British Mandate for Palestine (legal instrument)
|League of Nations - Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan Memorandum|
British Command Paper 1785, December 1922, containing the Mandate for Palestine and the Transjordan memorandum
|Signatories||League of Nations|
|Purpose||Creation of the territories of Palestine and Transjordan|
The British Mandate for Palestine, also known as the Mandate for Palestine or the Palestine Mandate, was a League of Nations mandate for the territory that had formerly constituted the Ottoman Empire sanjaks of Nablus, Acre, the Southern part of the Vilayet of Syria, the Southern portion of the Beirut Vilayet, and the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, prior to the Armistice of Mudros.
The draft of the Mandate for Palestine was formally confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations on 24 July 1922, supplemented via the 16 September 1922 Trans-Jordan memorandum and then came into effect on 29 September 1923, following the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne, with the United Kingdom as the administering mandatory.[a]
The document was based on the principles contained in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and of the San Remo Resolution of 25 April 1920, which embodied decisions made after World War I at the San Remo conference, where the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers was reconvened. The objective of the League of Nations Mandate system was to administer parts of the defunct Ottoman Empire, which had been in control of the Middle East since the 16th century, "until such time as they are able to stand alone", the approximate northern border with the French Mandate was agreed upon in the Paulet–Newcombe Agreement of 23 December 1920.
Transjordan had been a no man's land after the Battle of Maysalun in July 1920, during this period, the British chose to avoid any definite connection with Palestine until a March 1921 conference at which it was agreed that Abdullah bin Hussein would administer the territory under the auspices of the Palestine Mandate. The Trans-Jordan Memorandum provided the detail to support Article 25 of the Mandate, such that the Jewish National Home did not apply to the territory east of the Jordan River, it also established a separate "Administration of Trans-Jordan" for the application of the Mandate, under the general supervision of Great Britain. Transjordan became largely autonomous under British tutelage according to an agreement of February 20, 1928, and fully independent under a treaty with Britain of March 22, 1946.
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was passed, envisaging the creation of separate Jewish and Arab states operating under economic union with Jerusalem being transferred to UN trusteeship. Two weeks later, Colonial Secretary Arthur Creech Jones announced that the British Mandate would terminate on 15 May 1948, on the last day of the Mandate, the creation of the State of Israel was proclaimed, and the 1948 Arab–Israeli War began.
- 1 Background
- 2 Assignment, Approvals and Ratification
- 3 Legal basis and drafting of the mandate
- 4 Key issues
- 4.1 National home for the Jewish people (Preamble and Articles 2, 4, 6, 7, 11)
- 4.2 Religious and communal issues (Articles 13-16 and 23)
- 4.3 Transjordan (Article 25 and Transjordan memorandum)
- 4.4 Borders
- 5 Key Mandate dates from assignment to coming into effect
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 Citations
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
On 2 November 1917, during World War I, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, a public statement announcing support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a minority Jewish population (around 3–5% of the total).
Immediately following their declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914, the British War Cabinet began to consider the future of Palestine. By late 1917, in the lead up to the Balfour Declaration, the wider war had reached a stalemate, with two of Britain's allies not fully engaged: the United States had yet to suffer a casualty, and the Russians were in the midst of a revolution. A stalemate in southern Palestine was broken by the Battle of Beersheba on 31 October 1917. The release of the Balfour Declaration was authorised by 31 October; the preceding Cabinet discussion had referenced perceived propaganda benefits amongst the worldwide Jewish community for the Allied war effort.
The opening words of the declaration represented the first public expression of support for Zionism by a major political power, the term "national home" had no precedent in international law, and was intentionally vague as to whether a Jewish state was contemplated. The intended boundaries of Palestine were not specified, and the British government later confirmed that the words "in Palestine" meant that the Jewish national home was not intended to cover all of Palestine, the second half of the declaration was added to satisfy opponents of the policy, who had claimed that it would otherwise prejudice the position of the local population of Palestine and encourage antisemitism worldwide by "stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands". The declaration called for safeguarding the civil and religious rights for the Palestinian Arabs, who composed the vast majority of the local population, and also the rights of the Jewish communities in other countries outside of Palestine.
Controversy remains over a number of areas, such as whether the declaration contradicted earlier promises the British made to the Sharif of Mecca in the McMahon–Hussein correspondence, as well as the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Assignment, Approvals and Ratification
Peace Conference: League of Nations and San Remo
At the Peace Conference in 1919, Emir Faisal, speaking on behalf of King Hussein, asked for Arab independence, or at minimum the right to pick the mandatory; in the end, he recommended an Arab state under a British mandate. The World Zionist Organization also asked for a British mandate, and asserted the 'historic title of the Jewish people to Palestine'.
A confidential appendix to the report of the 1919 King-Crane Commission observed that "The Jews are distinctly for Britain as mandatory power, because of the Balfour declaration' and that the French 'resent the payment by the English to the Emir Faisal of a large monthly subsidy, which they claim covers a multitude of bribes, and enables the British to stand off and show clean hands while Arab agents do dirty work in their interest." The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement called for British mediation of any disputes, it also called for the establishment of borders, after the Versailles peace conference, by a commission to be formed for the purpose. The World Zionist Organization later submitted to the peace conference a proposed map of the territory that did not include the area east of the Hedjaz Railway, including most of Transjordan.
