British Mandates After Ww1 Essay

This article is about the Mandate instrument passed by the League of Nations granting Britain a mandate over the territories of the Ottoman Empire, that today are the State of Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan. For a history of the period, see Mandatory Palestine and Emirate of Transjordan.

League of Nations - Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan Memorandum

British Command Paper 1785, December 1922, containing the Mandate for Palestine and the Transjordan memorandum

SignatoriesLeague of Nations
PurposeCreation 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[2][3] and then came into effect on 29 September 1923,[2] following the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne, with the United Kingdom as the administering mandatory.[4][5]

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".[6] The approximate northern border with the French Mandate was agreed upon in the Paulet–Newcombe Agreement of 23 December 1920.[7]

Transjordan had been a no man's land after the Battle of Maysalun in July 1920.[8] During this period, the British chose to avoid any definite connection with Palestine[9] 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.[10]

The Mandate terminated on 14 May 1948.[citation needed] Prior to termination, on 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which dealt with the future government of Palestine. It envisaged the creation of separate Jewish and Arab states operating under economic union with Jerusalem being transferred to UN trusteeship.[11] On the last day of the Mandate, the creation of the State of Israel was proclaimed.


Military defeat of the Ottoman Empire

When the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in World War I in April 1915, it threatened Britain's communications with India via the Suez Canal, besides other strategic interests of the allies. The conquest of Palestine became part of British strategies aimed at establishing a land bridge between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. This would enable rapid deployment of troops to the Gulf, then the forward line of defence for British interests in India, and protect against invasion from the north by Russia. A land bridge was also an alternative to the Suez Canal.[12]

In response to French initiatives, the United Kingdom established the de Bunsen Committee in 1915 to consider the nature of British objectives in Turkey and Asia in the event of a successful conclusion of the war. The committee considered various scenarios and provided guidelines for negotiations with France, Italy, and Russia regarding the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The Committee recommended in favour of the creation of a decentralised and federal Ottoman state in Asia.[13]

At the same time, the British and French also opened overseas fronts with the Gallipoli (1915) and Mesopotamian campaigns. In Gallipoli, the Turks successfully repelled the British, French and Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs).

From 1915, Zionist leader and anglophile Ze'ev Jabotinsky was pressing the British to agree to the formation of a Zionist volunteer corps that would serve under the aegis of the British army. The British eventually agreed to set up the Zion Mule Corps, which assisted in the failed invasion of Gallipoli. After Lloyd George was made prime minister during the war, the British waged the Sinai and Palestine Campaign under General Allenby. This time the British agreed to a "Jewish Legion", which participated in the invasion. Russian Jews regarded the German army as a liberator and the creation of the Legion was designed to encourage them to participate in the war on Britain's side.

At the same time, British intelligence officer T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") was encouraging an Arab Revolt led by the Sharif of Mecca.

The British defeated Ottoman Turkish forces in 1917 and occupied Ottoman Syria, which would later be divided to British Palestine and TransJordan and French Syria and Lebanon. The land remained under British military administration for the remainder of the war, and beyond.

Occupied Enemy Territory Administration

The Ottoman Empire capitulated on 30 October 1918, and on 23 November 1918, a military edict was issued dividing Ottoman territories into "occupied enemy territory administrations" (OETAs). The Middle East was divided into three OETAs. Occupied Enemy Territory Administration South extended from the Egyptian border of Sinai into Palestine and Lebanon as far north as Acre and Nablus and as far east as the River Jordan. A temporary British military governor Major General Sir Arthur Wigram Money would administer this sector.[14][15][16] At that time, General Allenby assured Emir Faisal "that the Allies were in honour bound to endeavour to reach a settlement in accordance with the wishes of the peoples concerned and urged him to place his trust whole-heartedly in their good faith."[17]

In October 1919, British forces in Syria and the last British soldiers stationed east of the Jordan were withdrawn and the region came under exclusive control of Faisal bin Hussein from Damascus.


During and after World War I, Britain made conflicting and shifting commitments regarding the future division and governance of the region, including those announced in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, and the Churchill White Paper of 1922.

