates surrounding the Sykes–Picot agreement have shaped the Middle East into forms which would have been unrecognizable to the diplomats of the 19th century.

The crux the explanation of these events, which now loom so large, is that Edward Grey and his Foreign Office officials were not very much alive to the significance of what they were doing because for them Middle Eastern affairs were simply not that important. This meant that as long as Grey and his civil servants perceived the advice of various experts not to be inconsistent with the essence of the Foreign Office’s policy – to uphold the Entente with France – they were prepared to follow it.

This is why they acted without much ado upon recommendations by Lord Hardinge, Lord Kitchener, Sir Reginald Wingate, McMahon and Sir Mark Sykes, even when these contradicted one another. This tendency was especially prominent during the first months of the war when Cairo was alternately instructed to encourage the Arab movement in every way possible and to refrain from giving any encouragement.

The sudden change in the summer of 1915, from a policy of restraint concerning the Middle East to an active, pro-Arab policy, may also be explained in this manner. Perhaps Wingate and McMahon were able to outstrip the India Office and the Government of India as the Foreign Office’s premier advisors on the Arab question because they were, after all, in the service of the Foreign Office, perhaps because Austen Chamberlain had succeeded Lord Crewe as secretary of state for India, but the main point is that Sir Edward and his officials need not have had ‘good’ reasons for thinking that Wingate and McMahon were in a better position to judge how to react to Hussein’s opening bid. Wingate’s letters and memoranda played a role in the Foreign Office’s conversion to a more active, pro-Arab policy, but it is highly improbable that Grey and his officials would have been receptive to Sir Reginald’s arguments if they had invested heavily in the policy of restraint advocated by the Indian authorities.

The negotiations that led to the signing of the Sykes– Picot agreement presented to the Foreign Office more a technical problem than a politically sensitive one. Once it was realized that the conflicting claims of Arabs and French regarding Syria were amendable to a settlement – as Wingate, Sir John Maxwell, McMahon, Aubrey Herbert and Sykes, one after the other, had emphasized – the Arab question became something of a routine affair, something that was covered by the rule that nothing should be done that might arouse France’s Syrian susceptibilities. The negotiations with the Emir of Mecca could only be brought to a close after those with the French had successfully been concluded. Even though the authorities in Cairo, and Sykes, urged the vital importance of a quick reply to Hussein’s overtures, the negotiations with the French, as these entailed consultations with the relevant departments as well as with Russia, simply had to run their course. This also implied that once these negotiations were under way it was very difficult to stop them. Neither the information that the Arabs were in no position to rise against the Turks (which seemed to have knocked the bottom out from under the raison d’être of the negotiations) nor that Hussein was not the spokesman of the Arabs (which appeared to imply that, perhaps as far as the Arab side was concerned, there was nobody to negotiate with) halted their progress. Regarding the relative importance of the Arab question, it is naturally also very telling that, after the Anglo–French agreement had been signed in the middle of May 1916, nobody in the Foreign Office observed that the way was now clear to finalize the negotiations with the Emir of Mecca, or noticed, at the beginning of June, that he had started his revolt before the negotiations with him had been completed.

Another important aspect is that the British government failed to recognize the roots and thus longevity of Jewish attachment to Palestine. This would prove a key contribution to subsequent British difficulties, once the military government was installed in December 1917.

Exiled from their land by the Romans, who renamed it Syria-Palestina, in 135, the Jews’ attachment to Israel remained undimmed throughout the centuries. As Christianity developed, and particularly when it became the state religion of the Roman Empire, after 395, Jewish persecution grew more frequent and prolonged. Nevertheless, attachment to their land and faith remained undiminished, and Jews continued to believe that when The Lord chose they would be restored to their Promised Land united under their rulers.

Since the second-century Roman expulsion from Judea, Jews had been scattered throughout Europe. Settling wherever they were able to trade and living according to their traditions. However, trapped between the rise of Christianity and the advent of Nation States they found persecution was never far away.

Whitehall had been aware of Zionism since Theodore Herzl testified before the 1902 Royal Commission of Alien Immigration and presented it as the best solution to the problem of migration caused by the persecution that would resolve agitation resulting from a large influx of Russian Jews into the East End.

About Chaim Weizmann as a recent arrival from Russia, the British may have had concerns over his political persuasion, but it seems unlikely he would have endeared himself or had any subsequent influence, had he been a socialist as well as a Zionist.


Enter London

The British War Cabinet approving a public statement of support for the aspirations of the Zionist movement started with Herbert Samuel’s failed attempts at the beginning of the war to win over his Cabinet colleagues to the idea of a British protectorate over Palestine to restore that country to the Jews. The question of a Jewish return to Palestine under the aegis of Great Britain subsequently remained the province of the Foreign Office, which did not attach much importance to it. Things changed with the advent of the Lloyd George government in December 1916.

On 9 November 1914, only four days after Britain’s declaration of war against Turkey, Samuel, at the time president of the Local Government Board, and (although noted for his personal atheism) the only Jew with a seat in the Cabinet, called on Grey. Samuel suggested that now ‘perhaps the opportunity might arise for the fulfillment of the ancient aspirations of the Jewish people, and the restoration [in Palestine] of a Jewish state’, and that in view of its proximity to the Suez Canal and Egypt ‘British influence ought to play a considerable part in the formation of such a state’. Grey was sympathetic – ‘Zionism had always had a strong sentimental attraction for him’, and ‘he would be prepared to work for it if the opportunity arose’.¹ That same day, Samuel also had a brief talk with Lloyd George. The latter confessed that he was ‘very keen to see a Jewish State established’.²

A month later, Samuel was visited by Weizmann, vice president of the English Zionist Federation. He studied chemistry in Germany and Switzerland and had been appointed lecturer at the University of Manchester in 1904. In 1910, he had been naturalized as a British subject. Weizmann was pleasantly surprised by Samuel’s positive attitude towards Zionism. He wrote to his wife afterward that ‘Messianic times have really come. It turns out that he knew a great deal about Zionism […] Now, until the military situation becomes clear, he cannot do anything, but later, as soon as everything is clarified – and he is confident in England’s success – he will set to work […] He thinks that the whole Cabinet are of the same opinion.’³

However, Samuel’s assessment of the cabinet’s attitude turned out to be mistaken. At the end of January, Samuel forwarded a memorandum on ‘The Future of Palestine’ to Grey. Turkish entry into the war had opened:

A prospect of a change, at the end of the war, in the status of Palestine. Already there is a stirring among the twelve million Jews scattered throughout the countries of the world. A feeling is spreading with great rapidity that now, at last, some advance may be made, in some way, towards the fulfilment of the hope and desire, held with unshakeable tenacity for 1,800 years, for the restoration of the Jews to the land to which they are attached by ties almost as ancient as history itself.