In a meeting at Deauville in 1919, David Lloyd George of the UK and Georges Clemenceau of France finalised the Anglo-French Settlement of 1–4 December 1918. The new agreement allocated Palestine and the Vilayet of Mosul to the British in exchange for British support of French influence in Syria and Lebanon.[i]
At the Paris Peace Conference, Prime Minister Lloyd George told Georges Clemenceau and the other allies that the McMahon-Hussein correspondence was a treaty obligation, he explained that the agreement with Hussein had actually been the basis for the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and that the French could not use the proposed League Of Nations Mandate system to break the terms of the agreement. He pointed out that the French had agreed not to occupy the area of the independent Arab state, or confederation of states, with their military forces, including the areas of Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour (later Lord Balfour) and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson were present at the meeting.
The preamble of the Mandate document states that the Mandate is granted to Britain "for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations", that article, which concerns entrusting "tutelage" of colonies formerly under German and Turkish sovereignty to "advanced nations" with specific regard to "[c]ommunities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire" that they "have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone." Throughout the period of the Mandate, Palestinian Arab leaders cited this as proving their assertion that the British were obliged under the terms of the Mandate to facilitate the eventual creation of an independent Arab state in Palestine. The open negotiations began at the Paris Peace Conference, continued at the Conference of London and took definite shape only after the San Remo conference in April 1920. There the Allied Supreme Council granted the mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia to Britain, and those for Syria and Lebanon to France; in August 1920, this was officially acknowledged in the Treaty of Sèvres. Both Zionist and Arab representatives attended the conference, where they signed the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement, the agreement was never implemented.
The San Remo conference assigned the mandate for Palestine to the United Kingdom under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Allies also decided to make the UK responsible for putting into effect its own Balfour Declaration of 1917. France required the continuation of its religious protectorate in Palestine but Italy and Great Britain opposed it. France lost the religious protectorate but thanks to the Holy See continued to enjoy liturgical honors in Mandatory Palestine until 1924 when the honours were abolished (see: Protectorate of the Holy See).
"There are still important details outstanding, such as the actual terms of the mandate and the question of the boundaries in Palestine. There is the delimitation of the boundary between French Syria and Palestine, which will constitute the northern frontier and the eastern line of demarcation, adjoining Arab Syria, the latter is not likely to be fixed until the Emir Faisal attends the Peace Conference, probably in Paris."
Ottoman / Turkish ratification
The decision taken by the Allied Supreme Council at the San Remo conference was documented in the Treaty of Sèvres, signed on behalf of the Ottoman Empire and Allies on 10 August 1920. However, the treaty was never ratified by the Ottoman government, because it required the agreement of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk expressed disdain for the treaty, and continued the fight known as the Turkish War of Independence.
In November 1922, the Conference of Lausanne began, with the intention to negotiate a treaty to replace the failed Treaty of Sèvres; in the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on 24 July 1923 and ratified on 28 September 1923, the Turkish government finally recognised the detachment of the regions south of the frontier agreed in the Treaty of Ankara (1921), thereby making a general renunciation of its sovereignty over Palestine.
League of Nations approval
The text of the Mandate for Palestine was approved by the Council of the League of Nations on 24 July 1922. However, this would not come into effect until a treaty between the Turkish government and the Allies was ratified and a dispute between France and Italy over the Syria Mandate was settled, the latter requirement was due to the perceived need for the legal regime to begin at the same time as the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon
Following the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne on 28 September 1923, the dispute between France and Italy was reported as settled. The Council of the League of Nations determined that the two mandates had come into effect at its meeting of 29 September 1923.
On May 17, 1922, Lord Balfour informed the Council of the League of Nations of his government's understanding of the role of the League in the creation of mandates. According to the summary in the minutes, he said that:
[the] Mandates were not the creation of the League, and they could not in substance be altered by the League. The League's duties were confined to seeing that the specific and detailed terms of the mandates were in accordance with the decisions taken by the Allied and Associated Powers, and that in carrying out these mandates the Mandatory Powers should be under the supervision—not under the control—of the League. A mandate was a self-imposed limitation by the conquerors on the sovereignty which they exercised over the conquered territory.
United States acceptance
The United States was not a member of the League of Nations, and consequently was not required to officially state its position on the legality of the Palestinian Mandate. However, the US government accepted the de facto, if not de jure, status of the mandates and entered into individual treaties with the mandatory power to secure legal rights for its citizens and to protect property rights and business interests in the mandates. In the case of Palestine, on 3 December 1924, it entered into a bilateral treaty with Britain in the Palestine Mandate Convention, in which the United States "consents to the administration" (Article 1) and which dealt with eight issues of concern to the United States. 
