History of the Balfour Declaration P.3 of 4.

As Steven Wagner pointed out in his 2014 dissertation, few British officials recognized the inherent contradiction in their promises to Zionists and Arabs between 1917 and 1919. Including that the understanding of Arab politics was limited by a few channels of information, and the biases of some officers. Hence what they understood about the connection between the Hashemite family and Arab secret societies differed from the true relationship. (Steven Wagner, British Intelligence and Policy in the Palestine Mandate, 1919–1939, DPhil, University of Oxford: 2014, pp 26–28.)

In this context, a three-way alliance between Britain, the Arab movements and Hashemite Sherif Hussein and his two sons, was based on a temporary alignment of interests of each party. Britain misunderstood and overrated the connection between the Arab movements and the Hashemites, but only came to realize this after the end of the war.

Nevertheless, Hussein's achievement was nothing short of extraordinary. Notwithstanding his pretense to represent ‘the whole of the Arab Nation without any exception’ the Sharif represented little more than himself. The minimal backing he received from a few neighboring tribes had far less to do with a yearning for independence than with the glitter of British gold and the promise of booty. Hussein could not even count on the support of his local constituency. As late as December 1916, six months after the Sharif and his two prominent sons, Abdallah and Faisal, launched what came to be known euphemistically as the Great Arab Revolt, the residents of Mecca were almost pro-Turks, and it would not be before the winter of 1917 that the pendulum would start swinging in the Hashemite direction.

Unlike Turkey-in-Europe, where the rise of nationalism dealt a body blow to Ottoman imperialism, there was no nationalist fervor among the Ottoman Empire's Arabic-speaking subjects. A British Intelligence Report (FO 686/6) from 28 Dec 191.6, FO 686/6 estimated that a mere 350 activists belonged to all the secret Arab societies operating throughout the Middle East at the outbreak of World War I, and most of them were not seeking actual Arab independence but rather greater autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. To the vast majority of the eight to ten million Arabic-speaking Ottoman subjects, the message of the tiny secret societies meant nothing. They remained loyal to their imperial master to the bitter end and shunned the sharifian revolt altogether. Between 100,000 and 300,000 of them even fought in the Ottoman army during the war. As Lawrence of Arabia put it in a 1915 memorandum on the conditions in Syria:

Between town and town, village and village, family and family, creed and creed, exist intimate jealousies, sedulously fostered by the Turks to render a spontaneous union impossible. The largest indigenous political entity in settled Syria is only the village under its sheikh, and in patriarchal Syria the tribe under its chief. ... All the constitution above them is the artificial bureaucracy of the Turk. ' .. By accident and time the Arabic language has gradually permeated the country, until it is now almost the only one in use; but this does not mean that Syria-any more than Egypt-is an Arabian country. (As quoted in Eliezer Tauber, The Emergence of the Arab Movements, 1993, Chapter 28.)

These realities appear to be of little import for Hussein and his sons. For all the rhetoric of Arab independence in which they couched their communications with the British, the Hashemites were no champions of national liberation but in their own way, imperialist aspirants anxious to exploit a unique window of opportunity to substitute their own empire for that of the Ottomans, Hussein had demonstrated no nationalist sentiments prior to the war, when he had generally been considered a loyal Ottoman apparatchik, and neither he nor his sons changed in this respect during the revolt.

What the Hashemites demanded of the post-war peace conference, then, was not self-determination for the Arabic-speaking subjects of the defunct Ottoman Empire but the formation of a successor empire, extending well beyond the predominantly Arabic-speaking territories and comprising such diverse ethnic and national groups as Turks, Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, Assyrians, Chechens, Circassians, and Jews. As Hussein told Lawrence of Arabia in the summer of 1917: ‘If advisable we will pursue the Turks to Constantinople and Erzurum-so why talk about Beirut, Aleppo, and Hailo’ Abdallah put it in similar terms when demanding that Britain abide by the vast territorial promises made to his father: ‘it was ... up to the British government to see that the Arab kingdom is such as will make it a substitute for the Ottoman Empire.’ (As quoted in David Hogarth ‘Mission to King Hussein,’ Arab Bulletin, Jan. 27, 1918, pp. 22-23.)

As we have seen, Palestine at the time did not exist as a unified geographical entity; rather, it was divided between the Ottoman province of Beirut in the north and the district of Jerusalem in the south. Its local inhabitants, like the rest of the Arabic-speaking communities throughout the region, viewed themselves as subjects of the Ottoman Empire rather than members of a wider Arab nation and extended the sultan their unconditional loyalty during the war. Not even the repressive Ottoman measures in the Levant from the autumn of 1915 onward could turn the local population against their suzerain. Not before the summer of 1917, after the British advance from Egypt into Palestine had driven home the reality of Allied successes, would mutterings of discontent begin to be heard. But even these were owing to the serious shortages of food, fodder, and wood caused by the Ottoman setbacks rather than to identification with the Hashemite ‘Great Arab Revolt.’

It was also the Hashemite imperial dream that would be the first to place the ‘Palestine Question’ on the pan-Arab political agenda as its most celebrated cause. Already during the revolt against the Ottoman Empire, Faisal had begun toying with the idea of establishing his Syrian empire, independent of his father's prospective regional empire. In late 1917 and early 1918 he went so far as to negotiate this option with key members of the Ottoman leadership behind the backs of his father and his British allies. As his terms were rejected by the Ottomans, Faisal tried to gain great-power endorsement for his imperial dream by telling the post-war Paris Peace Conference that ‘Syria claimed her unity and her independence’, and that it was ‘sufficiently advanced politically to manage her own internal affairs ’if given adequate foreign and technical assistance.’

On 8 March 1920 he was crowned by his supporters as King Faisal I of Syria, ‘within its natural boundaries, including Palestine,’ and the newly installed monarch had no intention of allowing the Jewish national movement to wrest away any part of his kingdom. The coronation was thus followed by riots in Palestine as rumors spread regarding the country's imminent annexation to Syria. These culminated in early April 1920 in a pogrom in Jerusalem in which five Jews were killed and more than two hundred were wounded. 

The Struggle for the Balfour Declaration

The British-Egyptian authorities wanted to forestall the international administration of the brown area laid down in the Sykes–Picot agreement. The best way to do this was to proclaim martial law for as long as military operations continued. The War Office concurred. An implication of this policy, in which the Foreign Office acquiesced for the moment, was that the Zionists should not be permitted to undertake in Palestine any activities in pursuance of the Balfour Declaration.

On 12 June 1917, Chaim Weizmann called on Ronald Graham, the British under-secretary of state, and gave him ‘some information of considerable interest.' The German government was intensifying its attempts to win the Zionist movement for a peace initiative. In this connection ‘a prominent Zionist, who has lived a long time in Constantinople, and who is fully acquainted with the diplomatic world and also with the Committee of Union and Progress’ had been received by Arthur Zimmermann, the German foreign minister. Weizmann also drew Graham’s attention to the fact that in the last two or three months ‘a number of articles have […] begun to appear in the German papers all dealing with the great importance  of the Zionist movement […] and the considerable danger which a Jewish Palestine under British protection would represent to the Central Powers’. According to Weizmann, there could ‘be no doubt that a complete change of front on the part of the German government has taken place and that orders have been given to treat Zionism as an important political factor in the policy of the Central Empires’. He went on, to sum up all the successes the Zionists had scored in the Entente countries in the last weeks, ‘even in France, which was considered the stronghold of Jewish opposition to Zionism.' Weizmann ‘concluded by urging very strongly that it was desirable from every point of view that His Majesty’s Government should give an open expression of their sympathy with, and support of, Zionist aims and should publicly recognize the justice of Jewish claims on Palestine’.