Samuel advocated a British protectorate over Palestine, as this would ‘enable England to fulfil in yet another sphere her historic part of the civiliser of the backward countries’.⁴ In his covering letter, Samuel mentioned that he had not yet sent the memorandum to Prime Minister Asquith, and expressed the hope that Grey would see no objection to Samuel circulating the memorandum to the members of the Cabinet.⁵ Grey did not object, but to Asquith, the memorandum was something of a shock. He noted in his diary that Samuel ‘goes on to argue, at considerable length and with some vehemence, in favour of the British annexation of Palestine, a country the size of Wales, much of it barren mountain and part of it waterless […] I confess I am not attracted by this proposed addition to our responsibilities.’⁶ 

Lord Bertie, the British Ambassador in Paris, had been equally perplexed when Weizmann had visited him on 25 January, ‘to “talk” about what I think an absurd scheme, though they say that it has the approval of Grey, Lloyd George, Samuel and Crewe […] It contemplates the formation of Palestine into an Israelite State, under the protectorate of England, France or Russia, preferably England: they did not think that Russia or France would raise objections!’ The ambassador had told ‘the scheme maker’ that England did ‘not want to have a protectorate, and that France would object to Russia, and that Russia would object to France’.⁷ It also turned out that Grey, when Samuel had a further conversation with the foreign secretary on 5 February, while still ‘favorable to Zionist ideas,' certainly did not approve of a British protectorate. He was ‘opposed to Britain’s assuming any fresh military and diplomatic responsibilities’.⁸

Undaunted by these negative reactions, Samuel produced a second version of his memorandum in early March 1915. It opened with the question, ‘if the war results in the break up of the Turkish Empire in Asia, what is to be the future of Palestine?’, and proceeded to discuss five possible answers. The first four − annexation by France, to remain part of the Ottoman Empire, internationalization and a Jewish state − Samuel rejected one by one. Only the last answer, a British protectorate, he considered viable, and it was moreover strategically sound. Basing himself on a telegram by Sir Milne Cheetham* the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Egypt, of 7 January 1915, Samuel also claimed that a British protectorate ‘would be welcomed by a large proportion of the present population’ in Palestine, while Zionists and non-Zionists alike had assured him that this outcome was ‘by far the most welcome to the Jews. *British authorities in Cairo were convinced that a landing in Syria was of vital importance to the defense of Egypt, and in this context Cheetham pointed out the drawbacks of a policy of acquiescence in French pretensions with regard to Syria considering the anti-French attitude of the majority of the Syrian population, and that only a British force would reap the full benefits of a landing.

Samuel also claimed that a British protectorate ‘would be welcomed by a large the proportion of the present population’ in Palestine, while Zionists and non-Zionists alike had assured him that this outcome was ‘by far the most welcome to the Jews  throughout the world’, and would lead to the formation in the USA, ‘where they number about 2,000,000, and in all the other lands where they are scattered, [of] a body of opinion whose bias […] would be favourable to the British Empire’.⁹

Montagu, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and ‘one of the most intimate of Asquith’s political associates,'¹⁰ as well as Samuel’s cousin, attacked the latter’s scheme in a confidential memorandum. He was ‘very strongly convinced that this would be a disastrous policy’.¹¹ Asquith, again, had not been impressed. On 13 March, he had written to his confidante, Venetia Stanley, that Samuel had produced:

An almost dithyrambic memorandum urging that in the carving up of the Turks’ Asiatic dominions, we should take Palestine, into which the scattered Jews could in time swarm back from all the quarters of the globe, and in due course obtain Home Rule. (What an attractive community!) Curiously enough, the only other partisan of this proposal is Lloyd George, who, I need not say, does not care a damn for the Jews or their past or their future, but thinks it will be an outrage to let the Christian holy places – Bethlehem, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, etc. − pass into the possession or under the protectorate of ‘Agnostic, Atheistic France’!¹²

During the War Council of 19 March, which was partly devoted to a discussion of the partition of Turkey in Asia, it appeared that the majority were none too eager to take up fresh responsibilities. The general feeling around the table was that ‘we have already as much territory as we are able to hold’. It was therefore far better when none of the Great Powers took anything.¹³ This had the result that Weizmann reported to C.P. Scott on 23 March that he had gathered from Samuel that the British cabinet were ‘sympathetic towards the Palestinian aspirations of the Jews’, but ‘would not like to be involved into any responsibilities’.¹⁴ Samuel, moreover, declined to receive Weizmann a second time.¹⁵ The first attempt to get the ear of the British government had failed.


Enter Lucien Wolf

The question of the possible return of the Jews to Palestine reverted to being the sole province of Foreign Office officials, who were inclined to take the matter not too seriously. Their regular contact was Lucien Wolf, the secretary of the Conjoint Foreign Committee, which had been established in 1878 by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo–Jewish Association.

In a meeting that had taken place on 14 April 1915 between Zionist representatives from England and abroad (Weizmann not among them), and leading members of the Conjoint Committee.

The Zionists had hoped to come to an agreement on future cooperation, but to the Conjoint Committee, the Zionist program was unacceptable. The Conjoint Committee especially objected to ‘the scheme of a chartered company empowered to offer Jewish colonists privileges not extended to the rest of the population’, because ‘nothing could be more detrimental to the struggle for Jewish liberties all over the world […] How could we continue to ask for equal rights for the Jews in Russia and Rumania if we claimed special rights for the Jews in Palestine?’ Oliphant’s minute was characteristic of the Foreign Office attitude. After noting that Wolf’s report threw ‘an interesting sidelight on Zionism showing how hopelessly impracticable the Zionists are,' he light-heartedly added that, ‘Mr Wolf’s charge against the Zionists of intending to go “the whole hog” seems a trifle severe from one Jew to another’.¹⁶ 

Although Weizmann managed to have an interview with Lord Robert Cecil on 18 August 1915, which the latter had found ‘weighty and serious’, so Weizmann learned afterwards,¹⁷ for the Foreign Office the Zionist aspirations were a non-issue. This only changed for a short while when Wolf submitted a memorandum to Cecil in the middle of February 1916. Wolf admitted that he was not a Zionist and that he deeply deplored the Jewish national movement, but ‘the facts cannot be ignored, and in any bid for Jewish sympathies today very serious account must be taken of the Zionist movement’. It had not escaped Wolf that ‘what the Zionists would especially like to know is that Great Britain will become mistress of Palestine’, and he understood that this might be problematic ‘in view of French claims […] in regard to the whole of Syria, which is held in Paris to include Palestine’. An assurance that the allies ‘thoroughly understand and sympathize with Jewish aspirations regarding Palestine, and that when the destiny of the country comes to be considered, these aspirations will be taken into account’ would, however, skirt this difficulty.¹⁸

On 3 March 1916, Wolf submitted a formula that he believed might do:

In the event of Palestine coming within the spheres of influence of Great Britain or France at the close of the war, the governments of those powers will not fail to take account of the historic interest that country possesses for the Jewish community. The Jewish population will be secured in the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, equal political rights with the rest of the population, reasonable facilities for immigration and colonization, and such municipal privileges in the towns and colonies inhabited by them as may be shown to be necessary.  Sir Arthur Nicolson saw ‘no harm in the proposed “formula’”, but before ‘giving our imprimatur to it we should consult the French government, or in any case that I should inform M. Cambon to ask for his view’.¹⁹

It was clear that ‘we must […] consult our Allies – especially in view of the fact that we are discussing the future of Pales- tine at Petrograd’ [Sykes and Georges-Picot were in the Russian capital to negotiate the terms under which the Russian authorities were prepared to assent to the Sykes–Picot agreement]. He, therefore, proposed that ‘we might ask Paris and Petrograd whether they see any objection to the formula pointing out to both the advantages […] by securing a sympathetic attitude on the part of the Jews’. Lord Crewe agreed. He realised that Jewish opinion was ‘considerably divided about it’, and Wolf could not ‘be taken as the spokesman of the whole community’, but ‘we ought to pursue the subject, since the advantage of securing Jewish good will in the Levant and in America can hardly be overestimated’. On 11 March, a telegram was sent to Bertie and Buchanan containing Wolf’s formula. The ambassadors were informed that the Foreign Office considered the formula ‘unobjectionable’, and believed that:

The scheme might be made far more attractive to the majority of Jews if it held out to them the prospect that when in the course of time the Jewish colonists in Palestine grow strong enough to cope with the Arab population they may be allowed to take the management of the internal affairs of Palestine (with the exception of Jerusalem and the holy places) into their own hands.²⁰

