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The Balfour Declaration, Nov. 2, 1917 is often called the Magna Carta of the Jewish National Home. It must be made clear, that though the Balfour Declaration listed rights that the British Government recognized in Palestine for Jews and non-Jewish residents, the declaration, in itself, is not a legally binding document. However, the Balfour Declaration was adopted into the Mandate for Palestine. At that point, the declaration was transformed from a policy of the British using "their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement...the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" to becoming a legal obligation.
The San Remo Resolution (April 25, 1920) and the Mandate for Palestine (July 24, 1922), transformed the Balfour Declaration into Law.
On December 3, 1924, the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty that incorporated the text of the Mandate for Palestine. The 1924 Anglo-American Treaty not only protected the rights of Americans living in Palestine under the Mandate, but it also made the rights and provisions part of United States treaty law. Furthermore, those rights are protected under constitutional law, as the Constitution calls a treaty the "Supreme Law of the Land." The treaty also obligated the British to consult with the United States before making any policy changes to the Mandate. It should be noted that the Mandate was authorized by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers and neither the British nor the Americans had any legal right to make any changes that alter the rights granted through the Mandate.
The U.S. Senate advised ratification of the treaty on February 20, 1925. It was then ratified by President Calvin Coolidge on March 2, 1925 and ratified by Great Britain on March 18, 1925. Ratifications were exchanged in London on December 3, 1925.
The treaty is also known as the Anglo-American convention, the American-British Palestine Mandate Convention, the Convention Between the United Kingdom and the United States of America Respecting the Rights of the Governments of the Two Countries and their Respective Nationals, and the Palestine Convention. [Howard Grief, The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law (Jerusalem, Israel: Mazo Publishers, 2008), 195-199.]
(Nov. 2, 1917)
November 2nd, 1917
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 Federation.
Arthur James Balfour
The Balfour Declaration
(November 2, 1917)
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The Balfour Declaration was a British statement of foreign policy. It originally had no legal force, and the British had merely committed to "use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object (i.e.: the reconstitution of the Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine)."
At the San Remo Peace Conference, April 25, 1920, the British accepted the role as Mandatory, the administrators, of the Mandate for Palestine. The San Remo Declaration transformed the Balfour declaration from a British commitment to use their "best endeavours" to a legal obligation to "put into effect" the creation of a Jewish country called Palestine.