Legal basis and drafting of the mandate
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Intended mandatory powers were required to submit written statements during the Paris Peace Conference to the League of Nations proposing the rules of administration in the mandated areas. Drafting discussions began in July 1919, before the mandate was formally awarded in April 1920, because it had become clear that Britain was the favored power.[ii]
A draft was presented by the Zionist Organization to the British on 15 July 1919; in response, Balfour authorized 30-year-old diplomatic secretary Eric Forbes Adam to begin negotiations with the Zionist Organization. Curzon was to succeed Balfour as Foreign Secretary in October 1919. On the Zionist side, the drafting was led by 24-year-old Benjamin V Cohen on behalf of Weizmann, Felix Frankfurter and other Zionist leaders.[b]
A second draft was presented on 10 June 1920; in the second draft, the paragraph recognising the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine was removed from the preamble. "self-governing commonwealth" was replaced by "self-governing institutions". Also, "The recognition of the establishment of the Jewish National Home as the guiding principle in the execution of the Mandate" was omitted from the first draft, after strenuous objection to the proposed changes, the statement regarding the historical connections of the Jews with Palestine was re-incorporated into the Mandate in December 1920. The draft was submitted to the League of Nations on 6 December 1920.
The document was based on the principles contained in Article 22 of the draft Covenant of the League of Nations and the San Remo Resolution of 25 April 1920 by the principal Allied and associated powers after the First World War. The mandate formalised British rule in the southern part of Ottoman Syria from 1923–1948.
Each of the principal Allied powers had a hand in drafting the proposed mandate—although some, including the United States, had not declared war on the Ottoman Empire and did not become members of the League of Nations.
National home for the Jewish people (Preamble and Articles 2, 4, 6, 7, 11)
The preamble of the mandate document declared:
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 favour 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.
The British Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, together with the Italian and French governments rejected early drafts of the mandate because they had contained a passage which read: "Recognising, moreover, the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim which this gives them to reconstitute it their national home..."
The Palestine Committee set up by the Foreign Office recommended that the reference to 'the claim' be omitted, the Allies had already noted the historical connection in the Treaty of Sèvres, but they had not acknowledged a legal claim. Lord Balfour suggested an alternative which was accepted:
Whereas recognition has thereby [i.e. by the Treaty of Sèvres] been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, and to the grounds for reconstituting their National Home in that country ...
Article 4 of the Mandate provided for "the recognition of an appropriate Jewish agency 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 of Palestine," effectively establishing the Jewish Agency.
Religious and communal issues (Articles 13-16 and 23)
The Vatican, the Italian, and the French governments continued to press their own legal claims on the basis of the former Protectorate of the Holy See and the French Protectorate of Jerusalem. The idea of an International Commission to resolve claims on the Holy Places had been formalised in Article 95 of the Treaty of Sèvres, and taken up again in article 14 of the Palestinian Mandate. Negotiations concerning the formation and the role of the commission were partly responsible for the delay in ratifying the mandate, the UK assumed responsibility for the Holy Places under Article 13 of the mandate. However, it never created the Commission on Holy Places to resolve the other claims in accordance with Article 14 of the mandate.
Article 14 of the Mandate required Britain to establish a commission to study, define, and determine the rights and claims relating to the different religious communities in Palestine, this provision, which called for the creation of a commission to review the religious status quo between the religious communities, was never created.
Article 15 required the mandatory administration to see to it that complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship were permitted.
The High Commissioner established the authority of the Orthodox Rabbinate over the members of the Jewish community and retained a modified version of the old Ottoman Millet system. Formal recognition was extended to eleven religious communities, which did not include the non-Orthodox Jewish or Protestant Christian denominations.
The proviso to the objective of the mandate was that "nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine".
Transjordan (Article 25 and Transjordan memorandum)
Background and negotiations
The future Transjordan had been part of the Syrian administrative unit under the Ottomans, it was part of the captured territory placed under the Allied Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA).
Under the terms of the McMahon-Hussein correspondence and Sykes-Picot agreements, Transjordan was to be part of an Arab state or confederation of Arab states; in 1918, the British military retreated from Trans-Jordan, in an indication of their political ideas about the future of the territory, which according to their position was designated to be part of the Arab Syrian state.[iii]
In August 1919, Balfour stated that he wanted Palestine to be defined to include some of the lands lying east of the Jordan, but not the Hedjaz Railway, at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the British officials presented a proposal including maps showing the eastern boundary of Palestine located just 10 km east of the Jordan.[iv]
At the Peace Conference, the Zionist Organization's claims did also not include any territory east of the Hedjaz Railway, the railway ran parallel with and about 35–40 miles (about 60 km) east of the Jordan river. The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement provided that the boundaries between the Arab state and Palestine should be determined by a commission after the Paris Peace Conference.
On 13 September 1919, a memorandum was handed from Lloyd George to Georges Clemenceau which stated that British Palestine would be "defined in accordance with its ancient boundaries of Dan to Beersheba".Cite error: There are
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The territory east of the Jordan between Damascus and Ma'an had been ruled as part of Faisal's Kingdom of Syria since the end of the war, the British were content with that arrangement because Faisal was a British ally and the region fell within the indirect sphere of British influence according to the Sykes-Picot agreement. They favoured Arab rule in the interior, because they didn't have enough troops to garrison the territory. Damascus was located in the French indirect sphere of influence, and the Sykes-Picot agreement called for Arab rule there too.