Buchanan replied three days later. He sent two telegrams. The first transmitted Sykes’s observations on the pro- posed formula. Sir George had communicated it to him, and Sykes had subsequently discussed it with Picot who, ‘on hearing the sense of telegram made loud exclamations and spoke of pogroms in Paris. He grew calmer but maintained France would grow excited.’ When in Cairo in November, Sykes had moreover been told that ‘Arab Christians and Moslems alike would fight in the matter to the last man against Jewish Dominion in Palestine’. Picot had ‘reluctantly admitted’ the ‘inestimable advantages to allied cause of active friendship of Jews of the World’. The Zionists should, however, ‘give some demonstration of their power; accentuation of German financial straits and glow of pro-allied sentiment in certain hitherto anti-ally neutral papers would be sufficient indication’. Sykes, referring to Samuel’s memorandum, agreed that an international protectorate was unacceptable to the Zionists, but the French ‘would never consent to England having temporary or provisional charge of Palestine […] They seem hardly normal on this subject and any reference seems to excite memories of all grievances from Joan of Arc to Fashoda’. Sykes nevertheless deemed the problem ‘soluble’, and proposed the creation of an Arab Sultanate of Palestine under French and British protection, with perhaps one of Hashemite Hussein ibn Ali’s sons as sultan.

However inventive Sykes’s proposal, officials at the Foreign Office were not impressed. Harold Nicolson noted that the whole purpose of the Wolf formula was ‘to dazzle Jewish opinion − and I much doubt whether an Arab sultanate would have that effect’. Oliphant agreed, ‘the Arab sultan would certainly wreck the scheme’. O’Beirne felt that Sykes should not have discussed the matter with Picot, and suggested a telegram in that sense to Buchanan. Grey concurred, and added that Buchanan should tell Sykes ‘to obliterate from his memory that Mr Samuel’s Cabinet memorandum made any mention of a British protectorate and that I told Mr Samuel at the time that a British protectorate was quite out of the question and Sir M. Sykes should never mention the subject without making this clear’.²¹

In a further telegram sent two days later, Sykes, not yet aware of the Foreign Office reprimand, reiterated that about the Arabs and Zionists the ‘greatest caution’ was ‘requisite as a slip in either direction might imperil scheme’. He was nevertheless confident that the British could get the Zionist's full colonizing facilities coupled with their rights in an enlarged Palestine’. What Britain definitely could not do, was to ‘get them either political control of Jerusalem within the walls of the city nor any scheme tending thereto’. This only led O’Beirne to express the hope that ‘our telegram of March 16 [49669] will have a quieting effect on Sir M. Sykes’, and to point out that ‘nobody proposes to give the Jews “political control” of Jerusalem’.²²

Buchanan’s second telegram reported his conversation with Sazonov. The latter had raised ‘no objection to the scheme in principle but sees great difficulties in the way of its execution. Though Russian government would welcome migration of Jews to Palestine, he doubts whether any considerable number of them would care to settle there.’ The Russian foreign minister had promised to send Buchanan a definitive answer ‘after a thorough examination of the question’. There remained nothing else other than to await this further communication.²³

Bertie telegraphed the result of his meeting with French Prime minister Briand a week later. The latter had rather doubted ‘whether scheme would really have the influence on Jewish community which is anticipated’. The proposal moreover presented ‘serious difficulties and […] would run particular risk of awakening susceptibilities of Arabs whom it is advisable to treat with caution’. All in all, Briand thought that it was not useful to take up this scheme ‘until after question of creation of Arab Empire has been solved’. Oliphant agreed that the formula’s effect would be limited, but O’Beirne insisted that ‘the Zionist scheme’ appealed to a ‘large and influential section of the Jews throughout the world’. He, however, accepted ‘the Arab objection’. If ‘the Arabs knew that we were contemplating an extensive Jewish colonisation scheme in Palestine (with the possible prospect of eventual Jewish self-government) this might have a very chilling effect’.²⁴

There the matter rested for more than three months. At the end of June, Oliphant produced an overview of the state of affairs, because Wolf was ‘pressing for some reply’. He submitted that in view of the Arab question it was ‘unwise to commit ourselves at present’, and that ‘even though the formula originated with Mr Wolf we cannot regard him as speaking for all Jews’. George Clerk (O’Beirne had drowned with Kitchener on board HMS Hampshire) suggested informing Wolf orally that the Allies had ‘not yet concluded their discussions as to the future of Palestine’, and that the ‘present time, when the Arabs have risen against the Turks […] would in the interests of the Jews themselves, be badly chosen for the publication of any formula such as that suggested’. Hardinge sympathized with Wolf, but the latter could only be told that ‘the present moment is inopportune for making any announcement’. Grey added that Wolf could also be informed of the sense of Bertie’s telegram that the French government had ‘pointed out certain difficulties, one being that the Jews are not agreed about it (as a matter of fact Mr Samuel and Mr Montagu I believe do not agree)’. It was left to Oliphant to communicate the Foreign Office’s negative decision. On 4 July, four months after Wolf had submitted his formula, Oliphant minuted that he had handed Wolf the reply suggested by Hardinge, and that he had ‘added a sentence orally in accordance with Sir E. Grey’s minute’.²⁵


Zionist Ambitions a French Difficulty

On 12 November 1916, Weizmann wrote to Dorothy de Rothschild, wife of James de Rothschild and an avid supporter of the Zionist cause, in a very depressed state of mind. In Zionist affairs, ‘which began in such a promising way’, he could ‘not see much hope. The upheaval in the world has roused everybody except the Jews’. Zionist activists were ‘nice, well-meaning’, but their activism was limited to their spare time. ‘No wonder’, so Weizmann continued, that ‘all we do now is disjointed, haphazard, looks more like an adventure, than like an organised conscious effort of a people struggling for better days’. He admitted that he was ‘sometimes driven to despair and one’s own efforts appear almost like an irony, like the attempt of the fool who tried to empty the sea with a bucket’.²⁶ However, everything changed radically with the advent of the Lloyd George government in December 1916.

Weizmann had never managed to have an interview with Asquith or Grey,²⁷ but he knew the new prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. He had breakfasted with Lloyd George on 15 January 1915 and had had several meetings with the minister for munitions since then, although mostly in connection with his work as ‘Chemical Advisor to the Ministry of Munitions on Acetone Supplies’.²⁸

Weizmann had met Balfour for the first time on 9 January 1906. During their conversation, Weizmann had emphasized ‘the spiritual side of Zionism’, which meant that ‘nothing but a deep religious conviction expressed in modern political terms could keep the movement alive, and that this conviction had to be based on Palestine and Palestine alone’. Balfour, who in Weizmann’s opinion had ‘only the most naïve and rudimentary notion of the movement’, had been impressed and had asked Weizmann: ‘are there many Jews who think like you?’ The latter had answered that he spoke ‘the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves, but with whom I could pave the streets of the country I come from’.²⁹ Their second meeting had taken place two days after Weizmann’s conversation with Samuel in December 1914. Afterwards, Weizmann had written to his friend and mentor Ahad Ha’am that Balfour had said to him that he believed that ‘you may get your things done much quicker after the war’, and that the Jewish question ‘would remain insoluble until either the Jews here become entirely assimilated, or there was a normal Jewish community in Palestine’. Balfour had been very moved – ‘I assure you, to tears’ − by Weizmann’s exposition of the suffering that was involved in Jewish attempts to assimilate into the communities of Western Europe, and when Balfour had seen him out into the street, he had said, ‘very warmly: “Mind you come again to see me, I am deeply moved and interested, it is not a dream, it is a great cause and I understand it”.’³⁰