1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement

In 1916, Britain and France concluded the Sykes–Picot Agreement, which proposed to divide the Middle East between them into spheres of influence, with "Palestine" as an international enclave.[20] The British made two potentially conflicting promises regarding the territory it was expecting to acquire. In the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence of 1915 Britain had promised Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, through T. E. Lawrence, independence for an Arab country covering most of the Arab Middle East in exchange for his support, while also promising to create and foster a Jewish national home in Palestine in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement did not call for Arab sovereignty, but for the "suzerainty of an Arab chief" and "an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other allies, and the representatives of the Sherif of Mecca".[21] Under the terms of that agreement, the Zionist Organization needed to secure an agreement along the lines of the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement with the Sherif of Mecca.

1919 Paris Peace Conference

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.[22] In the end, he recommended an Arab state under a British mandate.[23] The World Zionist Organization also asked for a British mandate, and asserted the 'historic title of the Jewish people to Palestine'.[24]

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."[25] 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.[26][27]

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.[28]

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,[29] 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.[30] The agreement was never implemented.

1920 San Remo conference

The San Remo conference[31] 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).[32]

The boundaries of the mandated territories at San Remo were not precisely defined.[29]Chaim Weizmann subsequently reported to his WZO colleagues in London:

"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."[33]

Legal basis and drafting of the mandate

The mandate was a legal and administrative instrument, not a geographical territory.[34] The territorial jurisdiction of the mandate was subject to change by treaty, capitulation, grant, usage, sufferance or other lawful means.

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.[2] 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[35]—although some, including the United States, had not declared war on the Ottoman Empire and did not become members of the League of Nations.

Spring 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference, informal discussion began between the Zionist Organisation and British representatives. A first draft was presented on 15 July 1919.[36] After Lord Curzon had replaced Arthur Balfour as Foreign Secretary, the draft was reconsidered. 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.[36] The draft was submitted to the League of Nations on 6 December 1920.[37]

Establishment of a national home for the Jewish people

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.[38]

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..."[39]

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 ...[40]

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.[41]

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.[42]

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.

Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations

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.[43]


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).[44]

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.[45]

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.[37] 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.[45]

At the Peace Conference, the Zionist Organization's claims did also not include any territory east of the Hedjaz Railway.[37] The railway ran parallel with and about 35–40 miles (about 60 km) east of the Jordan river.[46] 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".[47]

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.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50] 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?".[48] British Foreign Minister Curzon ultimately decided that it did not and that Transjordan would remain independent, but in the closest relation with Palestine.[51]

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.[8] 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."[9]

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."[52] 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."[53] He subsequently announced that Transjordan was under British Mandate.[54] 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.[54][55] The foreign secretary, Lord Curzon, repudiated Samuel's action.[56]

Two months later, on 21 November, Abdullah, the brother of recently deposed King Faisal, marched into Ma'an at the head of an army of 300 men.[57][58]

In early 1921, prior to the convening of the Cairo Conference, the Middle East Department of the Colonial Office set out the situation as follows:[59]

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 Sevres, 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".[60]

The Cairo Conference of March 1921 was convened by Winston Churchill, then Britain's Colonial Secretary. 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.[61][62][63][64]

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.[65]

Article 25 and Transjordan memorandum

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"[66]

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."[67]

When the Inter-Allied Conference at San Remo adjourned in April 1920, the definition of Palestine had not been discussed. In a recent essay, Sanford Silverburg stated that "a Palestine within the western political understanding of the term simply never existed." He observed that the failure to establish a western-based territorial element or frame of reference had clouded discussions and cited the claim that Transjordan had been detached from Palestine as a non-sequitur.[68]

That agreement was formalised before the mandate officially went into effect. An article was included in the Mandate for Palestine which allowed the UK to postpone or withhold unspecified provisions from the lands which lay to the east of the Jordan River.[66] 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.[69][70]

With the League of Nations' consent on 16 September 1922, the Mandate territory was formalised by the UK with the creation of 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.[2] Following the 1922 Transjordan memorandum, the area east of the Jordan river became exempt from the Mandate provisions concerning the Jewish National Home.[2][3]

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".[71]

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.[72] 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"[73][74]

During the eleventh session of the League of Nations' Permanent Mandates Commission in 1927, Sir John Shuckburgh summarised the status of Transjordan:

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[75]

Transfer of most administrative functions occurred in 1928, including the creation of the post of High Commissioner for Transjordan.[76] The status of the mandate was not altered by the agreement between the United Kingdom and the Emirate concluded on 20 February 1928.[77][78] It recognised the existence of an independent government in Transjordan and defined and limited its powers. The ratifications were exchanged on 31 October 1929."[79][80]

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.

