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Convention Between the U.S. and Great Britain Regarding Palestine

(December 3, 1924 - May 15, 1948)

The United States and Great Britain signed a treaty in 1924 to define the rights of the governments of each country and their respective nationals in Palestine. The United States interpreted the treaty to strictly apply to the protection of American interests and was not applicable to changes the British made that did not affect them. This provided the U.S. government with an excuse not to intervene when the British took actions that were detrimental to the interests of the Jews and the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine.

President Roosevelt wrote to Mayor Thomas J. Spellacy of Hartford on October 19, 1938, for example, that while he was sympathetic to the establishment of a National Home for the Jews, “under the terms of our Convention with Great Britain regarding the Palestine Mandate, we are unable to prevent modifications in the Mandate. The most we can do is to decline to accept as applicable to American interests any modifications affecting such interests unless we have given our assent to them. You may be sure that we shall continue to follow the situation with the closest attention.”

After the British published the 1939 White Paper that would have created a unitary Arab state and restricted Jewish immigration, the State Department referred to the convention and reiterated, “None of these articles empower the Government of the  United States to prevent the modification of the terms of any of the mandates.”

Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, who at the time was preventing Jews in Europe from escaping to the United States, told the Committee on Foreign Affairs in November 1943:

Of course you realize that Palestine is operated under a mandate of the League of Nations granted to the British Government and that we were not parties to the authority which created the mandate. We made a treaty subsequently with Great Britain so as to give us a right under the mandate to protect the rights of American citizens in Palestine.

N. Feinberg argues that the convention did allow the United States to intervene and that Jews believed it was a “further international guarantee for the fulfilment of the Mandate,” which incorporated the Balfour Declaration.

The treaty ceased to be in force after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine on May 15, 1948. 

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1924, Vol. II, pp. 212-222;
N. Feinberg, “The Interpretation of the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine, 1924,” International Law Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 4 (October 1950), pp. 475-486.