The boundaries of the Palestine Mandate were not defined when it was awarded in April 1920 at the San Remo conference; in a telegram to the Foreign Office summarising the conclusions of the San Remo conference, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, stated: "The boundaries will not be defined in Peace Treaty but are to be determined at a later date by principal Allied Powers". When Samuel set up the civil mandatory government in mid-1920 he asked to put parts of Transjordan directly under his administrative control but was declined due to London's unwillingness to commit any significant resources to this area.[v] Following the French occupation of Damascus in July 1920, the French, acting in accordance with their wartime agreements with Britain, refrained from extending their rule south into Transjordan, that autumn Emir Faisal's brother, Abdullah, led a band of armed men north from the Hedjaz into Transjordan and threatened to attack Syria and vindicate the Hashemites' right to overlordship there. In March 1921 the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, convened the Cairo Conference which endorsed an arrangement whereby Transjordan would be added to the Palestine mandate, with Abdullah as the emir under the authority of the High Commissioner, and with the condition that the Jewish National Home provisions of the Palestine mandate would not apply there.[vi] When France occupied Damascus in July 1920, the situation had changed dramatically, the British suddenly wanted to know 'what is the "Syria" for which the French received a mandate at San Remo?' and "does it include Transjordania?".[c] British Foreign Minister Curzon ultimately decided that it did not and that Transjordan would remain independent, but in the closest relation with Palestine.[vii]
At the Battle of Maysalun on 23 July 1920, the French removed the newly proclaimed nationalist government of Hashim al-Atassi and expelled King Faisal from Syria. The French formed a new Damascus state after the Battle of Maysalun, and the area of Transjordan became for a time a no-man's land,[d] as a result, Curzon instructed Vansittart in August 1920 to leave the eastern boundary of Palestine undefined, stating:
"His Majesty's Government are already treating 'Trans-Jordania' as separate from the Damascus State, while at the same time avoiding any definite connection between it and Palestine, thus leaving the way open for the establishment there, should it become advisable, of some form of independent Arab government, perhaps by arrangement with King Hussein or other Arab chiefs concerned."
At the same time, British Foreign Secretary Earl Curzon wrote to the High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel, in August 1920, stating, "I suggest that you should let it be known forthwith that in the area south of the Sykes-Picot line, we will not admit French authority and that our policy for this area to be independent but in closest relations with Palestine." Samuel replied to Curzon, "After the fall of Damascus a fortnight ago...Sheiks and tribes east of Jordan utterly dissatisfied with Shareefian Government most unlikely would accept revival." He subsequently announced that Transjordan was under British Mandate. Without authority from London, Samuel then visited Transjordan and at a meeting with 600 leaders in Salt, announced the independence of the area from Damascus and its absorption into the mandate, quadrupling the area under his control by tacit capitulation. Samuel assured his audience that Transjordan would not be merged with Palestine,[viii] the foreign secretary, Lord Curzon, repudiated Samuel's action.
Article 25 and Transjordan memorandum
Curzon wrote in February 1921: “I am very concerned about Transjordania... Sir H.Samuel wants it as an annex of Palestine and an outlet for the Jews. Here I am against him.”
Distinction to be drawn between Palestine and Trans-Jordan under the Mandate, his Majesty's Government are responsible under the terms of the Mandate for establishing in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people. They are also pledged by the assurances given to the Sherif of Mecca in 1915 to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs in those portions of the (Turkish) vilayet of Damascus in which they are free to act without detriment to French interests, the western boundary of the Turkish vilayet of Damascus before the war was the River Jordan. Palestine and Trans-Jordan do not, therefore, stand upon quite the same footing, at the same time, the two areas are economically interdependent, and their development must be considered as a single problem. Further, His Majesty's Government have been entrusted with the Mandate for "Palestine." If they wish to assert their claim to Trans-Jordan and to avoid raising with other Powers the legal status of that area, they can only do so by proceeding upon the assumption that Trans-Jordan forms part of the area covered by the Palestine Mandate. In default of this assumption Trans-Jordan would be left, under article 132 of the Treaty of Sèvres, to the disposal of the principal Allied Powers, some means must be found of giving effect in Trans-Jordan to the terms of the Mandate consistently with "recognition and support of the independence of the Arabs".
