In the daily State Department press briefing on Wednesday, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, spokesman John Kirby was asked the official US position towards that document. And his answer was that he has no idea.
QUESTION: And finally, I want to ask you, today marked the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. I am sure you’re aware of the Balfour Declaration.
MR KIRBY: I am. I studied history in college.
QUESTION: Which basically launched this thing into – began this whole process and so on.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: And I wonder, the Palestinians are going to sort of demand that Britain apologizes for the Balfour Declaration. Will you support them in that effort? Will you support the Palestinians if they go to the UN to say that Britain must apologize for that and must do everything that it can to rectify the wrongs that have been inflicted on the Palestinians as a result?
MR KIRBY: This is the first I’ve heard that there’s an interest in doing that at the UN, Said, so I’m not going to get ahead of proclamations or announcements or proposals that haven’t been made yet at the UN. Look, I’ll tell you, not that I’m saying history is not important. Believe me, as a history major and still a lover of history, I get the importance of history. But I’ll tell you where we’re focused is on the future here. And this gets back to your first question about settlement activity. We want to see a path forward to a two-state solution, and the Secretary still believes that that path can be found. But it requires leadership and it requires a forward vision in the leadership there.
So we are very much wanting to look forward here to a meaningful two-state solution, and I think we’re a little less interested in proclamations about the past. Not that I’m saying the past isn’t important or that we’re not a product of history. I am not at all suggesting that. I’m just saying that we are more focused on moving forward.
QUESTION: So okay, recognizing that —
MR KIRBY: I knew something was coming.
QUESTION: — does the Administration have a position on the Balfour Declaration – good, bad, indifferent?
MR KIRBY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: They sent a declaration —
QUESTION: You don’t know?
MR KIRBY: I don’t know if we’ve taken a position on the Balfour Declaration or the Treaty of Westphalia or —
QUESTION: I think you think that was good because that established the concept of sovereign immunity.
MR KIRBY: Sovereign states, yeah. I – yes, actually.
QUESTION: How about the Treaty of Worms? That one?
MR KIRBY: I don’t know. I don’t know.
QUESTION: I —
MR KIRBY: Now, see, if I had actually said that we did have a position on Balfour, then I would expect you to list every other treaty and ask me. But I’m saying we don’t have a position on this right now.
QUESTION: How about Versailles? Do you think that was a good thing?
MR KIRBY: Which one? Which one? 1783? We actually like that one a lot.
Convention between the United States and Great Britain in respect to rights in Palestine. Signed at London, December 3, 1924: Ratification advised by the Senate, February 20, 1925; ratified by the President, March 2, 1925; ratified by Great Britain, March 18, 1925; ratifications exchanged at London, December 3, 1925; proclaimed, December 5, 1925
It includes the exact language of Balfour quoted by the League of Nations, and more- including the right of Jews to settle in all parts of Palestine:
WHEREAS by the Treaty of Peace concluded with the Allied Powers, Turkey renounces all her rights and titles over Palestine; and
Whereas article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles provides that in the case of certain territories which, as a consequence of the late war, ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them, mandates should be issued, and that the terms of the mandate should be explicitly defined in each case by the Council of the League; and
Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have agreed to entrust the Mandate for Palestine to His Britannic Majesty; and
Whereas the terms of the said mandate have been defined by the Council of the League of Nations, as follows:
“The Council of the League of Nations:
“Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have agreed, for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, to entrust to a Mandatory selected by the said Powers the administration of the territory of Palestine, which formerly belonged to the Turkish Empire, within such boundaries as may be fixed by them; and
“Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might 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; and
“Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;
The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble…
An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country.
The Zionist organization, so long as its organization and constitution are in the opinion of the Mandatory appropriate, shall be recognised as such agency. It shall take steps in consultation with His Britannic Majesty’s Government to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.
The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
English, Arabic and Hebrew shall be the official languages of Palestine. Any statement or inscription in Arabic on stamps or money in Palestine shall be repeated in Hebrew and any statement or inscription in Hebrew shall be repeated in Arabic.
Or, in the words of the State Department, “I dunno.”
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