Religious and communal issues

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 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".


Further information: Borders of Israel and Borders of Jordan

Northern borders

The Northern boundary between the British and French mandates was defined in broad terms by the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920.[81] 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.[81] 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.[82][83] 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.[84] The new border followed a 10-meter wide strip along the northeastern shore.[85]

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.[86]

Southern borders

The Southern border between Palestine and Egypt was left unchanged from the border established between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire in 1906.[87]

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.[88]

Eastern borders

The Eastern border between Transjordan and Iraq was not agreed until 1922, and not formally documented until 1932.[89][90][91]

Administrative divisions in 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.[92]

Approvals and Ratification

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,[93] 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,[93] 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.[93]

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.[94] 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,[4][5][93] the dispute between France and Italy was reported as settled.[94][95][96] 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.[97]

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.[98][99]

Key Mandate dates from assignment to coming into effect

See also


  1. ^ abcdePalestine Royal Commission Report Presented by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Parliament by Command of His Majesty, July 1937, Cmd. 5479Archived 27 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. His Majesty's Stationery Office., London, 1937. 404 pages + maps. (Peel Report, 45 MB)
  2. ^ abMarjorie M. Whiteman, Digest of International Law, vol. 1, US State Department (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963) pp 650–652
  3. ^ ab"The final draft was presented to the British Parliament in August 1921, the Palestine Mandate was approved by the League of Nations in July 1922, and finally on 28 September 1923 it was ratified under the Treaty of Lausanne." The roots of separatism in Palestine: British economic policy, 1920-1929, Barbara Jean Smith, Syracuse University Press, 1993
  4. ^ ab"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." The seat of Pilate; an account of the Palestine Mandate, John Marlowe, Cresset Press, 1959
  5. ^Article 22, The Covenant of the League of Nations and "Mandate for Palestine", Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 11, p. 862, Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem, 1972
  6. ^"Accept Terms and Conditions on JSTOR"(PDF). 
  7. ^ abNorman Bentwich, England in Palestine, p51, "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."
  8. ^ abKarsh, Efraim; Karsh, Inari (1 January 2001). "Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923". Harvard University Press – via Google Books. 
  9. ^Wright, Esmond (1951). "Abdallah's Jordan: 1947-1951". Middle East Journal. 5: 439–460. 
  10. ^"A/RES/181(II) of 29 November 1947". 
  11. ^
Zones of French, British and Russian influence and control proposed in the Sykes–Picot Agreement(-Sazonov) agreement, 1916. Green = Russian occupation; Dark blue = French occupation; Light blue = Zone "A", French protectorate; Dark red = British occupation; Light red = Zone "B", British protectorate; Purple = International zones (early 21st century borders shown for reference).
Occupied Enemy Territory Administrations, 1918 Syria
Map presented by TE Lawrence to the Eastern Committee of the War Cabinet in November 1918[19]
British memorandum on Palestine ahead of the Paris Peace Conference
British Cabinet map showing boundaries of the proposed mandates in early 1921, including those areas not yet delimited
"Zionist Rejoicings. British Mandate For Palestine Welcomed", The Times, Monday, 26 April 1920, following conclusion of the San Remo conference.
Herbert Samuel's proclamation in Salt, August 1920, for which he was admonished by Curzon
Map showing boundaries (in red) of the proposed protectorate of Palestine, as suggested by the Zionist representatives at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, superimposed on modern boundaries.[citation needed]

Imane Drissi El-Bouzaidi

November 22, 2012

          After World War I, the Paris Peace Conference was held to resolve issues concerning the future of the international system. Article 119 of the Versailles treaty highlighted the issue of how to deal with “territories that were liberated from German and Ottoman colonial authority but considered to be not yet capable of self-government.” The solution that was established was a Mandate System, which was described in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. In the Middle East, Britain obtained the Palestinian and Mesopotamian Mandate; whereas, France obtained the Syrian Mandate. This essay will analyze the League of Nations Mandate System in the Middle East, and argue that it was ultimately a failure because it masked the hidden agendas of the Mandatory powers, suppressed minority and cultural rights, and created internal divisions.