In fact, Sir Ronald played an important role in getting through a public declaration in support of Zionist aspirations. 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.1

In his view ‘the moment has come when we might meet the wishes of the Zionists […] Such a step would be well justified by the international political results it would secure.’2 However, Balfour felt that his hands were tied: ‘how can H.M.G. announce their intention of “protecting” Palestine without first consulting our Allies? And how can we discuss dismembering the Turkish Empire till the Turks are beaten?’ He was moreover ‘personally’ still for American participation ‘in the protectorate should we succeed in securing it’3. The foreign secretary, however, set his doubts aside after he had spoken with Rothschild and Weizmann on 19 June, and read a minute that Sir Ronald had composed that same day.

Balfour’s interview with Rothschild and Weizmann took place at the request of Rothschild, who wanted ‘to prove to [Balfour] that the majority of Jews are in favour of Zionism’.4 In his minute, Graham pointed out that he ‘had never meant to suggest that the question of the “Protection” should be raised at all. This would be most inopportune in view of French susceptibilities’, and the Zionists did not ‘ask for any pronouncement on this head’. What they wanted was ‘a formal repetition, if possible in writing, of the general assurances of sympathy which they have already received from members of H.M. Government verbally’. What he proposed was that ‘we should give them something on the lines of the French assurance – which would satisfy them’. Balfour subsequently noted that he had ‘asked Lord Rothschild and Professor Weizmann to submit a formula’, to which Lord Robert could not help adding that he had ‘wanted to do this several weeks ago but was deterred by the advice of Sir G. Buchanan’.5

As Weizmann would be away for a few weeks for a meeting with Henry Morgenthau, the former US ambassador in Constantinople, at Gibraltar at the beginning of July,6 he left for the guidance of Sokolow and the other members of the London Zionist Political Committee a rough draft of a declaration. The British government should declare ‘its conviction, its desire or its intention to support Zionist aims for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine; no reference must be made I think to the question of the Suzerain Power because that would land the British into difficulties with the French; it must be a Zionist declaration’.7 The wording of the formula led to a struggle for several weeks be- tween the ‘maximalists’, headed by Harry Sacher, on the one hand, and the ‘politicians’, headed by Sokolow, on the other hand. Sacher wanted the Zionists to ask ‘for as much as possible’,8 but Sokolow warned that ‘if we want too much we shall get nothing’.9 It was not until 17 July that Sokolow was able to carry the day, although Sacher was the main author of the formula.10 Lord Rothschild transmitted it to Balfour the following day:

 1.  His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people.

 2.  His Majesty’s Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organisation.

Balfour replied the next day. He would ‘have the formula you sent me carefully considered but the matter is of course of the highest importance and I fear it may be necessary to refer it to the Cabinet. I shall not therefore be able to let you have an answer as soon as I should otherwise have wished to.’ The wheels of bureaucracy also took their toll. The process of careful consideration was held up for a fortnight due to, so Graham explained on 1 August, ‘the French assurance having been mislaid’.11

The Foreign Office accepted the first part of the Rothschild formula (except for a minor linguistic alteration, ‘accept’ instead of ‘accepts’), but re-worded the second in a more passive sense. The initiative to discuss the ‘necessary methods and means’ should not lie with the British government, but with the Zionists. The government would ‘be ready to consider any suggestions on the subject which the Zionist Organisation may desire to lay before them’. The draft declaration was subsequently sent to the War Cabinet Secretariat, and then bureaucracy struck again. On 17 August, Nicolson enquired whether the War Cabinet had already taken a decision on the text, but Cyril Longhurst informed him three days later that ‘we received some time back four copies of the draft reply […] but you did not say at the time whether you wished us to put the question on the waiting list of subjects for consideration by the War Cabinet’. Longhurst should appreciate it if Nicolson would let him know ‘if you wish the question brought up’.12

Ormsby Gore had in the meantime picked up the subject. On 18 August he submitted to Hankey that on the second paragraph of the Foreign Office text, ‘some amendment is desirable’. The ‘great thing to guard against is the appearance of Christian power “forcing” the realisation of Zionist aims. Such forcing would arouse a conflict with Arab population of Palestine at once, and would upset a certain section of non- Zionist Jews.’ The work of ‘practical Zionism’ must be ‘carried out by the Jews themselves and not by Great Britain’. He therefore proposed to substitute ‘to facilitate the achievement’ for ‘to secure’, and to add ‘by the Jewish people’.13

Copies of the Rothschild formula and the proposed Foreign Office reply were also circulated to Montagu.14 When this prominent representative of ‘a certain section of non-Zionist Jews’ laid eyes on these documents, he became very upset, and the next day he submitted to the War Cabinet a memorandum on ‘The Anti-Semitism of the Present Government’. He began by explaining that he had chosen this title ‘not in any hostile sense’, but because he wished ‘to place on record my view that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for Anti-Semites in every country in the world’. He also felt that ‘as the one Jewish Minister in the government’, he might ‘be allowed by my colleagues an opportunity of expressing views which may be peculiar to myself, but which I hold very strongly and which I must ask permission to express when opportunity affords’. Montagu continued that Zionism had always seemed to him ‘a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom’, and that he had:

Always understood that those who indulged in this creed were largely animated by the restrictions upon and refusal of liberty to Jews in Russia. But at the very time when these Jews have been acknowledged as Jewish Russians and given all liberties, it seems to be inconceivable that Zionism should be officially recognised by the British government.

He laid down ‘with emphasis’ four principles: one, ‘there is not a Jewish nation’; two, ‘to bring the Jews back to form a nation in the country from which they were dispersed would require Divine leadership’; three, ‘there are three times as many Jews in the world as could possibly get into Palestine if you drove out all the population that remains there now. So that only one- third will get back at the most, and what will happen to the remainder?’; four, ‘when the Jew has a national home, surely it follows that the impetus to deprive us of the rights of British citizenship must be enormously in- creased. Palestine will become the world’s Ghetto […] All Jews will be foreign Jews, inhabitants of the great country of Palestine.’15 The Jewish problem had reemerged with a vengeance.