The Cairo Conference was convened by Winston Churchill, then Britain's Colonial Secretary, and lasted until 30 March, with the mandates of Palestine and Iraq awarded to Britain, Churchill wished to consult with Middle East experts. At his request, Gertrude Bell, Sir Percy Cox, T. E. Lawrence, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Sir Arnold T. Wilson, Iraqi minister of war Jaʿfar alAskari, Iraqi minister of finance Sasun Effendi (Sasson Heskayl), and others gathered in Cairo, Egypt. An additional outstanding question was the policy to be adopted in Transjordan to prevent anti-French military actions from being launched within the allied British zone of influence, the Hashemites were Associated Powers during the war, and a peaceful solution was urgently needed. The two most significant decisions of the conference were to offer the throne of Iraq to Emir Faisal ibn Hussein (who became Faisal I of Iraq) and an emirate of Transjordan (now Jordan) to his brother Abdullah ibn Hussein (who became Abdullah I of Jordan). The conference provided the political blueprint for British administration in both Iraq and Transjordan, and in offering these two regions to the sons of Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of the Hedjaz, Churchill stated that the spirit, if not the letter, of Britain's wartime promises to the Arabs might be fulfilled, after further discussions between Churchill and Abdullah in Jerusalem, it was mutually agreed that Transjordan was accepted into the mandatory area as an Arab country apart from Palestine with the proviso that it would be, initially for six months, under the nominal rule of the Emir Abdullah and that it would not form part of the Jewish national home to be established west of the River Jordan.[xi][xii]
On 21 March 1921, the Foreign and Colonial office legal advisers decided to introduce Article 25 into the Palestine Mandate, it was approved by Curzon on 31 March 1921, and the revised final draft of the mandate (including Transjordan) was forwarded to the League of Nations on 22 July 1922. Article 25 permitted the mandatory to "postpone or withhold application of such provisions of the mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions" in that region, the final text of the Mandate includes an Article 25 which states:
"In the territories lying between the Jordan [river] and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions"
On submission of the memorandum to the Council of the League of Nations, Balfour explained the background as recorded in the minutes: "Lord Balfour reminded his colleagues that Article 25 of the mandate for Palestine as approved by the Council in London on July 24th, 1922, provides that the territories in Palestine which lie east of the Jordan should be under a somewhat different regime from the rest of Palestine. ... The British Government now merely proposed to carry out this article, it had always been part of the policy contemplated by the League and accepted by the British Government, and the latter now desired to carry it into effect. In pursuance of the policy, embodied in Article 25, Lord Balfour invited the Council to pass a series of resolutions which modified the mandate as regards those territories, the object of these resolutions was to withdraw from Trans-Jordania the special provisions which were intended to provide a national home for the Jews west of the Jordan."
On 16 September 1922, the League of Nations approved a British memorandum detailing its intended implementation of that clause, namely to exclude Transjordan from the articles related to Jewish settlement, this created two administrative areas, Palestine, under direct British rule, and autonomous Transjordan, under the rule of the Hashemite family from the Kingdom of Hejaz in present-day Saudi Arabia, in accordance with the McMahon Correspondence of 1915.[e]
Governance of Transjordan
Transfer of authority to an Arab government took place gradually in Transjordan, starting with Abdullah's appointment as Emir of Transjordan on 1 April 1921, and the formation of his first government on 11 April 1921,[xiii] the independent administration was recognised in a statement made in Amman on 25 April 1923: "Subject to the approval of the League of Nations, His Britannic Majesty will recognise the existence of an independent Government in Trans-jordan under the rule of His Highness the Amir Abdullah, provided that such Government is constitutional and places His Britannic Majesty in a position to fulfil his international obligations in respect of the territory by means of an Agreement to be concluded with His Highness"[xiv]
It is not part of Palestine but it is part of the area administered by the British Government under the authority of the Palestine Mandate, the special arrangements there really go back to the old controversy about our war time pledges to the Arabs which I have no wish to revive. The point is that on our own interpretation of those pledges the country East of the Jordan - though not the country West of the Jordan - falls within the area in respect of which we promised during the war to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs. Transjordan is in a wholly different position from Palestine and it was considered necessary that special arrangements should be made there
Transfer of most administrative functions occurred in 1928, including the creation of the post of High Commissioner for Transjordan,[f] the status of the mandate was not altered by the agreement between the United Kingdom and the Emirate concluded on 20 February 1928. It recognised the existence of an independent government in Transjordan and defined and limited its powers, the ratifications were exchanged on 31 October 1929."[g]
Britain retained mandatory authority over the region until it became independent as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan in 1946. The juridical status of the mandate under the Palestine Mandate Convention remained unchanged pending a decision on the Palestine question by the United Nations or Transjordan's admission to the United Nations as an independent state. See Termination of the Mandate.
The Northern boundary between the British and French mandates was defined in broad terms by the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920. That agreement placed the bulk of the Golan Heights in the French sphere, the treaty also established a joint commission to settle the precise border and mark it on the ground. The commission submitted its final report on 3 February 1922, and it was approved with some caveats by the British and French governments on 7 March 1923, several months before Britain and France assumed their Mandatory responsibilities on 29 September 1923. Under the treaty, Syrian and Lebanese residents would have the same fishing and navigation rights on Lake Hula, Lake Tiberias, and the Jordan River as citizens of the Palestine Mandate, but the government of Palestine would be responsible for policing of the lakes. The Zionist movement pressured the French and British to include as much water sources as possible to Palestine during the demarcating negotiations, these constant demands influenced the negotiators and finally led to the inclusion of the whole Sea of Galilee, both sides of the Jordan river, Lake Hula, Dan spring, and part of the Yarmouk. The High Commissioner of Palestine, Herbert Samuel, had demanded full control of the Sea of Galilee, the new border followed a 10-meter wide strip along the northeastern shore.
Following the settlement of the Northern border issue, the British and French governments signed on 2 February 1926 an Agreement of good neighbourly Relations between the mandated territories of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.
