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White Paper of 1939
The White Paper of 1939, also known as the MacDonald White Paper after Malcolm MacDonald, the British Colonial Secretary who presided over it, was a policy paper issued by the British government in which the idea of partitioning the British Mandate of Palestine was abandoned in favour of Jews and Arabs sharing one government.
In January 1938, the Woodhead Commission was established to explore ways to implement the recommendations made by the Peel Commission. Its report was published on November 9 1938. The idea of partition was upheld, but the proposed Jewish state was to be substantially smaller, receiving only the coastal plain.
In February 1939, the St. James Conference (also known as the Round Table Conference of 1939) convened in London; since the Arab delegation refused to formally meet with its Jewish counterpart or to recognize them, proposals were put by the government separately to the two parties, who however were not able to agree to any of them. The Conference ended on March 17 without making any progress.
The White Paper, unilaterally conceived by the British National Government under Neville Chamberlain, was published on May 17 and passed in the House of Commons by 268 to 179 in favour. It called for the creation of a unified Palestinian State. Even though the White Paper stated that it was committed to the Balfour Declaration, it imposed very substantial limits on both Jewish immigration and ability to purchase land. In terms of the status quo, it was a significant defeat for the Jewish side who viewed this as a great betrayal of British promises for a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine.
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