That same day, Ormsby Gore wrote to Colonel Swinton of the War Cabinet Secretariat that Lord Milner ‘would like the proposed “Zionist” declaration brought before the Cabinet as soon as possible’. He also submitted an alternative draft. Milner thought the word ‘reconstituted […] much too strong’, and agreed with Ormsby Gore’s objections against ‘to secure’, but there were two other significant changes, which further watered down Britain’s commitment to the Zionist cause. The Milner–Ormsby Gore formula referred to ‘a home for the Jewish people’, instead of ‘the National Home of the Jewish people’, and to ‘the Zionist organisations’, instead of ‘the Zionist Organisation’:  His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that every opportunity should be afforded for the establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine, and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, and will be ready to consider any suggestions on the subject which the Zionist organisations may desire to lay before them.16

The matter finally came before the War Cabinet on 3 September 1917. Lloyd George, Balfour, as well as Lord Curzon, did not attend, but Milner, Cecil and Montagu did. A first conclusion was that ‘a question raising such important issues as to the future of Palestine ought, in the first instance, to be discussed with our Allies, and more particularly with the United States’. The discussion then turned on ‘Lord Milner’s draft for the consideration of the United States government’. Montagu protested against the phrase ‘the home of the Jewish people’, which evidently was not in the Milner draft, but nobody seemed to notice this, and the protagonists turned to their familiar arguments. Where Montagu urged that ‘the position of every Jew elsewhere’ would be ‘vitally’ prejudiced, Cecil and Milner expressed the view that, ‘while a small influential section of English Jews were opposed to the idea, large numbers were sympathetic of it’.17 It was suggested that ‘the matter might be postponed’, but Lord Robert ‘pointed out that this was a question on which the Foreign Office had been very strongly pressed for a long time past’. The War Cabinet decided that ‘the views of President Wilson should be obtained before any declaration was made’, and requested Cecil to inform the President that the British government ‘were being pressed to make a declaration in sympathy with the Zionist movement, and to ascertain [his] views as to the advisability of such a declaration’.18 A telegram in this sense was sent the same day, but with a slight twist. Lord Robert asked Colonel House if he ‘felt able to ascertain whether the President favours such a declaration’.19 He was in for a disappointment. On 11 September, House telegraphed that in the opinion of Wilson ‘the time is not yet opportune for any definite statement further perhaps than one of sympathy provided it can be made without conveying real commitment’.20 It seemed that a new ‘American difficulty’ had arisen, but the next day Weizmann had already undertaken steps to get that out of the way. After having been informed by Amery and Ormsby Gore that a telegram had been sent to House, he telegraphed to Louis Brandeis, leader of the American Zionists, judge at the Supreme Court and confidant of President Wilson, the text of the Rothschild formula − Weizmann was not aware of the changes the Foreign Office had made in the second paragraph, and the alternative text proposed by Milner and Ormsby Gore − and added that he expected ‘opposition from assimilationist quarters’. It would consequently ‘greatly help if President Wilson and your- self would support text. Matter most urgent’.20¹⁰⁸

Montagu felt encouraged by House’s reply to write a letter to Cecil, in which he not only tried to correct the latter’s suggestion that the views he had expressed during the meeting of the cabinet ‘were almost peculiar to myself and a few other eccentric individuals’, but also to exploit the American difficulty:

What can be the motive for our government, in the midst of its great preoccupations and perplexities, doing anything in this matter? To help the Allied cause in America was one of the reasons given in the Cabinet discussion. I did not see the terms of the telegram which you sent to America, but it is obvious that President Wilson does not wish for a definite statement conveying any real commitment at present. This motive then goes by the board, and therefore I am impelled to urge once more that no form of words should be used by any spokesman of the British government which implies that there is a Jewish people in the political sense.21

On 19 September, Weizmann at last had an interview with Balfour, who had returned from an extended holiday five days before. Weizmann reported to Kerr that the foreign secretary had acquainted him with the fate that had befallen the ‘declaration’, and declared that it was ‘all beyond me and I cannot possibly understand why – if every- body is sympathetic – and Mr Balfour was emphatic on that point it should be all hung up’. Balfour had promised to see Lloyd George when the latter returned to London, and Weizmann heartily requested Kerr ‘to put the matter’ before the Prime Minister. He ended on a desperate note, ‘is it at all possible to see the P.M.? Do drop me a line. I feel we have reached a critical point and I feel I am not making an appeal in vain to you. Do help us!’22

The Foreign Office took action the next day. Oliphant asked Hankey ‘whether any decision has yet been taken by the Cabinet on the matter?’ Ormsby Gore replied that ‘a preliminary discussion took place at War Cabinet […] and I expect the subject will come up again when the Prime Minister returns from North Wales’.23 Rothschild also managed to see Balfour, and in a letter he sent to the latter the following day, he reiterated the argument that Weizmann had employed to good effect in his interview with Sir Ronald on 12 June: the German government were making overtures to the Zionists. Rothschild observed that during recent weeks there had appeared in the ‘Official and Semi-Official German newspapers’ many statements, ‘all to the effect that in the Peace Negotiations the Central Powers must make a condition for Palestine to be a Jewish settlement under German protection. I therefore think it important that the British declaration should fore- stall any such move’.24

Lloyd George returned to London on 23 September. The following day the War Cabinet Secretariat put the question again on the waiting list. Sir Ronald believed that the time was ripe to address yet another note to Hardinge on ‘Zionist Aspirations’. Graham regarded with ‘some concern the delay that is taking place in giving the Zionists some assurance of sympathy’, and drew Hardinge’s attention to the ‘organised campaign, evidently inspired […] now proceeding in the German Press in favour of Jewish claims to Palestine’. There was ‘a danger of Zionist feeling, which should be on the side of the Allies, becoming divided, and this would be especially the case if the Germans induced the Turks to make concessions to Zionism’. He also pointed out that the French government had ‘already given the Zionists a somewhat vague letter of sympathy which, however, appears to satisfy them’, and he did ‘not see why we should not go as far as the French in the matter’. As to the Anglo–Jewish opposition to the Zionist movement, this concerned ‘a small group of eminent and influential Jews’, who based themselves ‘on unfounded apprehensions with regard to the effect of the movement on Jews who desire to remain entirely British’, while ‘abroad and in America the anti-Zionist forces are recruited from the Jewry of international finance which, if not hostile to the Allies, has never been strongly in our favour’. It was in the British political interest to encourage the Zionists. Hardinge agreed – ‘we might and ought to go as far as the French’ – and so did Balfour, but the latter also noted that ‘as this question was (in my absence) decided by the Cabinet against the Zionists I cannot do anything till the decision is reversed’. In the end, so Graham recorded, Balfour nevertheless decided to ‘raise the matter again’.25

The Zionist declaration gained further momentum when Brandeis’s reply was finally received on 27 September. Weizmann immediately passed it on to the War Cabinet Secretariat and the Foreign Office. It seemed completely to dispose of the American difficulty. Brandeis related that ‘from talks I have had with the President and from expressions of opinion given to closest advisers, I feel I can answer you that he is in entire sympathy with declaration’.26 Weizmann also managed to have ‘2−3 minutes’ with Lloyd George the next day,27 and ‘George, on Weizmann’s representations of urgency, told Sutherland [one of the Prime Minister’s private secretaries; R.H.L.] to put down “Palestine” for the next War Cabinet’.28

