"And now to analyse the text of the Declaration. 'His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people...' This first clause is often printed with the words 'national home' with capital initials. But in the original copy, as reproduced in The Times, Lord Balfour used the discreeter apparel of what printers call 'lower-case' letters for his protege. Neither he nor his colleagues can claim the invention of this title, which had been imagined by Leon Pinsker in Odessa 35 years before. Pinsker himself did not intend to apply it to Palestine. He said, 'We must not attach ourselves to the place where our political life was once violently interrupted' (Stein), though he did his best to establish colonies there as elsewhere. But Balfour and his colleagues adopted the title from the Zionist programmes and drafts, and made use of its ambiguity. For most people in 1917 'National Home,' with or without capitals, was a new phrase. Naturally no one could give it a meaning, for it had no established meaning, and was put into practice in Palestine without one.
"But in a formal document announcing the support of the British Government for this institution, it was indicated by all rules of statesmanship that ere committing itself to such support, the Government should define for the nation what exactly it was supporting. Not to do so was to pledge (without touching on the right to give a pledge) the aid of Great Britain for no one could say what. The same culpable lack of definition was to be found in the preamble, wherein the Declaration was described as 'a declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations,' but no clue was supplied to these desires. What were Jewish Zionist aspirations? They were not identified. How could a British Government guarantee its sympathy to an enigma?
"The truth of course is that these unfathomable phrases were employed just because they were unfathomable and could be interpreted to pleasure. They had the air of promising Government support of what the Zionists wanted in Palestine, a Jewish State, to be reached through a fictitious condominium of Jew and Arab. This was the meaning which the Zionists who helped draw up the Declaration accepted in the end, and this was the meaning which Zionists and Jews in general were given to understand the Declaration would hold. They were disappointed no doubt that they did not receive full ruling rights immediately. But they were confident that they could engender conditions in Palestine involving a more rapid finish for the transition period than might be expected. The Government on its part did mean to give as much of the Zionists' sense to the Declaration as was safe, from the very start. As the margin of safety grew, as its own hold on the land became stronger, as a menial prosperity enticed the mass of Arabs, and the opposition of the remainder had been measured and met, then the Government would increase its support of the Zionist establishment in widening degrees, till the Jewish State at last arose.
"On the other hand, the Government kept a way of retreat open in case some formidable opposition, in Britain or outside, might make headway against official alliance with political Zionism. In that event, the Declaration was phrased so that it could be explained away as nothing but an expression of unengaged, friendly interest in the Zionist movement. If it came to that, what did 'view with favour' amount to as a gage of support? Pretty little. It could be taken to signify no more than that the Government would cast a benign eye upon the ' national home,' pleased if the Zionist plans worked out, regretful but quite unimplicated if they failed.
"To sum up: the paths of the Government and of Zionism had crossed: the Government had liked the wanderer's look: the pair had dallied, and then they had agreed to walk on together. So far so good. But if trouble arose on the way before home was reached, well, the path which the Government had crossed the Government, in a manner of speaking, could cross again. The final drafting of the Declaration was a great play of wits, in fact. The opposition to the previous drafts had brought it home to the Government that it must be more careful. So in the final draft, while still conceding everything to the Zionists in its own intent, the Government achieved a wording which would allow it an exit, if needs were, from any definite obligation of any kind. In this the Governmental drafters outwitted the Zionist drafters, who thought that they had the Government securely tied up. The government was anxious for these ties, which it had invited, but it preferred now to draft so that even they could be slipped in the last resort. All first-class chicanery, but how far fitting in a Declaration by Great Britain is another matter.
"In the succeeding clause the same dubious skilfulness prevails as in the first. The Government 'will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.' What is to be understood of this facilitation? To 'facilitate' may signify to lend a hand, actively, but also it may just as well signify to put no hand in the way, passively. The sentence in fact is composed upon the same lines as its predecessor, that is, it covers the private intention of giving active help, provides a public screen of passive interest, and in the last resort contains a way out. As in the preceding sentence the situation of the Zionist drafters was that they considered that the nucleus of their special intentions was contained in the words used."
To be continued...