             In order to determine whether or not the Mandatory powers were successful, it is important to understand what their role and obligations were intended to be. Due to the fact that the Mandates in the Middle East were at a “stage of development where their existence as independent nations [could] be provisionally recognized,” the Mandatory powers were solely meant to offer “administrative advice and assistance.” This essay will show how both Britain and France violated the terms of the Mandate system and went beyond their required role to further their interests. The Covenant of the League of Nations stressed the principles of “non-annexation” and “sacred trust” to depict the League’s intention to protect the Mandates and the intervention from becoming a colonial conquest. The question that this essay will answer is whether the Mandate system was successful in its implementation or whether it was an ultimate failure.  

            There have been many general critiques of the Mandate System in the Middle East, yet the most pervasive is that it was a continuation of “imperial power policy.” At this time, a negative connotation began to establish over the concepts of empire and colonialism because of the popularization of Woodrow Wilson’s liberalism principles, idea of self-determination, and the lack of domestic support for the process. As a result, Britain and France needed a way “to conceal their division of the spoils of war under the color of international law.” Article 22 tried to portray the process as a situation where the Mandatory powers were helping as opposed to exploiting their mandates. It referred to the actions of the Mandatory powers as a “responsibility,” to help “peoples not yet able to stand by themselves,” so that they can “stand alone,” and on “behalf of the League.” The phrasing and vocabulary were used consciously as an attempt to legitimize the process; however, in reality the system was merely a way to mask colonialism and the continuation of foreign rule over former colonies. If the Great powers had humanitarian and altruistic motives, then they would have been more willing to take mandates that were in more need of assistance, yet there was tremendous competition for the more developed Mandates that possessed resources, which they could ultimately exploit. Robert Lansing makes the argument that there were imperial motives to using the Mandate system because it worked to prevent Germany from reducing its war indemnities. If the territories were given directly to Britain and France, then Germany could ask that their value be subtracted from the Allies’ claim for war reparations; but instead the Great Powers were able to attain both new possessions and war reparations simultaneously.    

            Another failure of the Mandate System was the weakness of the supervision, which meant that the Mandatory states were not accountable for their actions. Robert Lansing highlights this critique by asking: “assuming the an injustice upon another party, can or ought the Mandatory be held responsible?” The League of Nations tried to create a system of accountability with the establishment of a Permanent Mandates Commission(PMC), which was an independent institution that acted to supervise the Mandates. Each Mandatory nation was supposed to create an annual report to give to the commission, which would then analyze the report and issue an advisory opinion to the Council. However, in practice the commission was ineffective because it could not verify the reports with inspections and make sure that it was accurate in explaining the reality of the situation; therefore, the League of Nations had limited access to information. Another issue is that even though the members of the commissions were intended to be independent actors, “their prescriptions usually matched the predispositions of their own states.” Ultimately, the Mandate System lacked adequate and unbiased supervision.

            The last general failure of the Mandate System relates to difficulty in interpreting the League of Nations. The system was approached in different ways, which meant that the League of Nations could not establish a consistent strategy to dealing with the mandates. This paper will assess the different approaches of Britain and France in dealing with the mandates in the Middle East. Each of these states used different strategies and consequently had different shortcomings. The first Mandatory power that will be presented is France.

France: Approach and Failures

            France obtained the Mandates of Syria and Lebanon in 1920. Their approach in dealing with the Mandates was through a nationalistic and cultural approach. This was based on the idea of “mission civilisatrice,” which was the belief that France had a moral duty to spread its language and “benefits of her civilization” to the entire world. This was the tactic used in Syria and Lebanon because promoting the French language and culture was supposed to be a way to gain political influence and further foreign interests. The French state sponsored mission schools, such as the Mission Laique Francaise (MLF), to spread French culture through the education system. French policy also focused on building up the political importance of the Syrian coastal area because this had a large population of Christian and Alawite people.