It took, in fact, another three War Cabinets before the declaration was finally discussed. In preparation for this meeting and in an attempt to stiffen the foreign secretary’s resolve, Rothschild sent a letter to Balfour, enclosing an appeal to the War Cabinet signed by Weizmann and himself. Both Rothschild’s letter and the appeal mainly concentrated on discrediting Montagu. According to the appeal, Jewish opponents of Zionism were ‘represented by a small minority of so-called assimilated Cosmopolitan Jews mostly belonging to the Haute finance who have lost contact with the development of Jewish life and ideas’. The Jewish masses saw themselves as a nation − whether they were ‘scientifically’ justified in so doing was a ‘mere academic question’ − and they would persist, ‘whatever some few Jewish assimilants may decree to the contrary’. Rothschild in his covering letter assured Balfour ‘once more’ that the ‘Anti-Zionist group for whom Mr Montagu and my cousins speak, is only a minute fraction (some 80−120 thousand people) of the 12 million Jews of the world’.29

The War Cabinet met on 4 October, this time with Lloyd George in the chair, and was attended by Balfour, Curzon, Milner and Montagu. The foreign secretary opened the discussion by stating that the ‘German government were making great efforts to capture the sympathy of the Zionist movement’, and that this movement, ‘though opposed by a number of wealthy Jews in this country, had behind it the support of a majority of Jews, at all events in Russia and America’. What was ‘at the back of the Zionist Movement was the intense national consciousness by certain members of the Jewish race […] and these Jews had a passionate longing to regain once more this ancient national home’. Balfour concluded his statement by reading out ‘a very sympathetic declaration by the French government which had been conveyed to the Zionists’, and claiming that ‘President Wilson was extremely favourable to the Movement’. This claim was right away called into question in  view of ‘the contradictory telegrams received from House and Justice Brandeis’. Montagu subsequently repeated his argument against ‘any declaration in which it was stated that Palestine was the “national home” of the Jewish people’, because it might endanger ‘the civil rights of Jews as nationals in the country in which they were born’, and once again pointed out that declaration was opposed by ‘most English-born Jews’, and supported by ‘foreign-born Jews’. He ended by submitting that the Cabinet’s first duty was to English Jews, and that ‘Colonel House had declared that President Wilson is opposed to a declaration now’.

Curzon joined the fray. On 8 September he had already written to Montagu that he agreed with the latter ‘about the absurdity of shunting the Jews back to Palestine, a tiny country which has lost its fertility and only supports meager herds of sheep and goats with occasional terraced plots of cultivation’. He also shared Montagu’s nightmare that Palestine would become ‘the world’s Ghetto’. Curzon could not ‘conceive a worst bondage to which to relegate an advanced and intellectual community than to exile in Palestine’.30 At the Cabinet meeting he repeated these arguments. Palestine was ‘for the most part, barren and desolate […] a less propitious seat for the future Jewish race could not be imagined’. The return of the Jews to Palestine ‘on a large scale’ he regarded as ‘sentimental idealism, which would never be realised’, and the government ‘should have nothing to do with it’.

Deadlock threatened, when Milner intervened.

Amery later recorded in his memoirs how half an hour before the meeting Milner had asked him whether he ‘could draft something which would go a reasonable distance to meeting the objectors, both Jewish and pro-Arab without impairing the substance of the proposed declaration?’ The latter ‘sat down and quickly produced’ a text,31 which Milner now read out to the War Cabinet:

His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish Race, and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object; it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed in any other country by such Jews who are fully contented with their existing nationality and citizenship.

The War Cabinet subsequently decided that ‘before coming to a decision’, President Wilson, leaders of the Zionist movement, as well as representatives of the Anglo–Jewish community should be consulted on the text submitted by Milner.32

Although he might have taken heart from Curzon’s opposition to the declaration, Montagu realized that the game was up. He was due to depart for India at the end of the month on a mission to investigate on the spot the possibilities of constitutional reforms that would increase Indian participation in the administration of the country. After the meeting of the War Cabinet, he wrote to Lloyd George in a very despondent mood. He felt very sorry to have found himself in opposition to the Prime Minister that morning, and hoped that the latter did ‘not resent my expression with all the vigour I was capable of views which I cannot but hold’. He appreciated Lloyd George’s ‘motives – your generosity and desire to take up the cudgels for the oppressed’, but he simply did not ‘believe in a Jewish Nation’, and it was a ‘matter of deep regret’ that the Prime Minister was ‘being misled by a foreigner, a dreamer, an idealist, who […] sweeps aside all practical difficulties with a view to enlisting your sympathy on behalf of his cause’. He found himself in an impossible situation. He could resign, of course, but resigning over ‘something wholly unconnected with India at all’ surely would not be understood, especially given his outspoken position on, and accepted responsibility for dealing with the momentous challenges that faced India. He, therefore, assured Lloyd George that he did not ‘want to make difficulties. Among your many colleagues you have no colleague more devoted than myself. Among your many colleagues you have none more desirous of serving.’ He ended his letter by asking the Prime Minister ‘most respectfully to give me your advice in the difficult circumstances in which I find myself’.33 Montagu’s ferocious opposition had turned into a personal tragedy. The Jewish difficulty was on the verge of crumbling.

On 5 October, Ormsby Gore reported to Hankey that he had spoken with Montagu and Sir Lionel Abrahams and that they had agreed on Sir Stuart Samuel, Leonard Cohen, Claude Montefiore and Sir Philip Magnus, MP, as the representatives of the ‘non-Zionists’. He had then seen Weizmann, who had submitted the names of Hertz, the Chief Rabbi, Lord Rothschild, Sokolow and himself as representing the Zionists.34 It was subsequently decided to add Herbert Samuel to balance Montagu. A telegram to House was sent on 6 October. It explained that ‘in view of reports that the German government are making great efforts to capture the Zionist movement, the question of a message of sympathy with the movement […] has again been considered by the Cabinet’. It then gave the Milner–Amery formula, and continued that ‘before taking any decision the Cabinet […] would be most grateful if you found it possible to ascertain the opinion of the President with regard to the formula’.35

Although Amery himself was quite taken with his formula, ‘this judicious blend’,36 for Weizmann it was a bitter blow. It constituted ‘a painful recession from what the government itself was prepared to offer’, especially because it introduced ‘the subject of the “civic and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities” in such a fashion as to impute possible oppressive intentions to the Jews, and can be interpreted to mean such limitations on our work as completely to cripple it’.37 However, there was little else to do than put a brave face on it. In his reply, he claimed that ‘the declaration framed by His Majesty’s Government will, when announced, be received with joy and gratitude by the vast majority of the Jewish people all over the world’.

After he had once again dismissed ‘our opponents’ as ‘Jews who by education and social connections have lost touch with the real spirit animating the Jewish people as a whole’, he suggested three alterations to the proposed declaration, which were also suggested by Sokolow in the latter’s separate answer. First, he preferred ‘re-establishment’ to ‘establishment’, to indicate ‘the historical connection with the ancient tradition’.

Second, he wished to replace the last lines with ‘the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country of which they are loyal citizens’, and third, to substitute ‘Jewish people’ for ‘Jewish race’. The Chief Rabbi for his part proposed that the last phrase be shortened to ‘or the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country’. Although he was one of Montagu’s and Abraham’s choices to represent the non-Zionists, Sir Stuart Samuel thought that ‘Jews resident in Great Britain are by a large majority favourable to the establishment of a national home for Jews in Palestine’. He, too, felt uneasy about the last phrase of the Milner–Amery draft, because ‘Jews who are not “fully contented with their existing citizenship” are not protected by the proposed formula’. Herbert Samuel and Lord Rothschild refrained from proposing corrections, and merely welcomed the declaration.