Another favorable development for Zionist aspirations was the appointment of Sir Mark Sykes as one of the civil assistant secretaries for political affairs to the War Cabinet (the other was Leopold Amery, MP). At the end of January 1917, he was occupied with drafting the instructions for the chief political officer to be attached to Sir Archibald Murray, and in this connection wished to consult Zionist leaders. Via James Malcolm, a leading figure in the Armenian community in touch with British officials, Sykes came into contact with Weizmann. They had two conversations, on 28 and 30 January. During the second, Sir Mark requested ‘a larger meeting with Zionist leaders together with Herbert Samuel’.³¹

In preparation for this meeting, which was scheduled for 7 February, on 31 January Rabbi Gaster sent Sykes the Zionist programmatic statement, which after that came to be known as ‘The Demands’. The Zionists had been working on this document since September 1916, and it had only been completed at the very end of January. It concluded with the following summary of Zionist desiderata:

Palestine is to be recognised as the Jewish National Home. Jews of all countries to be accorded full liberty of immigration. Jews to enjoy full national, political and civic rights according to their place of residence in Palestine. A Charter to be granted to a Jewish Company for the development of Palestine. The Hebrew language to be recognized as the official language of the Jewish Province.³²

During the meeting of 7 February, the Zionist delegation made sure that Sykes did get the right impression. One after the other, the Zionist representatives hammered at the absolute necessity of a British protectorate over Palestine, and their total rejection of a condominium. Gaster opened the meeting by proclaiming that ‘there must be no condominium or internationalization in Palestine, as that would be fatal. What Zionists in England and everywhere desired was a British protectorate with full rights to the Jews to develop a national life.’ Lord Rothschild followed up by emphasizing that he was ‘irreconcilably opposed to any form of condominium. Great Britain must annex Palestine.’ Nahum Sokolow, representative of the World Zionist Organisation, claimed that ‘the Jews of the whole world […] all desired that England should annex Palestine’.

Sykes subsequently started to define the area in which the Jewish chartered company proposed by the Zionists could be active. The northern limit would be from Acre in a straight line to the Jordan, which meant that the Hauran and the greater part of Galilee were excluded. While the southern border ‘could be arranged with the British government’, Sir Mark also excluded the ‘islands’ of Jerusalem, Jaffa and ‘a belt from Jerusalem to the sea along the Jaffa railway […] because the Russian pilgrims came along this route’. The Zionists were appalled.

The next day, Nahum Sokolow met with Picot. In the course of their conversation, Sokolow observed that the Zionists desired that Palestine should become a British protectorate. Picot refused to be drawn and only mentioned that this was a question for the Entente to decide. When Sykes intervened, Picot added that French ambitions could not be ignored. He was nevertheless prepared to discuss the Zionist program with his superiors in Paris.³⁷ A few weeks later, after ‘a long interview’ with Sokolow, Sir Mark was less sanguine regarding the prospects of solving the French difficulty. On 28 February, he wrote to Picot that the ‘question of finding a (suzerain?) power or powers in this region is especially beset with difficulties. To propose it to be either British or French is to my mind only asking for trouble,’ while the alternative of an international regime would ‘inevitably drift into a condition of chaos and dissension’.

On 3 April 1917, Weizmann, in the company of Scott, breakfasted with Lloyd George and discussed the question of Palestine. Scott recorded in his diary that the Prime Minister said that the Palestine campaign was ‘the one really interesting part of the war,' and that he ‘was altogether opposed to a condominium with France.' He also wanted to know Weizmann’s position on an internationalised Palestine. The latter replied that this was ‘even a shade worse’ than an Anglo–French condominium. That same afternoon Sir Mark had an interview with Lloyd George and Curzon. Both impressed on Sykes ‘the importance of not prejudicing the Zionist movement and the possibility of its development under British auspices’. Lloyd George ‘suggested that the Jews might be able to render us more assistance than the Arabs’. Sykes agreed, but also pointed out that ‘it was important not to stir up any movement in rear of Turkish lines which might lead to a Turkish massacre of the Jews’. Although the Prime Minister had not referred to a British protectorate over Palestine in his interview with Weizmann, he now was emphatic ‘on the importance, if possible, of securing the addition of Palestine to the British area’. Sir Mark, therefore, should ‘not […] enter into any political pledges to the Arabs, and particularly none in regard to Palestine’.⁴⁵

By these instructions, the first thing Sykes did when he arrived in Paris was to have a conversation with Georges-Picot, in which he strongly expressed his ‘opinion […] that it would be advantageous to prepare French mind for idea of British suzerainty in Palestine by International consent’. He pointed out to that ‘our preponderant military effort […] coupled with general bias of Zionists in favour of British suzerainty, tended to make such a solution the only stable one’. Picot, however, could give Sykes little hope, as ‘gross ignorance prevailed in circles formative of political opinion in France and that the average politician regarded Palestine as being the greater part of Syria instead of one seventh’.⁴⁶

In view of Picot’s reaction, Sykes thought it wise to try and temper expectations at home. He wrote to Hankey that he had to contend with great difficulties, and that he hoped the Prime Minister understood that ‘the French public think that Palestine is Syria, and do not realize how small a part of the coast-line it occupies’.⁴⁷ The next day, he informed Balfour that ‘the French are most hostile to the idea of the USA being the patron of Palestine’, and that ‘the great mass of Frenchmen interested in Syria, mean Palestine when they say Syria’. Still, ‘as regards Zionism itself, the French are beginning to realise that they are up against a big thing’. Sykes also believed that when the French started ‘to recognise Jewish Nationalism and all that it carries with it as a Palestinian political factor [this] will tend to pave the way to Great Britain being the appointed Patron of Palestine’.⁴⁸

A first indication that the French might indeed have begun to realise that they were ‘up against a big thing’ was the outcome of a meeting that took place on 9 April between Sokolow, Paul Cambon, his brother Jules (secretary-general at the Quai d’Orsay), as well as Georges- Picot at the Quai d’Orsay. Sir Mark reported to Balfour the same day that ‘Zionist aspirations (had been) recognised as legitimate by the French’.⁴⁹ In a separate telegram to Graham, Sykes noted that ‘at interview question of future suzerain power in Palestine was avoided’,⁵⁰ but he did not attach much weight to this. Sokolow had assured him that ‘the bulk of the Zionists desire British Suzerainty only’. Naturally, the moment was ‘not ripe for such a proposal […] but provided things go well the situation should be more favourable to British suzerainty with a recognised Jewish voice in favour of it’.⁵¹ Bertie did not share Sykes’s optimism at all. He explained to Sir Ronald Graham that:

In dealing with the question of Syria and Palestine it must be remembered that the French uninformed general Public imagine that France has special prescriptive rights in Syria and Palestine. The influence of France is that of the Roman Catholic Church exercised through French Priests, and schools conducted by them […] Monsieur Ribot [French prime minister and minister of foreign affairs; R.H.L.] is of the French Protestant Faith which in the eyes of the French Catholics as a body is abhorred next unto the Jewish Faith. Even if M. Ribot were convinced of the justice of our pretensions in regard to Palestine, would he be willing to face the certain combined opposition of the French Chauvinists, the French uninformed general Public and the Roman Catholic Priests and their Flocks?⁵²

