Biltmore Program

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BILTMORE PROGRAM , declaration of policy by the World Zionist movement during World War ii (May 1942), to the effect that the cause of Zionism could no longer be advanced by the existing British Mandatory regime. It urged, as the next step, that Palestine be established as a Jewish commonwealth and that the Jewish Agency replace the British Mandatory administration's authority for developing the country. The name of the program was derived from the New York Biltmore Hotel where the Extraordinary Zionist Conference was held from May 6 to May 11, 1942. Since no Zionist Congress could be convened because of the war, this conference was practically vested with the authority of a Congress. Its delegates came from every American and Canadian Zionist organization and included all available leaders from Palestine and Europe, among them the president of the World Zionist Organization Chaim *Weizmann. The main speaker was David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, who went to New York specifically for the Conference. He explained that the Jews could no longer depend on the British administration to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine as promised by the *Balfour Declaration of 1917, and that unless Jewish authority were established over Palestine progress would cease. He stressed the need for immigration and settlement, maintaining that no other regime could accomplish as much in these spheres as the Jews if they were given the required authority. The Biltmore Program was the object of controversy in Zionist and non-Zionist ranks before and after its adoption as official policy by the Zionist General Council (October 1942). The opposing minority included those who objected to the idea of a Jewish state, and others who considered the demand premature and would have preferred to work for the abolition of British restrictions (contained in the White Paper of 1939) and let a Jewish majority gradually develop in the country, or who would have turned over the Mandate to the United Nations. Still others insisted that the whole of Palestine should become an independent "bi-national" Jewish and Arab state, because a Jewish state would include only part of the country. In fact, neither in the resolution itself nor in Ben-Gurion's address was there any mention of the boundaries of the proposed Jewish Commonwealth. However, the Biltmore Program was in time adopted not only by the organized Zionist movement but by nearly all Jewish organizations in America and formed the basis for the political struggle of the Zionist movement from 1943 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.


J.C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, 2 (1956), 234–5; idem, Struggle for Palestine (1950), chs. 10, 12; Weizmann, in: Foreign Affairs, 20 (Jan. 1942), 324–38; D. Ben-Gurion, in: Tav-Shin-Gimmel (1944), 154–65; B. Halpern, The Idea of the Jewish State (1969), ch. 2.

[Moshe Zvi Frank]