The Jordan river was chosen as the border between the two territories.
The Southern border between Palestine and Egypt was left unchanged from the border established between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire in 1906.
The Southern border between Transjordan and Arabia was left undefined whilst Abdullah's father remained in power in the Kingdom of Hejaz. However, following the 1924-25 Saudi conquest of Hejaz, the Hashemite army fled to the northern Ma'an province of Hejaz, which was then annexed by Transjordan, this was formalised by the Hadda Agreement, with the resulting zig-zag border becoming known as Winston's Hiccup.
Administrative divisions within Palestine
The August 1922 Palestine Order in Council provided that:
The High Commissioner may, with the approval of a Secretary of State, by Proclamation divide Palestine into administrative divisions or districts in such manner and with such subdivisions as may be convenient for purposes of administration describing the boundaries thereof and assigning names thereto.
Key Mandate dates from assignment to coming into effect
|1920||25 Apr||Mandate assigned||OETA South||Kingdom of Syria / Kingdom of Hejaz|
|1 Jul||High Commissioner of Palestine appointed|
|23 Jul||Battle of Maysalun|
|10 Aug||Treaty of Sèvres signed (never ratified)|
|20 Aug||Herbert Samuel's proclamation at Salt|
|21 Nov||Abdullah's army moves to Ma'an|
|7 Dec||First draft submitted to the League of Nations|
|23 Dec||Franco-British Boundary Agreement|
|1921||12-30 Mar||Cairo conference. Article 25 (Transjordan) drafted|
|1 Apr||Emirate of Transjordan established|
|1922||24 Jul||Mandate terms approved by League of Nations|
|10 Aug||Palestine constitution (Order in Council)|
|16 Sep||Transjordan memorandum accepted|
|23 Oct||1922 census of Palestine|
|1923||25 April||Independence announcement|
|29 Sep||Mandate comes into effect|
Primary supporting quotes
- As Marlowe described: "It was formally approved by the League of Nations on 24 July 1922, but did not come legally into force until after the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne on 28 September 1923."
- Weizmann wrote in his memoirs: “Curzon had by now taken over from Balfour at the Foreign Office, and was in charge of the actual drafting of the Mandate. On our side we had the valuable assistance of Ben V. Cohen, who stayed on with us in London after most of his fellow-Brandeisists had resigned from the Executive and withdrawn from the work. Ben Cohen was one of the ablest draftsmen in America, and he and Curzon’s secretary — young Eric Forbes-Adam, highly intelligent, efficient and most sympathetic — fought the battle of the Mandate for many months.“
- Hubert Young to Ambassador Hardinge (Paris), 27 July 1920, FO 371/5254, cited by Wilson.
- Bentwich described the situation as follows: "The High Commissioner had ... only been in office a few days when Emir Faisal ... had to flee his kingdom" and "The departure of Faisal and the breaking up of the Emirate of Syria left the territory on the east side of Jordan in a puzzling state of detachment. It was for a time no-man's-land; in the Ottoman regime the territory was attached to the Vilayet of Damascus; under the Military Administration it had been treated a part of the eastern occupied territory which was governed from Damascus; but it was now impossible that that subordination should continue, and its natural attachment was with Palestine. The territory was, indeed, included in the Mandated territory of Palestine, but difficult issues were involved as to application there of the clauses of the Mandate concerning the jewish National Home, the undertakings given to the Arabs as to the autonomous Arab region included the territory. Lastly, His Majesty's Government were unwilling to embark on any definite commitment, and vetoed any entry into the territory by the troops, the Arabs were therefore left to work out their destiny."
- The British Foreign Office confirmed the position in 1946, in discussions over the independence of Transjordan, stating that "the clauses of the Palestine Mandate relating to the establishment of a Jewish national home were, with the approval of the League of Nations, never applied in Transjordan. His Majesty's Government have therefore never considered themselves under any obligation to apply them there"
- Article 1 of the February 1928 agreement stated: "His Highness the Amir agrees that His Britannic Majesty shall be represented in Trans-Jordan by a British Resident acting on behalf of the High Commissioner for Trans-Jordan."
- Bentwich wrote: "An agreement was made in February 1928, between His Britannic Majesty and the Emir of Transjordan, varying in important respects the execution of the Mandate for Transjordan which was conferred with the Mandate for Palestine in 1922. There was, indeed, no separate Mandate for Transjordan; but by a resolution of the Council of the League of Nations, passed in September 1922, at the suggestion of the British Government, certain provisions of the Mandate for Palestine were, in accordance with Article 25 of that Mandate, declared not applicable in the territory lying east of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. It was further provided in the application of the Mandate to Transjordan that the action which in Palestine is taken by the Administration of Palestine will be taken by the Administration of Transjordan under the general supervision of the Mandatory. A declaration by the British Government was approved to the effect that His Majesty's Government accepts full responsibility as Mandatory for Transjordan, and undertakes that such provision as may be made for the administration of that territory shall be in no way inconsistent with those provisions of the Mandate which are not declared inapplicable by the resolution."
Explanatory notes and scholarly perspectives
- Pappé suggests that the French concessions were made to guarantee British support for French aims at the post-war peace conference concerning Germany and Europe.