Sykes admitted the difficulty with the ‘Syrian party in Paris’ in a letter to Graham of 15 April. He observed that ‘what is important is that this gang will work without let or hindrance in Picot’s absence […] The backing behind this is Political-Financial-Religious – a most sinister combination.’⁵³ He also telegraphed this assessment to Balfour the same day (the foreign secretary, however, was away on a goodwill mission to the USA, and during his absence, Cecil was acting secretary of state for foreign affairs). Sir Mark stated that the ‘Syrian party in France’ was ‘noisy strong anti-British and “intransigeant’” and that he had ‘private information that they consider M. Picot has betrayed them by giving away Haifa’. Sir Ronald began to have second thoughts about the whole scheme. He feared that ‘the idea that the French will ever be disposed to hand over the whole administration of Palestine to us is utopian, and yet the Zionist hopes are based on this hypothesis. We should not go too far in the encouragement of these hopes, for if they are disappointed the blame will inevitably fall upon us.’⁵⁴ In a letter to Sykes of 19 April, he subsequently observed that it was ‘somewhat disquieting to see how entirely the Zionist plans and ideas are based on a British Palestine’.⁵⁵

That day, Lloyd George was in Saint-Jean-de- Maurienne for a conference (without any representative of the Foreign Office being present) with the French and the Italians on Italian ambitions in Asia Minor. The conference was a direct consequence of what had been agreed in Article 9 of the Treaty of London of 26 April 1915. In this treaty, which contained the terms under which Italy was prepared to side with the Entente powers, France, Russia and England had ‘recognised that Italy is interested in the maintenance of equilibrium in the Mediterranean, and that, in the event of the total or partial partition of Turkey in Asia, she should obtain an equitable share in the Mediterranean region in the neighbourhood of the province of Adalia’. In the preceding weeks, an attempt had been made to delimit the Italian sphere, but this attempt had failed ‘mainly owing to the irreconcilable nature of the French and Italian desiderata’. In preparation for the conference, Lloyd George had drawn up a compromise proposal that Ribot found acceptable. Italian foreign minister Baron Sidney Sonnino, however, ‘began to make difficulties and to increase his demands’. What Sonnino ‘foresaw was that Great Britain, France and Russia had a reasonable chance of realising their aspirations in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Armenia, respectively, but that Italy was not likely to be so fortunate in Asia Minor’. He, therefore, demanded compensation elsewhere in case Italy failed to acquire the province of Adalia. Eventually, the participants agreed on the formula that, ‘if at the time when peace is declared the total or partial possession of territories contemplated in the agreements come to between France, Great Britain, Italy, and Russia, as to the disposal of part of the Ottoman Empire cannot be fully accorded to any one or more of those Powers, then the interests of the Powers concerned will be again taken into equitable consideration’.⁵⁶

On his way back to London, Lloyd George had an interview with Bertie in Paris. When the conversation turned to Palestine, the Prime Minister insisted that ‘the French will have to accept our Protectorate: we shall be there by conquest and shall remain’.⁵⁷ At a War Cabinet five days later, however, Lloyd George had to admit that when during the conference he had ‘hinted that the British government considered that Palestine should come under British control, (this) proposal had been very coldly received’.⁵⁸ 


Demise of Conjoint Committee and Success of Nahum Sokolow’s Mission

On 21 April, Wolf, who had got wind of Sokolow’s activities in Paris,⁵⁹ wrote to Oliphant that ‘in the opinion of the Presidents of the Conjoint Committee a great injustice would be done to the Anglo–Jewish community, and very serious mischief might result, if an agreement on the Palestine Question were concluded without their participation, more especially as the gentlemen with whom His Majesty’s Government have so far been in negotiation are all foreign Jews’. Although Graham proposed to reply to Wolf that ‘H.M. Government are sincerely anxious to act in all matters affecting the Jewish community not only in its best interests but with a due regard to the wishes and opinions of all its sections’,⁶⁰ Anglo–Jewish opposition to Zionism was no real concern for him. What kept on troubling him was the irreconcilability of French claims to Palestine and the Zionist desire for a British protectorate. 

As he explained in a note to Hardinge: 

His Majesty’s Government are now committed to support Zionist aspirations. Sir Mark Sykes has received instructions on the subject from the Prime Minister. However admirable the Zionist idea may be and however rightly anxious His Majesty’s Government are to encourage it, there is one aspect of the situation to which attention should be drawn. Every Zionist with whom I have discussed the question […] insists that the Zionist idea is based entirely on a British Palestine. They are unanimous in the opinion that their project would break down were Palestine to be ‘internationalised’. Are we justified in encouraging them in so great a measure when the prospect of Palestine being internationalised is distinctly stronger than the prospect of the country coming under our protection? I know that the Prime Minister insists that we must obtain Palestine and that Sir Mark Sykes proceeded on his mission with these instructions. But those who are best qualified to gauge French opinion, including Lord Bertie, are convinced that the French will never abandon their sentimental claims to Palestine. 

Hardinge heartily agreed. He could not ‘help feeling that this Zionist movement and its consequences have not so far been sufficiently considered. It appears that it is inseparable from a British Palestine, and this seems at present unrealisable. Are we wise in giving encouragement to a movement based on a condition which we cannot enforce?’ Cecil felt obliged to admit ‘the very great difficulty of carrying out the Zionist policy involving as it does a strong preference for a British protectorate over Palestine.' He proposed to send the telegram to Buchanan that had been prepared in the department on his earlier suggestion that the latter should be consulted ‘as to whether he thinks that a declaration by the Entente of sympathy for Jewish Nationalist aspirations would help or not’.⁶¹ The telegram was sent on 24 April.⁶² Buchanan’s reaction was not encouraging. He claimed that there was ‘no great enthusiasm for Zionism among Jews in Russia more especially since the overthrow of the old regime’. He doubted ‘very much whether an expression of sympathy for Jewish national aspirations would help’. The Jewish question was ‘always a delicate one and one has to be so careful as to what one says at present moment that the less said about Jews the better’.⁶³ This advice was accepted by the Foreign Office officials in London. Oliphant minuted that in view of Buchanan’s reply ‘we had better mark time at present’, while Graham noted that the idea of a declaration had ‘been dropped’.⁶⁴ Cecil had to follow suit, so he explained to William Ormsby Gore (parliamentary secretary to Lord Milner and recently appointed assistant secretary to the War Cabinet) a few weeks later. Although he did not agree with Buchanan, it was ‘very difficult to go against his advice in such a matter at such a time’.⁶⁵

In his note to Hardinge of 21 April, Graham had observed that under the Sykes–Picot agreement the brown area would be internationalized, but that ‘we cannot, of course, inform the Zionists of this Agreement’. When Sir Ronald put these words to paper, however, Weizmann had already been informed of the provisions in the Sykes–Picot agreement with respect to Palestine. On 12 April, C.P. Scott had had an interview with Viscount Robert de Caix, the foreign editor of the French newspaper Journal des Débats, and ‘obviously in close touch with the French government’. The latter had assured him – so Scott wrote to Weizmann four days later – first, that it ‘had been “settled” that France was to have not only northern Syria but Palestine down to a line from St. Jean d’Acre to Lake Tiberias and including the Hauran’, and second, that ‘the rest of Palestine was to be “internationalised”’.⁶⁶ As a result of Scott’s letter, Weizmann ‘closely’ questioned James Malcolm, who had accompanied Sokolow to Paris and had recently returned to London, on the subject. From what Malcolm told him, Weizmann gathered that there was ‘no doubt that some sort of arrangement has been arrived at for a considerable time and the nature of this arrangement as explained by de Caix seems substantially correct’. What remained uncertain, however, was ‘whether the arrangement is binding or whether it is flexible and whether there is a clear possibility of reopening the whole question’. Weizmann subsequently saw Graham on 24 April, and confronted the latter with what he had found out. Sir Ronald claimed that he had only learned about the agreement after his return to the Foreign Office, and admitted that it was unsatisfactory, and had created an ‘ambiguous’ situation. He also arranged an interview for Weizmann with Cecil the following day.⁶⁷ When Weizmann called on Lord Robert, he was, according to Ormsby Gore, ‘in a fine rage’.⁶⁸ He objected in the strongest terms against the cutting up of Palestine and the inter- nationalisation of the remaining part. He claimed that ‘Galilea and Judea were both parts of the same country, and ought to be kept together. But he did not attach very great importance to that, because he said that it would take some time for the Zionists to colonize Judea; and when they had done so, and desired to extend, they would have a very strong case for “over-running” (as he put it) Galilea.’ With respect to the internationalization of Judea, Weizmann explained that ‘international government was the worst in the world’. A Judea under sole French protection was at least as bad – ‘Zionists throughout the world would regard a French administration in Palestine as a great disaster: “a third destruction of the Temple”.⁶⁹