In their letters, Magnus, Montefiore and Cohen rehearsed the familiar arguments of the Anglo–Jewish community. The Jews did not constitute a nation, ‘ever since the conquest of Palestine by the Romans, (the Jews) have ceased to be a body politic’. Any ‘privileges granted to the Jews’ in Palestine ‘should be shared by their fellow-citizens of other creeds’. The establishment of a national home in Palestine would stimulate anti-Semitism, and was unnecessary now the Russian Jews had been emancipated, and, finally, the declaration would be strongly opposed by the Palestine population.

They were united in objecting to the last phrase of the Milner–Amery draft, but differed on the text of an alternative. Each submitted a different formula.38

On 16 October, Sir William Wiseman telegraphed to Sir Eric Drummond that House had ‘put formula before President who approves of it but asks that no mention of his approval shall be made when His Majesty’s Government makes formula public, as he has arranged that American Jews shall then ask him for his approval which he will give publicly here’. The American difficulty no longer existed, and Sir George Clerk minuted that ‘there seems no reason why the formula should not be given to Lord Rothschild’, but Balfour cautioned ‘formula not yet approved by Cabinet’,39 and it would be more than a week before the question was again discussed.

Hankey informed the War Cabinet on 25 October that he was being pressed by the Foreign Office to bring forward the question of Zionism, an early settlement of which was regarded of great importance’, but that Curzon had explained that ‘he had a memorandum on the subject in preparation’, and the question was therefore adjourned until the following week.40 Sir Ronald had learned that further delay threatened, and on 24 October he had already written a note to Balfour to warn against it. In this note, he mustered all the arguments in favor of the declaration. The delay caused the British government to be looked upon with growing suspicion, and Graham reminded the foreign secretary that ‘we might at any moment be confronted by a German move on the Zionist question and it must be remembered that Zionism was originally if not a German at any rate an Austrian idea’. Moreover, the French, the Italians, the Vatican and President Wilson were all sympathetic, and ‘information from every quarter shows the very important role which the Jews are now playing in the Russian political situation’. Considering that ‘almost every Jew in Russia is a Zionist and if they can be made to realise that the success of Zionist aspirations depends on the support of the Allies and the expulsion of the Turks from Palestine we shall enlist a most powerful element in our favour’41.Graham earnestly trusted that ‘unless there is very good reason to the contrary the assurance from His Majesty’s Govern- ment should be given at once’.42 Balfour wrote to Lloyd George the next day that ‘the question of the assurance to be given to the Zionists should be finally decided by the Cabinet as soon as possible’, and enclosed Graham’s note, as well as ‘a list of dates, showing that the Zionists have reasonable ground for complaint as to the delay which has occurred in coming to a decision’.43

Curzon’s memorandum ‘The Future of Palestine’ was circulated on 26 October. He started by distancing himself from the dispute between the Zionists and Anglo–Jewry. He was only interested in the ‘more immediately practical questions: (a) What is the meaning of the phrase “a National Home for the Jewish Race in Palestine” […] (b) If such a policy be pursued what are the chances of its successful realisation?’ Regarding the first question, Curzon merely drew attention to the fact that there were different opinions on what the phrase meant exactly, ranging from a fully fledged state to a merely spiritual centre for the Jews. The second question was his main concern, ‘Palestine would appear to be incapacitated by physical and other conditions from ever becoming in any real sense the national home of the Jewish people’. Considering that the Jews numbered 12,000,000, and assuming that ‘Palestine’ meant ‘the old Scriptural Palestine, extending from Dan to Beersheba’, it was a country ‘not much bigger than Wales’, and Wales only supported ‘a population of 2,000,000 persons’, while ‘after the devastation wrought by the War it will be many decades before we can contemplate a population that will even remotely approximate to that of Wales’. There arose the further question: 

What is to become of the people of this country […] There are over a half million of these, Syrian Arabs – a mixed community with Arab, Hebrew, Canaanite, Greek, Egyptian, and possibly Crusaders’ blood. They and their forefathers have occupied the country for the best part of 1500 years. They own the soil, which belongs either to individual landowners or to village communities. They profess the Mo- hammedan faith. They will not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants, or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water to the latter.  If Zionism merely meant that the Jews – but not the Jews alone − would secure in Palestine equal civil and religious rights with the other elements in the population, and to ‘arrange as far as possible for land purchase and settlement of returning Jews’, then he saw no reason ‘why we should not all be Zionists’, but in his judgement this was ‘a policy very widely removed from the latter.

If Zionism merely meant that the Jews – but not the Jews alone − would secure in Palestine equal civil and religious rights with the other elements in the population, and to ‘arrange as far as possible for land purchase and settlement of returning Jews’, then he saw no reason ‘why we should not all be Zionists’, but in his judgement this was ‘a policy very widely removed from the romantic and idealistic aspirations of the Zionist leaders whose literature I have studied’.44

Sykes prepared a note to refute Curzon’s arguments. Drummond wrote to Balfour that Sir Mark was ‘of course anxious that his name should not appear, but hopes you will have time to look through it before the discussion’. Sykes opened by stating that ‘the resources of Palestine are very apt to be underestimated or misunderstood’. It had taken ‘the Turks and all their men to keep the country a desert before the war’, but the region of Jaffa produced oranges, olive oil and wine, the Jordan valley was ‘a gigantic natural hothouse […] Intensive cultivation […] would certainly produce 3 crops a year’, while the area of Galilee was ‘extraordinarily fertile’. As someone who had ‘known Palestine since 1886’, it was Sykes’s estimate that the population of Palestine, ‘with energy and expenditure’ could be ‘quadrupled and quintupled within 40 years’.45

The final discussion in the War Cabinet took place on 31 October, Montagu did not attend, as he had sailed for India. It was something of an anti-climax. From his opening statement it appeared that Balfour had taken the notes by Graham and Sykes to heart. He submitted that ‘everyone was now agreed that, from a purely diplomatic and political view, it was desirable that some declaration favourable to the aspirations of the Jewish nationalists should now be made’. Because the ‘vast majority of Jews in Russia and America’ and in the world favoured Zionism, ‘a declaration favourable to such an ideal’ would free the way for an ‘extremely useful propaganda both in Russia and America’. Balfour distinguished two kinds of objection to the scheme. Palestine was too poor a country to sustain large-scale Jewish immigration, and it endangered ‘the future position of Jews in Western countries’. As to the first, experts seemed to differ, but he had been ‘informed that, if Palestine were scientifically developed, a very much larger population could be sustained than had existed during the period of Turkish misrule’. With respect to the second objection, he ‘felt that, so far from Zionism hindering the process of assimilation in western countries, the truer parallel was to be found in the position of an Englishman who leaves his country to establish a permanent home in the United States’. Curzon ‘admitted the force of the diplomatic arguments in favour of expressing sympathy, and agreed that the bulk of the Jews held Zionist rather than anti-Zionist opinions’. He stood by the observations in his memorandum, but ‘recognised that some expression of sympathy with Jewish aspirations would be a valuable adjunct to our propaganda’. The struggle for the declaration was finally over. Curzon did warn that ‘we should be guarded in the language used’, and the Milner–Amery draft was revised in three places. The War Cabinet accepted Weizmann’s suggestion to substitute ‘Jewish people’ for ‘Jewish race’, referred to ‘civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities’, instead of ‘the existing’, and replaced the phrase ‘the rights and political status enjoyed in any other country by such Jews who are fully contented with their existing nationality and citizenship’ (to which all Jews – both Zionists and non-Zionists − had taken exception) with Hertz’s proposed alternative, ‘the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country’. Balfour was authorised ‘to take a suitable opportunity’ to make a ‘declaration of sympathy with the Zionist aspirations’.46