            There were many problems with France’s approach and use of the Mandate System. Firstly, France exacerbated sectarian tensions because it appeared to be partial to the Christian population because of its self-proclaimed historical role as the “traditional protector of Christians” in the Middle East. The Turks recognized France’s “right to protect” the Christians in the Levant since the 15th century, and this remained unchallenged until the First World War. As a result, “France’s obligations to the Catholics and Uniates of the Levant were made out to have deep historical roots, and could be justify policies which were almost bound to be unacceptable to much of the rest of the population.” One of the actions that France took was partitioning Syria to create the state of Lebanon where it could serve as a “safe haven” for the Maronite Christian population and where the Maronites could be a majority. This was not a popular decision among the Muslims in the newly formed Lebanon, and they responded by boycotting the census and refusing to receive Lebanese citizenship cards. In 1958, it was evident that Lebanese Muslims still preferred unification with Syria because violence erupted between Muslims and Christians over the matter. The Muslims were in favour of joining the United Arab Republic (which was a union of Syria and Egypt), while the Christians were not. Therefore, there were long-term negative effects of the Syrian and Lebanese mandate because of how France approached the region with a cultural and religious focus, and did not remain secular and neutral.

            The second problem with the French approach to the Mandate system was because of the alternative motives that they had. In theory, France was supposed to take on the Mandates for the purpose of enhancing the “well-being and development of such peoples;” however, it was evident that French motives were largely based on competition and pride. During the war, French troops remained mainly on its own territory, defending from a German attack, while British troops were placed outside Europe in the Middle East, including Syria. The fact that it was agreed earlier with the Sykes-Picot agreement that France would obtain Syria made France desperate to obtain the Mandate as a matter of saving face. More competition came from Italy, which wanted to replace France and take the role of “defender of the Catholics.” After these threats and competition, Syria became a matter of pride and a way that France could prove the strength of its empire. It also was a way to provide itself with more security because having allies can sometimes be unpredictable, yet if France could control these states and create an empire, then it could ultimately force its Mandates to provide assistance.

            Another example of why French motives were not based on the right motives was in the way that it resisted and tried to undermine Syrian attempts to gain independence, which was meant to be the ultimate goal of the Mandates. Evidence of this is with France’s action in 1930 to dissolve the Syrian legislative assembly. The government was democratically elected, yet France objected to the fact that it “spoke of the unity of geographical Syria and did not explicitly safeguard the French position of control.” France wanted to prolong its control on Syria so it did not take seriously Syrian and Lebanese attempts for independence. In 1945, violence erupted in response to France’s refusal to transfer control of the armed forces to the Syrian people. France responded by bombing Syria, while Britain intervened to stabilize the situation. This was not the sole example of resistance to the Mandatory power but rather the period was fraught with resistance, such as the revolt led by Youssef al-Azmeh in 1920, the revolt led by Sultan Pasha el Atrash, and the previously mentioned violence in 1945. Ultimately the Mandate system failed because France did not fulfil its obligations to assist its Mandate in obtaining independence. Instead the Mandatory power had other motives, which led to resistance and violence.

            Another negative effect of the Mandate System is that France did not have support on the ground and unlike Britain, “France did not have this advantage of a gradual buildup of on-the ground familiarity and experience.” Britain had hundreds of thousands of troops in the Middle East during the war so it had a lot more time to gather intelligence and analyze the situation to determine the best approach to the region. However, France obtained the Mandate in 1920 and did not try to establish a client base. Instead France’s tactic was to buildup the military but this ended up undermining democracy in the long-term because it led to military coups in the 1940s and 50s Ibid). 

            Ultimately France’s management of its Mandates became a hindrance because it was not economically beneficial and it served to create tensions with Britain. There were not any major resources in Syria and the Lebanese silk trade was faltering because of the Japanese and Chinese competition so it did not nearly compare to France’s other protectorates and was merely a major expense.  An example is France’s Moroccan protectorate, in which “French exports to Morocco was four times greater than it was to Syria, while the value of French imports from Morocco was 18 times greater than it was from Syria.” Also, strategically Syria was of no use because no air or naval bases were established and the state did not connect to France’s other colonial territories so it did not serve as a link. Therefore, the Mandate System had a negative impact on the Mandates (Syria and Lebanon) as well as the Mandatory power, France.