The next day, Weizmann reported to Scott his version of the conversation with Lord Robert. He observed that it seemed to him that the matter had ‘to be carried a little further and brought before the Prime Minister’,⁷⁰ but he failed to get an interview with Lloyd George. Cecil took no further action. The Zionist scheme once again seemed to have lost momentum. Of its most important sympathizers in London, Lloyd George had hinted at a British protectorate over Palestine at Saint-Jean-de- Maurienne but had encountered French and Italian opposition, Sykes was away in Egypt and the Hijaz, Balfour was in the USA, and Cecil did not dare go against the advice of Buchanan, Hardinge, and Graham. It took, however, only a few weeks before Zionist aspirations received a fresh impetus, with the demise of the Conjoint Committee and the unexpected success of Sokolow’s mission in Paris. It seemed that the Jewish difficulty – Anglo–Jewish opposition to the Zionism − and the French difficulty – French ambitions in Palestine – could finally be disposed of.

In continuation of his letter of 21 April, Wolf wrote to Oliphant on 2 May that the Conjoint Committee were ‘not contemplating any public polemic with the Zionists’, but that the Foreign Office should understand that ‘with regard to the negotiations now pending between His Majesty’s Government and the Zionists, a statement of the views of the Conjoint Committee will certainly be necessary at some time or other’. He felt obliged to warn that the whole question would probably be discussed at the Committee’s next meeting, in which case ‘a polemic of the nature deprecated by Lord Robert Cecil will be inevitable’.⁷¹ This warning certainly made an impression, and Wolf was received by Lord Robert on 8 May. According to Cecil’s account of the meeting, Wolf had first been eager to ‘impress upon (him) the fact that the Zionists were a very small minority of the Jewish community’, but had also been very anxious to find out whether ‘no definite arrangement with the Zionists had been made at present, and that none would be concluded without consulting all sections of Jewish opinion’. With regard to these two points, Cecil had assured Wolf that ‘certainly no arrangement with the Zionists had been concluded at present’, and that ‘the British government would certainly never make such an arrangement without taking into account, if not consulting, the whole of Jewish opinion’.⁷²

On 17 May 1917, the Conjoint Committee met and decided, so Wolf informed Oliphant the following day, ‘to issue a public statement of their attitude on the Zionist question’. They felt that it was ‘clearly their duty to give such guidance to the community as is in their power’. The statement had been drawn up ‘there and then’, with ‘only two dissentients’. Wolf added that the statement was ‘a very conciliatory one’, and in case Lord Robert ‘would like to see a copy of the statement before it is published, I shall be very happy to show it to him and discuss it with him’. Six days later the Foreign Office sent a letter to Wolf that Cecil would be glad to avail himself of this offer,⁷³ but that morning the statement had already been published in The Times. What had forced the Conjoint Committee’s hand and why they decided to go to the press before they had received the Foreign Office’s nihil obstat, so Wolf explained in a letter to Hardinge on 25 May, was that ‘owing to some breach of faith, the fact that such a Statement was about to be issued was communicated to the Zionists, and was made the excuse for a most unscrupulous attempt to discredit the Conjoint Committee’.⁷⁴

In their letter to the editor and to be published in The Times, the presidents of the Conjoint Committee, David L. Alexander and Claude Montefiore, ‘strongly and earnestly’ protested against the ‘Zionist theory’ that regarded ‘all the Jewish communities of the world as constituting one homeless nationality, incapable of complete social and political identification with the nations among which they dwell’, and claimed that ‘for this homeless nationality a political centre and an always available homeland in Palestine are necessary’. They warned that ‘a Jewish nationality in Palestine founded on this theory of Jewish homelessness, must have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands, and of undermining their hard-won position as citizens and nationals of those lands’. They also protested against the Zionist proposal ‘to invest the Jewish settlers in Palestine with certain special rights in excess of those enjoyed by the rest of the population, these rights to be administered by a Jewish Chartered Company’. According to them:

Any such action would prove a veritable calamity for the whole Jewish people. In all the countries in which they live the principle of equal rights for all religious denominations is vital for them. Were they to set an example in Palestine of disregarding this principle they would convict themselves of having appealed to it for purely selfish motives. In the countries in which they are still struggling for equal rights they would find themselves hopelessly compromised, while in other countries, where these rights have been secured, they would have great difficulty in defending them.

They concluded by stating that ‘if the Conjoint Committee can be satisfied on these points they will be prepared to cooperate in securing for the Zionist organisation the united support of Jewry’.⁷⁵

Officials in the Foreign Office took no offense that the statement had been published before they had been consulted, and Harold Nicolson considered it ‘perfectly harmless’. In his letter to Hardinge, Wolf reiterated that the statement had been ‘drawn up in the most conciliatory terms’, and expressed the hope that ‘it might well serve as a starting point for fresh negotiations, and as a basis for a compromise’,⁷⁶ but this was not to be. The Times reported on 25 May that they had ‘received more letters than we can find room for from Jewish correspondents taking strong exception to the statement published yesterday’. One of the letters they did print was from Mr S. Gilbert, a member of the Board of Deputies, which spelled the demise of the Conjoint Committee.  One of the letters they did print was from Mr S. Gilbert, a member of the Board of Deputies, which spelled the demise of the Conjoint Committee.

According to Gilbert, the Board of Deputies had:

Never been consulted on the question of whether such a declaration should be issued […] But today it finds that, without warning and without any attempt to gain its sanction, a manifesto has been issued in its name. From these facts you will gather the precise amount of authority which attaches to this declaration.⁷⁷

The Anglo–Jewish Association was the first to discuss the Conjoint Committee’s declaration. On 4 June, Wolf informed Oliphant that a vote of censure had been rejected by a large majority.⁷⁸ A fortnight later, he had, however, to report that during the meeting of the Board of Deputies on 17 June, ‘a vote of censure on the Committee was carried by 56 votes to 51’. As Montagu explained to Cecil almost three months later, the letter to The Times had been criticised on two grounds, ‘namely, that it opposed the national idea which is the foundation of Zionism, and that the Joint Committee in issuing it on its own responsibility exceeded its rights as a mere executive committee’. The vote of censure had ‘obviously enlisted the support of Zionists, but also of those who felt the force of this latter criticism, and in the discussion the second point played a very large part’.⁷⁹ Wolf in his letter to Oliphant optimistically claimed that ‘the effect of yesterday’s voting on the constitution of the Conjoint Committee will not be to disturb existing arrangements’, but Sir Ronald minuted that ‘this is a very different opinion to that held by the Zionists. The Board of Deputies was regarded as the stronghold of the anti-Zionists and I believe that this vote signifies the dissolution of the Conjoint Committee.’⁸⁰ It was Graham who was right. Alexander resigned as president of the Board of Deputies in consequence of the vote of censure, and was succeeded by Sir Stuart Samuel, Herbert Samuel’s brother, while Lord Rothschild became one of the vice presidents. The Conjoint Committee was eventually abolished on 9 September 1917.⁸¹ The ‘Jewish difficulty’ appeared to have been solved. It would, however, resurface one last time in the course of August, when Montagu, who became secretary of state for India in the middle of July,⁸² intervened.