It was fitting that it was left to Sir Ronald to put the finishing touches to the letter to Rothschild and the formula: 

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet. ‘His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country’.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist



The British Conquer Jerusalem

On 29 June 1917, General Sir Edmund Allenby had succeeded Sir Archibald Murray as commander-in-chief of the EEF. After an inspection of the front, Allenby had accepted the plan developed by Lieut.-General Sir Philip Chetwode for the third battle of Gaza, which involved first attacking Beersheba, at the eastern tip of the Turkish front, and, after taking Beersheba, turning west to Gaza, rolling up the Turkish front in the process.

On 12 July he had reported his plan of attack to the War Office and stated that to be successful, he required two extra infantry divisions. At an Anglo–French conference at the end of July, after much wrangling, it had been decided that one British division would be transferred from the Salonika front to Palestine. One implication of this decision had been that Allenby’s offensive had to be postponed from September until the end of October. On 10 August the War Cabinet had instructed Allenby to ‘strike the Turks as hard as possible.' No geographical objective was set – ‘as a goal to the Force […] Allenby was simply enjoined to defeat the Turks opposed to him, to follow up his success vigorously, and to continue to press them to the limit of his resources’.48

The attack on Beersheba started on 31 October 1917. The town was captured the same day. The offensive against Gaza began in the night from 1 to 2 November. Due to water shortages, the advance on Gaza was slowed down, and British troops only entered the town on 7 November. In the following days, Jaffa was captured, and British troops slowly advanced on Jerusalem. The final attack on that city began on 30 November, and the mayor of Jerusalem surrendered the city nine days later. The Turkish troops had again managed to escape. Allenby’s official entry took place on 11 December, when at 12 o’clock he entered Jerusalem on foot through the Jaffa gate. 

In the middle of October, Clayton had already observed to Wingate that, if Allenby’s offensive succeeded, he foresaw ‘proposals for an international Gendarmerie and even perhaps an international provisional government for Palestine etc. etc.’ To his mind, ‘these can best be countered by the C-in-C saying that he has a military administration of occupied enemy territory, working in accordance with the “Laws and Usages of War”, and that […] is the only system which he can permit while military operations are in progress’.49

Georges-Picot was due to arrive in Cairo on 25 November to take up his position as French commissioner with Allenby. This time, Sykes would not be his counterpart. The latter had been replaced by Clayton, who had been appointed Chief Political Officer at the beginning of August.50 Clayton understood that Picot wanted to join Allenby, but saw ‘every objection. If any political people go in it will at once break down the military rampart which we have been at such pains to erect.’51 On 24 November, Wingate telegraphed to Balfour very urgently that Picot had received instructions ‘to take part in the official entry into Jerusalem.' Wingate – and Allenby shared his opinion – considered this undesirable. He was ‘anxious to keep matters in Palestine on an exclusively military basis,' a course that was ‘both necessary from a military and expedient from a political point of view.' He, therefore, proposed that Picot should not proceed to Jerusalem ‘until after the official entry’, which could be achieved by instructing Clayton ‘not to attend the official entry in which case M. Picot could not very well press his claims’. 

After his arrival in Cairo, Georges-Picot immediately saw Clayton, and the latter informed him that they would visit Jerusalem on a later date. In a subsequent interview with Sir Reginald, Picot expressed his ‘dissatisfaction with these arrangements, which he considered would be strongly resented in France’. Picot claimed that ‘over a year ago it was agreed between the British and French governments that, pending the final settlement of the Peace terms, any conquered portions of Palestine should be jointly administered by us and the French, exclusive of Italians or other nationalities.' As he was unaware of such an agreement, Wingate submitted that Allenby ‘should be informed telegraphically of the facts, and be given definite instructions as to the line he should take with Picot’.

Robertson sent a telegram to Allenby the very next day. The excuse Clayton and Wingate had concocted to prevent Picot entering Jerusalem together with Allenby was rejected. The latter was instructed that ‘as French Com- missioner and representative Picot should join you at once and enter Jerusalem with you’. Robertson, however, agreed that the administration of Palestine ought to be in military hands as long as military operations were in progress. Allenby therefore ‘should not entertain any ideas of joint administration,' but at the same time ‘should avoid any impression being gained by Picot that annexation of Palestine is contemplated by British.' Sir Edmund also should receive Picot’s ‘ideas sympathetically, but you should remember his role is purely consultative and not executive.' On 29 November, Wingate reported to Hardinge that Clayton and Picot had left for Allenby’s headquarters, and that it had been left to the latter ‘to break it gently to M. Picot that a joint Anglo– French Administration of the conquered territory cannot be permitted’.52 Clayton wrote to Wingate on 8 December that Picot was ‘grumbling rather and insinuating that we are not acting up to our obligations by refusing to allow French participation in the temporary administration of Palestine’,53 but, as he explained to Gertrude Bell in another letter that same day, ‘whatever the subsequent settlement may be we cannot possibly have political considerations interfering with military operations, which would inevitably be the case were any joint civil administration set up’.54 

Clayton’s maneuvering to sidetrack Picot also held negative consequences for the Zionist program. On 28 November, Clayton had already telegraphed to Sykes that:

Announcement made to Jews should suffice for the present and further concessions should be made with utmost caution. It will be specially dangerous to permit any general union of Jewish repatriation or colonisation in Palestine just now. In any case military situation precludes it today and will probably continue to do so for some time to come.55 

On the day of Allenby’s entry into Jerusalem, Sykes and Graham nevertheless drafted a telegram to Clayton in Balfour’s name, in which they explained that ‘Zionists who are being criticised for inaction in regard to Palestine’ were anxious to publish a statement in the press that ‘as soon as military situation permits, a Commission composed of delegates of Zionist organisation will proceed to Palestine to assist Military authorities in dealing with problems connected with the position of the Jewish settlements in Palestine’. They proposed ‘to authorise publication unless you see strong objections’, and at the same time reminded Clayton that ‘the despatch of such a commission is inevitable as a natural development of Zionist movement which is achieving considerable political results’.56 But three days later Clayton replied that he deprecated ‘publication of press notice proposed. Military situation at present demands that no one be allowed to proceed to Palestine and the longer this prohibition is maintained simpler political situation will remain.’57 Clayton elucidated his objections in a letter to Sykes the next day. He was not:

Fully aware of the weight which Zionists carry, especially in America and Russia, and of the consequent necessity of giving them everything for which they ask, but I must point out that, by pushing as hard as we appear to be doing, we are risking the possibility of Arab unity becoming something like an accomplished fact and being ranged against us. 