- McTague writes: “Since the British army under General Edmund Allenby had conquered the Holy Land, and since the British announcement of the Balfour Declaration had demonstrated her keen interest in the future of the country, it was a foregone conclusion that the Allies would have to acquiesce in her control of Palestine.”
- Biger wrote: "The British representatives involved in the Middle Eastern issue - Mark Sykes and Ormsby-Gore - both supported a line East of the Jordan river, but not all the way up the mountains. The retreat of the British forces from Trans-Jordan in the spring of 1918 was only a military move, although it indicated British political ideas about the future of the region East of the rift. According to their position, the land that lay east of the Jordan river was destined to be part of the Arab Syrian state, which would be centred in Damascus and headed by Faisal."
- Biger wrote: "When the Paris Peace Conference was assembled, the British delegation presented an official proposal, based on maps, for the future border line of Palestine. On those maps the eastern boundary was located about 10 km east of the Jordan river, in a series of parallel lines."
- Sicker wrote: "On August 7, 1920, Herbert Samuel, the recently appointed high commissioner in Palestine, cabled London requesting permission to include Trans-Jordan directly under his administrative control, thereby allowing him to take the necessary steps to restore order in the territory. This would eliminate the threat of a French attempt to control the region from Damascus. London, however, troubled by a declining economy at home and seeking ways to reduce military expenditures, was unwilling to commit any significant resources to an area that it considered to be of only marginal value. Curzon therefore rejected Samuel's appeal and proposed instead that a few political officers be sent to "such places as Salt and Kerak, provided that no military escorts are necessary to ensure their safety…, the duties of these officers should be confined to encouraging local self-government and to giving such advice as is asked for by the people…. There must be no question of setting up any British Administration in that area."
- Wasserstein writes: "Palestine, therefore, was not partitioned in 1921–1922. Transjordan was not excised but, on the contrary, added to the mandatory area. Zionism was barred from seeking to expand there – but the Balfour Declaration had never previously applied to the area east of the Jordan. Why is this important? Because the myth of Palestine's 'first partition' has become part of the concept of 'Greater Israel' and of the ideology of Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement."
- Wilson writes: "Since the end of the war the territory north of Ma'an had been ruled by Damascus as a province of Faysal's Kingdom of Syria. Although it fell within the British zone according to the Sykes-Picot agreemen, Britain was content with the arrangement because it favoured Arab rule in the interior and Faysal was, after all, British protege. However, when France occupied Damascus the picture changed dramatically. Britain did not want to see France extend its control southward to the borders of Palestine and closer to the Suez Canal.... It suddenly became important to know 'what is the "Syria" for which the French received a mandate at San Remo?' and 'does it include Transjordania?'... The British foreign secretary, Lord Curzon, decided that it did not and that Britain henceforth would regard the area as independent, but in 'closest relation' with Palestine."
- Wilson writes: "Samuel then organised a meeting of Transjordanian leaders at Salt on 21 August, at which he would announce British plans... On 20 August Samuel and a few political officers left Jerusalem by car, headed for the Jordan river, the frontier of British territory at that time. ‘It is an entirely irregular proceeding,’ he noted, ‘my going outside my own jurisdiction into a country which was Faisal's, and is still being administered by the Damascus Government, now under French influence. But it is equally irregular for a government under French influence to be exercising functions in territory which is agreed to be within the British sphere: and of the two irregularities I prefer mine.’... The meeting, held in the courtyard of the Catholic church, was attended by about 600 people..... Sentence by sentence his speech describing British policy was translated into Arabic: political officers would be stationed in towns to help organise local governments; Transjordan would not come under Palestinian administration; there would be no conscription and no disarmament......On balance, Samuel's statement of policy was unobjectionable. Three things feared by the Arabs of Transjordan – conscription, disarmament, and annexation by Palestine - were abjured.... The presence of a few British agents, unsupported by troops, seemed a small concession in return for the protection Britain's presence would afford against the French, who, it was feared, might press their occupation southward... Samuel returned to Jerusalem well pleased with the success of his mission, he left behind several officers to see to the administration of Transjordan and the maintenance of British influence."
- Wilson writes: "Abdullah's arrival in Ma’an on 21 November threatened to disrupt Samuel's cosy arrangement. According to reports, Abdullah had a force of 300 men and six machine guns."