Jewish project enters the Vatican

After once more visiting Paris where he met Picot in April 1917, Sykes next traveled to Rome. As soon as he had arrived in Rome, Sykes sought an interview with a Vatican official who was of the same rank and influence as himself, someone not a cardinal who had the Pope's ear. He found his man in (the future Pope) Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican’s assistant under-secretary for foreign affairs. Sir Mark had gained the impression that ‘the idea of British patronage of the holy places was not distasteful to Vatican policy. The French I could see did not strike them as ideal in any way.’ Sykes had also ‘prepared the way for Zionism by explaining what the purpose and ideals of the Zionists were’. Naturally, ‘one could not expect the Vatican to be enthusiastic about this movement, but he was most interested and expressed a wish to see Sokolow when he should come to Rome’. Sykes, who had to leave for Egypt, had therefore left a letter for Sokolow in preparation of his conversations with the Vatican.⁸³ Sir Mark explained that he had been:

Careful to impress that the main object of Zionism was to evolve a self-supporting Jewish community which should raise, not only the racial self-respect of the Jewish people but should also be a proof to the non-Jewish peoples of the world of the capacity of Jews to produce a virtuous and simple agrarian population, and that by achieving these two results, to strike at the roots of those material difficulties which have been productive of so much unhappiness in the past.

He had further ‘pointed out that Zionist aims in no way clashed with Christian desiderata in general and Catholic desiderata in particular’, and strongly advised Sokolow ‘if you see fit (to) have an audience with His Holiness’.⁸⁴ Sokolow was granted an audience on 6 May, which went very satisfactorily. The Pope declared that he sympathized with ‘Jewish efforts of establishing national home in Palestine’, and that he saw ‘no obstacle whatever from the point of view of his religious interests’. He also spoke ‘most sympathetically of Great Britain’s intentions’. According to Sokolov the length of his audience and the ‘tenor of conversation’ revealed a ‘most favourable attitude’.⁸⁵

A few days later, Sokolow had an interview with Italian prime minister Paolo Boselli, who indicated that Italy would not actively support a Zionist initiative in Palestine but also would not oppose it.⁸⁶ At the end of the month, Sokolow returned to Paris and continued his conversations with the French authorities. He was received by Ribot and by Jules Cambon. After some days, Sokolow succeeded in obtaining a message of French support for the Zionist cause. On 4 June Cambon wrote to him that:

You consider that when circumstances permit and the independence of the holy places is secured, it would be an act of justice and reparation to assist with the renaissance, through the protection of the Allied Powers, of the Jewish nationality on that territory from which the Jewish people have been chased many centuries ago. The French government, who have entered the present war to defend a people unjustly attacked, and pursue the fight to ensure the triumph of right over might, cannot feel but sympathy for your cause the triumph of which is tied to that of the Allies.⁸⁷

Sokolow telegraphed two days later to Israel Rosov, a leading Russian Zionist, that he had ‘happily succeeded in obtaining desired official document’. That the French government had addressed him officially and had recognised the Zionist claim to Palestine, Sokolow considered ‘the greatest moral victory our idea ever attained’. However, the French letter did not change his views on the desirability of a British protectorate. According to Sokolov, ‘we are agreeable to consider British protection as the ideal solution. Practically this will be the case, at all events particularly after fait accompli, but formally phrased Entente protection is still current in diplomatic quarters.’ This depiction of the state of affairs drew no comments from Foreign Office officials.⁸⁸

But as we have seen, despite Britain’s earlier agreement with France dividing influence in the region after the presumed defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Lloyd George had come to see British dominance in Palestine, a land bridge between the crucial territories of India and Egypt, as an essential post-war goal. The establishment of a Zionist state there, under British protection, would help accomplish this.

The true history of the Balfour Declaration and its implementations P.1.

The true history of the Balfour Declaration and its implementations P.3.

The true history of the Balfour Declaration and its implementations P.4.


The below mentioned Foreign Office (FO) documents can be searched and read online, here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/foreign-commonwealth-correspondence-and-records-from-1782


1.  Viscount Samuel, Memoirs (London, 1945: Cresset Press), p. 141. 

2.  Leonard Stein, The Balfour Declaration (London, 1961: Valentine, Mitchell), p. 104.

3.  Leonard Stein (ed.), The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, Vol. VII (Jerusalem, 1975: Israel University Press), pp. 77−8. 

4.  John Bowle, Viscount Samuel: A Biography (London, 1957: Victor Gollancz), pp. 170−1.

5.  Samuel to Grey, 22 January 1915, Grey Papers, FO 800/100. 

6.  Bowle, Viscount Samuel, p. 171. 

7.  Francis L. Bertie, The Diary of Lord Bertie of Thame: 1914–1918, Vol. I (London, 1924: Hodder and Stoughton), p. 106.

8.  Isaiah Friedman, The Question of Palestine, 1914– 1918: British–Jewish–Arab Relations (London, 1973: Routledge and Kegan Paul), pp. 12−13. 

9.  Bowle, Viscount Samuel, pp. 172−6.

10. Roy Jenkins, Asquith (London, 1978: Collins), p. 258. 

11. Montagu to Asquith, 16 March 1915, Bodleian Library, Asquith Papers, vol. 27. 

12. Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Companion Vol. III, Part I (London, 1972: Heinemann), p. 690.

13. Secretary’s Notes of a Meeting of a War Council, 19 March 1915, Cab 42/2/14. 

14.  Leonard Stein, The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, 1968, Vol. VII, p. 184. 

15.  Ibid., pp. 181, 187.

16. Wolf to Oliphant, 28 April 1915, and minute Oliphant, not dated, FO 371/2488/51705. Wolf had reported that Rabbi Moses Gaster had said that ‘the Zionists intended to go in, and work for “the whole hog”. Nothing less than a Commonwealth would satisfy them’. 

17. Weizmann to Sacher, 21 August 1915, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 232. 

18. Wolf to Cecil, 18 February 1916, Leonard Stein, The Balfour Declaration, 2008, p. 221.

19. Wolf to Oliphant, 3 March 1916, and minute Nicolson, 6 March 1916, FO 371/2817/42608. 

20. Wolf to Oliphant, 6 March 1916, minutes Nicolson and Crewe 7 March 1916, O’Beirne, not dated, Nicolson and Crewe, 8 March 1916, and tels Grey to Bertie and Buchanan, no. 633 and 574, 11 March 1916, FO 371/2817/43776.

21. Tel. Buchanan to Grey, private and secret, 14 March 1916, minutes Nicolson, Oliphant and O’Beirne, 15 March 1916, minute Grey, not dated, and tel. Nicolson to Buchanan, Private and Secret, 16 March 1916, FO 371/ 2767/49669. 

22. Tel. Buchanan to Grey, no. 377, 16 March 1916, and minute O’Beirne, 17 March 1916, FO 371/ 2767/51288.

23. Tel. Buchanan to Grey, no. 361, 14 March 1916, and minute Nicolson, 15 March 1916, FO 371/2817/49273.

24. Tel. Bertie to Grey, no. 343, 22 March 1916, and minutes Oliphant, not dated, and O’Beirne, 22 March 1916, FO 371/2817/54791.