He urged Sykes to face the fact that the Arab: 

In practice finds that the Jews with whom he comes into contact is a far better businessman than himself and prone to extract his pound of flesh. This is a root fact which no amount of public declarations can get over. We have therefore to consider whether the situation demands out and out support of Zionism at the risk of alienating the Arabs at a critical moment.58 

Wingate fully agreed, as he wrote to Allenby on 16 December, ‘Mark Sykes is a bit carried away with “the exuberance of his own verbosity” in regard to Zionism and unless he goes a bit slower he may quite unintentionally upset the applecart. However Clayton has written him an excellent letter which, I hope, may have an anodyne effect.’59

Unaware of Clayton’s and Wingate’s opposition, on 17 December Weizmann submitted a short memorandum on why a Zionist commission, headed by him, should go to Palestine ‘as soon as possible’. Turning around the argument Clayton had used in his telegram to Balfour, he claimed that, ‘the later we go out, the more difficult it may become to arrange the complicated questions which necessarily arise now both with regard to the Arabs, and perhaps also to the French’. Moreover, the arrival of the commission in Palestine ‘would give a clear indication to the Jews that the Declaration of H.M. Government is being put into effect, and so help to keep up the enthusiasm which is at present existing, and I am sure it would have a far reaching effect, especially in Russia’. However, a commission acting in the limelight was something the Foreign Office wished to avoid. Clerk minuted that ‘both the High Commissioner and General Allenby are shy of a “Commission,” and that the suggestion now is to let Dr Weizmann and one or two others go, but in an unofficial capacity.' Graham added that he had discussed this with Sykes and Weizmann and that they had reached the conclusion that a small committee of three, possibly assisted by Ormsby Gore, should go and that the committee’s objectives, as formulated by Weizmann, required modification.60

In London, the Zionists and their supporters had won the struggle for a public declaration of British sympathy with the aim of establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, but in Palestine, the struggle with the British military authorities that they ‘use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object’ had only just begun. 

Clayton was rather more outspoken in his letter to Gertrude Bell:  The Arabs of Syria and Palestine sees the Jew with a free hand and the backing of H.M.G. and interprets it as meaning the eventual loss of its heritage. Jacob and Esau once more. The Arab is right and no amount of specious oratory will humbug him in a matter which affects him so vitally.  Clayton to Bell, 8 December 1917, Clayton Papers, G//S 513.


When Mark Sykes returned to England he was thrust into negotiations with M. Charles François Georges-Picot, French counselor in London and former French consul general in Beirut, to try to harmonize Anglo-French interests in ‘Turkey-in-Asia’. Picot on the other hand had ‘expressed complete incredulity as to the projected Arab kingdom, said that the Sheikh had no big Arab chiefs with him, that the Arabs were incapable of combining, and that the whole scheme was visionary.' The Arab question and the ‘shocking document’ that shaped the Middle East.

Showing things were not going to well, Britain’s defeat at Gallipoli was followed by an even more devastating setback in the war against the Ottomans: The Menace of Jihad and How to Deal with It.

French rivalry in the Hijaz; the British attempt to get the French government to recognize Britain’s predominance on the Arabian Peninsula; the conflict between King Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud, the Sultan of Najd; the British handling of the French desire to take part in the administration of Palestine; as well as the ways in which the British authorities, in London and on the spot, tried to manage French, Syrian, Zionist and Hashemite ambitions regarding Syria and Palestine. The ‘Arab’ and the ‘Jewish’ question.

The British authorities in Cairo, Baghdad and London steadily lost their grip on the continuing and deepening rivalry between Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud, in particular regarding the possession of the desert town of Khurma. British warnings of dire consequences if the protagonists did not hold back and settle their differences peacefully had little or no effect. All the while the British wanted to abolish the Sykes– Picot agreement. The Syrian question.

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

The true history of the Balfour Declaration and its implementations P.2.

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. Weizmann acknowledged in his memoirs 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).

2. Graham to Hardinge, Confidential, 13 June 1917, minute Balfour, not dated, FO 371/3058/123458.

3. Rothschild to Weizmann, 17 June 1917, Schneer, Balfour Declaration, p. 313.

4. Graham, minute, 19 June 1917, and minutes Balfour and Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3058/123458.

5. Morgenthau was the former American ambassador at Istanbul. He was on his way to Switzerland on a mission to explore the possibilities of a separate peace with the Ottoman Empire. Weizmann succinctly summed up what happened at Gibraltar in the first days of July in a letter to Scott some weeks later:

The Americans arrived without any plan, instructions or even knowledge of the great issues involved. Morgenthau had an idea that he could try and influence Talaat or Enver, to detach themselves from their mentors. But how it is going to be done, under what conditions and whether the Turks are really ready for such a step, all that Mr M. did not know. It was therefore not difficult to dissuade him and he has abandoned all his plans. William Yale, ‘Ambassador’s Henry Morgenthau’s special mission of 1917’, World Politics, 1/3 (1949), pp. 309−10, and Weizmann to Scott, 30 July 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 475.  

6. Weizmann to Sacher, 20 June 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 445. 

7. Sacher to Sokolow, 10 July 1917, Schneer, Balfour Declaration, p. 334. 

8. Sokolow to Sacher, 10 July 1917, Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, p. 177. 

9. See Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, p. 179, and Schneer, Balfour Declaration, pp. 334–5. 

10. Rothschild to Balfour, 18 July 1917, Balfour to Rothschild, 19 July 1917, and minute Graham, 1 August 1917, FO 371/3083/143082. 

 11. Longhurst to Nicolson, 20 August 1917, Cab 21/58. 

 12. Ormsby Gore to Hankey, 18 August 1917, ibid. 

13. I have not been able to find out why the Rothschild formula and the Foreign Office draft reply were circulated to Montagu, who as secretary of state for India was not a member of the War Cabinet. It may have been a matter of bureaucratic routine, as both documents were also circulated to the king and Walter Long, the secretary of state for the colonies, and also outside the War Cabinet.  

14. Montagu, The Anti-Semitism of the Present Government, 23 August 1917, G.T.-1868 (italics in original), Cab 21/58. 

15. Ormsby Gore to Swinton, 23 August 1917, ibid. 

16.  The War Cabinet minutes did not mention Cecil and Milner, but according to Montagu they were the ones who used this argument ‘with such force’. Montagu to Cecil, 14 September 1917, G.T. 2191, ibid.

17. Minutes War Cabinet, 3 September 1917, Cab 23/4.

18. Tel. Balfour to Bayley, 3 September 1917, Balfour Papers, FO 800/204. 

19. Tel. House to Drummond, no. 12, 11 September 1917, Cab 21/58.

20. Tel. Weizmann to Brandeis, 12 September 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 505−6. 

21. Montagu to Cecil, 14 September 1917, G.T. 2191, Cab 21/58. Two days later Weizmann wrote to Philip Kerr in very bitter terms:  The ‘dark forces’ in English Jewry have again been at work and this time they have mobilised their great champion who although a great Hindu nationalist now, thought it his duty to combat Jewish Nationalism. It is – I confess – inconceivable to me, how British statesmen still attribute importance to the attitude of a few plutocratic Jews and allow their opinion to weigh against almost a unanimous expression of opinion of Jewish Democracy.  Weizmann to Kerr, 16 September 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 511.