- Sicker wrote: ″In January 1921, it was reported in Kerak that Abdullah was advancing toward the town at the head of his army. Kirkbride appealed to Samuel for instructions, the political officer had a total force of only fifty Arab policemen at his disposal and quite simply did not know what to do. Several weeks later he received the following reply from Jerusalem: "It is considered most unlikely that the Emir Abdullah would advance into territory which is under British control... Two days later Abdullah's troops marched into British-controlled Moab. Unable to stop him, Kirkbride decided to welcome him instead, with Abdullah's arrival the National Government of Moab went out of existence. Buoyed by his easy success, he decided to proceed to Amman. By the end of March 1921 Abdullah and his small army had effectively occupied most of Trans-Jordan unopposed... There seemed to be only two options. Either the British army had to be sent in to evict him or the French had to be allowed to cross the frontier to accomplish the task. Both courses of action were considered to be completely unacceptable, the government was simply not prepared to go to the expense of sending an army to fight in a territory of such marginal importance as Trans-Jordan, and it was equally inconceivable that British policy would permit French intervention and occupation of the area. There was, however, another alternative, which was suggested by Churchill, he observed that it was most important that the government of Trans-Jordan be compatible with that of Iraq because British strategy called for a direct overland link between Egypt and the Persian Gulf, which would have to cross both territories. Since in the meantime Feisal had been given the throne of Iraq, it might well serve British purposes to make his brother, Abdullah, ruler of Trans-Jordan or to appoint an indigenous leader approved by him.″
- Wilson writes: "Abdullah began by suggesting the unification of Palestine and Transjordan under an Arab ruler, or the unification of Transjordan and Iraq. Both ideas were firmly squashed; in the end he agreed to take responsibility for Transjordan alone for a period of six months. .........It was further agreed that no British troops would be stationed there... With this agreement, the division of the Fertile Crescent into separate states dominated by either Britain or France was completed, despite the short term nature of the arrangement, Transjordan proved to be a lasting creation. For Abdullah himself his six months lasted a life time."
- William Roger Louis wrote: In return for providing a rudimentary administration and obviating the need for British military occupation, Abdullah in March 1921 gained assurance from Churchhill, then Colonial Secretary, that no Jews would be allowed to settle in Transjordan. That guarantee effectively created Transjordan as an Arab country apart from Palestine, where the British commitment to a 'national home' remained a delicate problem between Abdullah and the British.
- Alon writes: "Abdullah accepted Churchill's offer and returned to Amman to organise his new rule. He dissolved the local governments formed by the British and established three administrative provinces (liwa’): cAjlun, Balqa’ and Karak, on 11 April 1921 he formed his first government. The newly appointed central administration was mainly staffed by Arab nationalist exiles, the first government was composed of four Syrians, a Palestinian, a Hijazi and only one native Transjordanian. The British offered financial assistance, administrative guidance and military support from Palestine upon request and maintained a watchful position, the sole organised and effective military force at hand was a Hijazi household army of some 200 men under Hashemite command. Peake's Reserve Force was still under construction and dysfunctional. (pg 40); From early 1922 until the autumn of 1923 the country enjoyed a period of stability during which the central administration succeeded in asserting its authority over the settled population. A change of personalities, resulting in more sympathetic British Representatives, Abdullah's recognition of his precarious situation, and an improved attitude of the Palestine government towards the independent administration of the country, contributed to the stabilisation of Transjordan and the subjugation of the settled tribes to the government's authority. More importantly, the resurrection of the Reserve Force, later renamed the Arab Legion, allowed for this success. (pg 49); Thus, in the summer of 1922, the government managed to gain the submission of the settled and semi-settled tribes. Peake and Philby reported on the satisfactory collection of taxes and good public order.45 Macan Abu Nowar asserts that, as early as August 1922, Abdullah could already point to several achievements in the process of state-building. His government maintained law and order, improved tax-collection, opened new schools and clinics, built roads, established telegraph and post office services and created sharci and civil courts. (pg 50)"
- Gubser wrote: "During World War I, Transjordan (as it was then called) was the scene of most of the fighting of the great Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule. Assisted by the British and the famous Lawrence of Arabia (T. E. Lawrence), Sharif Hussein of Mecca led this successful revolt, which contributed to the Ottoman defeat in World War I and to the eventual establishment of the various Arab states. Jordan originally fell under the rule of King Faisal, son of Sharif Hussein and the principal military leader of the Arab Revolt. Jordanians, along with their Arab brothers from other regions, served in the new Arab government and sat in its parliament, after King Faisal was forced from the throne in July 1920 by the French military, the British high commissioner of Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, went to the town of Salt in Transjordan and declared that the territory, as had been secretly agreed by the British and French in the Sykes-Picot Agreement during World War I, was part of the British Mandatory Palestine. Amir (Prince) Abdullah, a younger son of Sharif Hussein, arrived in Jordan in the fall of 1920 with the intent of regaining Damascus for his Hashemite family, because he had gained a following, the British decided to recognise his leadership in that territory and provide him with a subsidy in exchange for his not pursuing his original Damascus intentions. This arrangement was confirmed in a March 27, 1921, meeting between then colonial secretary, Winston Churchill, and Amir Abdullah; in addition, Jordan was officially removed from Britain's Palestine mandate and given a mandate status of its own. Between the two world wars, Amir Abdullah, with considerable assistance from Britain, established Hashemite authority in Jordan, basing his rule in the new capital of Amman."
- Sykes 1973, p. 43.
- Palestine Royal Commission 1937.
- Marlowe 1959, p. 62.
- Works related to Covenant of the League of Nations at Wikisource
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These demands were to remain constant throughout the Mandate period
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Works by involved parties
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- ESCO Foundation for Palestine (1947), Palestine - A Study Of Jewish Arab And British Policies, I, Yale University Press, OCLC 459549878
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For further information see the Commission's Wikipedia article at Peel Commission
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