25. Note Oliphant, 27 June 1916, minutes Clerk, 29 June 1916, Hardinge, not dated, Grey, not dated, and Oliphant, 4 July 1916, FO 371/2817/130062.

26. Weizmann to Dorothy de Rothschild, 12 November 1916, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 314.

27. See also Mayir Vereté, ‘The Balfour Declaration and its makers’, Middle Eastern Studies, 6/1 (1970), p. 53.

28. See Jehuda Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann. The Making of a Statesman (Hanover, NH, 1993:  University Press of New England), pp. 24, 51, 418.

29. Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error (London, 1949: Hamish Hamilton), pp. 144−5. Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 81−2

30. Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 81−2 (italics in original). 

31. Jehuda Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, 1985, p. 110. 

32. Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 543.

33. Gaster to Sykes, 31 January 1917; Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, p. 111. 

34. Strictly speaking, this agrees with what had been laid down in Article 3 of the Sykes–Picot agreement.

35. This, is not true, seeing that under the Sykes–Picot agreement the brown area was to have an international administration. 

36. Memorandum of a Conference held on 7th February 1917 at 193 Maida Vale, London, W, St Anthony’s College, Samuel Papers.

37. See Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab–Israeli Conflict (London, 2010: Bloomsbury), p. 199; Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, pp. 118–19. 

38. Schneer, The Balfour Declaration, p. 201. 

39. Sykes to Picot, 28 February 1917, Sykes Papers, box 1. 

40. Weizmann to Scott, 20 March 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 343. 

41. Weizmann to Scott, 23 March 1917, ibid., pp. 346–7. 

42. Weizmann, Trial and Error, p. 241. 

43. Weizmann to Scott, 23 March 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 346−7. 

44. Trevor Wilson, The Political Diaries of C.P. Scott (London, 1970: Collins), pp. 273–4. 

45. Notes of a Conference, G.T.–372, 3 April 1917, Cab 24/9. 

46. Tel. Sykes to Graham, no. 1, 6 April 1917, FO 371/ 3045/72249. 

47. Sykes to Hankey, 7 April 1917, Cab 21/96. 

48. Tel. Sykes to Balfour, no. 1, 8 April 1917, Sykes Papers, box 1.

49. Sykes to Balfour, no. 2, 9 April 1917, ibid. 

50. Sykes to Graham, no. 3, in tel. Bertie to Balfour, no. 334, 9 April 1917, FO 371/3045/73658. 

51. Sykes to Balfour, no. 2, 9 April 1917, Sykes Papers, box 1. 

52. Bertie to Graham, private and confidential, 12 April 1917, FO 371/3052/82982.

53. Sykes to Graham, no. 2, 15 April 1917, ibid. 

54. Tel. Sykes to Balfour, no. 8, 15 April 1917, minute Graham, 17 April 1917, FO 371/3052/78324. 

55. Graham to Sykes, 19 April 1917, Sykes Papers, box 1. 

56. 19 APRIL 1917, Lloyd George Papers, F/120/2.

57. Bertie, The Diary, Vol. II, p. 123. 

58. Minutes War Cabinet, 25 April 1917, Cab 23/2. 

59. See Isaiah Friedman, The question of Palestine, 1914-1918, 1973, p. 233, and Schneer, Balfour Declaration, p. 307. 

60. Wolf to Oliphant, 21 April 1917, and minute Graham, 25 April 1917, FO 371/3092/83962. 

61. Graham to Hardinge, 21 April 1917, minutes Hardinge and Cecil, not dated, and Cecil to Hardinge, 19 April 1917, FO 371/3052/82982. 

62. See tel. Balfour to Buchanan, no. 791, 24 April 1917, FO 371/3053/84256. 

63. Tel. Buchanan to Balfour, no. 590, 27 April 1914, FO 371/3053/86906. 

64. Minutes Oliphant and Graham on tel. Sykes to Graham, private, 28 April 1917, FO 371/3053/ 87897. 

65. Cecil to Ormsby Gore, 15 May 1917, Cecil Papers, FO 800/198. 

66. Scott to Weizmann, 16 April 1917, Stein, Balfour Declaration, p. 391. 

67. Weizmann to Scott, 26 April 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 379−80. 

68. Ormsby Gore to Sykes, 8 May 1917, Sykes Papers, box 2. 

69. Memorandum Cecil, 25 April 1917, FO 371/3053/ 87062. 

70. Weizmann to Scott, 26 April 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, VII, p. 382. 

71. Wolf to Oliphant, 2 May 1917, FO 371/3092/ 89943. 

72. Cecil, note, 8 May 1917, FO 371/3092/94113. 

73. Wolf to Oliphant, 18 May 1917, and Foreign Office to Wolf, 24 May 1917, FO 371/3053/101437. 

74. Wolf to Hardinge, 25 May 1917, FO 371/3053/ 105582.

75. D.L. Alexander, C.G. Montefiore, Letter to the Editor, The Times, 24 May 1917, FO 371/3053/ 105250.   Wolf to Hardinge, 25 May 1917, Minute Nicolson.

76. 27 May 1917, FO 371/3053/105582.

77. The Times, 25 May 1917, FO 371/3053/105250.

78. Wolf to Oliphant, 4 June 1917, FO 371/3053/111685.

79. Montagu to Cecil, 14 September 1917, G.T. 2191, Cab 21/58.

80. Wolf to Oliphant, 18 June 1917, and minute Graham, not dated, FO 371/3053/121745. In a confidential note Graham further added that the vote meant that it would ‘no longer be necessary to consult that Body’. Graham to Hardinge, Confidential, Zionism, 13 June 1917, FO 371/3058/ 123458.

81. Wolf to Oliphant, 10 September 1917, FO 371/ 3053/177948.

82. Austen Chamberlain resigned on 12 July 1917, in result of the findings of the Mesopotamia Commission, which had been appointed to investigate the causes of the defeat at Ctesiphon and the subsequent surrender of the British force at Kut al-’Amara. The India Office was not Montagu’s first choice, but he had already explained to Lloyd George that ‘he could never refuse the India Office if you wanted me there’, with the result that, when Lloyd George offered him the position on 17 July, Montagu was ‘proud to accept’. Montagu to Lloyd George, personal and private, 1 May 1917, and Montagu to Lloyd George, private, 17 July 1917, Lloyd George Papers, F/39/3/11 and 23.

83. Sykes to Graham, no. 3, 15 April 1917, FO 371/ 3052/82749.

84. Sykes to Sokolow, 14 April 1917, encl. in Sykes to Graham, no. 3, 15 April 1917, ibid.

85. Sokolow to Weizmann, in tel. Rodd to Balfour, 7 May 1917, FO 371/3053/92646.

86. See Schneer, Balfour Declaration, pp. 217–18. 

87. Cambon to Sokolow, 4 June 1917, FO 371/3058/ 123458. 

88. Tel. Sokolow to Rosov, 6 June 1917, encl. in Weizmann to Graham, 11 June 1917, initials Nicholson and Oliphant, FO 371/3053/116990. 

In his memoirs, Weizmann acknowledged that Graham ‘was of considerable help in bringing about the Balfour Declaration’, but at the same time observed that he did ‘not know how deep his sympathies were’. It is my impression that Graham, after initial hesitation, saw in the Zionist issue an excellent opportunity to ingratiate himself with Cecil and so to strengthen his position in the Foreign Office (see Weizmann, Trial and Error, pp. 230−1).