22.  Weizmann to Kerr, 19 September 1917, Stein; ibid., p. 516.

23. Oliphant to Hankey, 20 September 1917, and Ormsby Gore to Oliphant, 21 September 1917, Cab 21/58. 

24.  Rothschild to Balfour, 22 September 1919 (underlining in original), FO 371/3083/171855.

25. Graham to Hardinge, Zionist aspirations, 24 September 1917, minutes Hardinge, Balfour and Graham, not dated, FO 371/3083/187210.

26. Tel. Brandeis to Weizmann, CX 166, 26 September 1917, G.T. 2158, Cab 21/58.

27. Weizmann to Sokolow, 30 September 1917, Stein, Letters and Papers, Vol. VII, p. 520.

28. Wilson, Political Diaries, p. 306.  

29. Rothschild and Weizmann, Private and Personal, 3 October 1917, encl. in Rothschild to Balfour, 3 October 1917, FO 371/3083/171885. 

30. Curzon to Montagu, 8 September 1917, David Gilmour, ‘The unregarded prophet: Lord Curzon and the Palestine question’, Journal Of Palestine Studies, 25/3 (1996), p. 63. 

31. Leopold Amery, My Political Life. Volume Two: War and Peace (London, 1953: Hutchinson), p. 116. 

32. Minutes War Cabinet, 4 October 1917, Cab 23/4. 

33. Montagu to Lloyd George, 4 October 1917, Lloyd George Papers, F/39/3/30. 

34. Ormsby Gore to Hankey, 5 October 1917, Cab  21/58. Tel. Balfour to Wiseman, no. 21, 6 October 1917, 

35. FO 371/3083/200850. 

36. Amery, Political Life, p. 117. 

37. Weizmann, Trial and Error, p. 262. 

38. Hankey, ‘The Zionist movement’, 17 October 1917, containing copies of letters from Herbert Samuel, Hertz, Rothschild, Sir Stuart Samuel, Weizmann, Sokolow, Magnus, Montefiore and Cohen, Cab 21/58. 

39. Tel. Wiseman to Drummond, no. 27, 16 October 1917, minute Clerk, 20 October 1917, minute Balfour, not dated, FO 371/3083/200850. 

40. Minutes War Cabinet, 25 October 1917, Cab 23/4.

41. Leonard Stein is rather embarrassed by Graham’s assertion that ‘almost every Jew in Russia is a Zionist’, although he dubs this ‘a miscalculation’: ‘the Jews who were playing a significant part in the situation in Russia were those associated with the extreme left-wing elements now coming into the ascendant. Jews of this type, so far from being likely to be impressed by a pro-Zionist declaration, were violently hostile to Zionism.’ Graham’s claim that ‘we might at any moment be confronted by a German move on the Zionist question’, is equally untrue. Isaiah Friedman has pointed out that at the end of October 1917, an official of the German ministry of foreign affairs tried to convince his superiors ‘of the urgency of a German–Turkish pro-Zionist declaration’, but was told that ‘the proposed move did not accord with German interests’.  Stein, Balfour Declaration, pp. 570−1 and Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey, and Zionism 1897−1918 (Oxford, 1977: Clarendon Press), p. 336.

42.  Graham to Balfour, 24 October 1917, FO 371/ 3054/207495.

43. Balfour to Lloyd George, 25 October 1917, Lloyd George Papers, F/3/2/34.

44. Curzon, ‘The future of Palestine’, 26 October 1917, G.T. 2406, Cab 21/58.

45.  Sykes, note, not dated, minute Drummond, 30 October 1917, FO 371/3083/207407.

46.  Minutes War Cabinet, 31 October 1917, Cab 23/4. 

47.  Hardinge, not dated, FO 371/3083/210332. Weizmann’s biographer, Jehuda Reinharz, quotes Harry Sacher, who was emphatic that without Weizmann there would have been no Balfour Declaration. I believe this is certainly true. The question then is what was Weizmann’s decisive contribution? I think a convincing answer to this question in the end cannot ignore ‘the Anti- Semitism of the Present Government’. It lies in his not having any qualms about exploiting British anti-Semitism. In a letter to Weizmann of 1 May 1915, Leon Simon complained that ‘you are committing the fatal mistake of Herzl – that of making anti-Semitism the foundation stone of your building. Like him, you are approaching the problem from the outside – not essentially as a Jew, but from the standpoint of the Goyim’. Simon quite understood that ‘Herzl should take the point of view of the Goyim, for he was a Goy. But you, who comes from Pinsk – what are you doing in that gallery?’ But his complaint was completely mistaken. It was precisely by taking the outside perspective – by playing on their firm belief that they were ‘up against a big thing’ − that Weizmann managed to convince British policy makers of the advisability of a public declaration, however qualified, in support of the Zionist cause.  For a similar type of argument, see James Renton, The Zionist Masquerade. It is completely beyond me, however, how Renton, after having studied the relevant archives, could have reached the conclusion that other Zionists were more effective than Weizmann in tapping ‘into the imagined concerns of government officials at the right moment’, and that Weizmann’s contribution ‘was of minor significance’. Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, p. 172; Jehuda Reinharz, ‘Chaim Weizmann: statesman without a state’, Modern Judaism, 12/3 (1992), p. 227; James Renton, The Zionist Masquerade (Basingstoke, 2007: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 65 and 70. 

48. Captain Cyril Falls, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the End of the War, Vol. I (London, 1930: H.M. Stationary Office), p. 15.
49. 137 Clayton to Wingate, private, 12 October 1917 (underlining in original), Wingate Papers, box 146/6.

50. Tels Wingate to Balfour, no. 802, 29 July 1917 and Balfour to Wingate, no. 787, 3 August 1917, FO 371/3043/149216.

51. 139 Clayton to Wingate, private, 23 November 1917, Wingate Papers, box 146/10. 

52. Tels Wingate to Balfour, no. 1262, Very Urgent, 24 November 1917, Wingate to Balfour, no. 1267, Urgent, 25 November 1917, C.I.G.S. to G.O.C.- in-C., Egypt, no. 46484, 26 November 1917, and Wingate to Hardinge, private, 29 November 1917, Wingate Papers, box 146/10. 

53.  Clayton to Wingate, private, 8 December 1917, Wingate Papers, box 147/2.

54. Clayton to Bell, 8 December 1917, Clayton Papers, G//S 513.  

55. Clayton to Sykes, in tel. Wingate to Balfour, no.1281, 28 November 1917, FO 371/3054/227658. 

56. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1176, 11 December 1917, FO 371/3054/235200. 

57. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1341, 14 December 1917, FO 371/3054/237384. 

58. Clayton to Sykes, private, 15 December 1917, Wingate Papers, box. 147/1. 

59. Wingate to Allenby, private, 16 December 1917, Wingate Papers, box 147/4.  

60.  Weizmann to Graham, 17 December 1917, minutes Clerk, 20 December 1917, and Graham, not dated, FO 371/3054/239129.