 Britain: Approach and Failures

            After World War I, Britain obtained the Mandates of Palestine, Transjordan, and Mesopotamia (later known as Iraq).  This approach to the Mandate System was significantly different than the French approach. Instead of a nationalist approach, Britain focused on capitalism and how to profit from the region by securing interests and resources. Britain had less domestic support for establishing an empire because of the financial crisis; therefore, it had to be conscious of the military and administrative costs and work to minimize expenses, which it did by having a less direct rule than France. The domestic pressure publicized in the press as the “Quit Mesopotamia campaign,” protested against the costs of the intervention, the number of British deaths, and the number of troops stationed in the region. The British also saw that they were losing the support of the Iraqi people because their major ally, King Faysal, who they relied on to maintain power, was losing credibility. As a result, increasing Iraqi and domestic opposition led Britain to retreat from Iraq and grant them independence earlier than was required, which ultimately was a major shortcoming of its approach to the Mandate.

            Britain believed that “the cost of continuing to irritate and disappoint the Iraqis was greater than the risk of promising them independence in 1932” because their failure in the state would be reflected as a failure of the British Empire. When Britain announced its intention to grant Iraq independence, the PMC refused on the basis that a Mandate could only end when a “community [is] able to stand alone without the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory” and at this time Iraq was unable to maintain its external and internal security without British assistance. Britain dealt with this issue by presenting a reinterpretation of Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant to the PMC, and arguing that the goal of the Mandatory power should be merely to “construct governmental institutions that could deliver the bare bones of de facto statehood.” Britain argued that Iraq did not have to be as strong as itself but just not worse off than any of the weaker states in the League of Nations. Although this state was not what the PMC had intended, the Council decided to allow the Iraqi state to be accepted into the League. A similar situation was evident with the Palestinian Mandate because Britain could not manage the hostilities and expense of the region so it decided to hand over the Mandate to the United Nations. This approach to the Mandate System had negative impacts and has been responsible for continued instability in the region.

            Another failure is that Britain’s motives were based on promoting their imperial interests. It wanted to establish the Mandates as stable trading partners and at the same time secure its interests in the Middle East, such as the oil resources and the links to its colonies, India, Egypt, the Persian sea and the Red sea. This was most clear in Iraq because of the oil resources and when Britain ceased its mandate it did not do so not before securing a 75-year concession granted by the Iraq Petroleum Company. Thus, the fact that the Mandate system was clearly used to mask imperialism and geopolitics, delegitimized the system and worked to create resentment and resistance on the ground, such as the Great Iraqi Revolt of 1920 and the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine. Unlike France which did not establish clients and local allies, Britain’s approach was to co-opt resistors and maintain local allies. However, Britain’s allies were not always consistent and in Iraq it was said that “with the old gang in power this country cannot hope to progress very far.” The democratic system that was established “did not allow for or could not accommodate the peaceful transfer of power from the government to the opposition,” and it excluded many political groups, such as the Communists, Arab nationalists, and Islamists. Thus, there was a lot of resentment towards Britain for supporting these local actors that were not popularly supported by the population. Britain also violated the Mandate System’s requirement to protect minority and cultural rights. This was mainly evident in Palestine because the League of Nations Mandate said that when establishing a Jewish home it must be recognized that “nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”Kharia Kasmieh shows evidence of one way that Britain violated this requirement in how its economic policies favoured the Jewish population and “threatened the livelihood of the [Arab] peasants by dispossession and evacuation.” Ultimately Britain’s role in managing its Mandates in the Middle East has had negative ramifications that are still apparent today.

            In conclusion, this essay has attempted to analyze the system of Mandates in the Middle East, namely the British control of Palestine and Mesopotamia (later known as Iraq), and the French control of Syria (later divided into Lebanon and Syria). It has been argued that the Mandate System in the Middle East failed in achieving its obligations because of how it masked colonial policy, it violated the cultural and minority rights of people in the Mandates, and it has led to violent resistance, which still persists in the region. Although both Britain and France had significantly different approaches to the Mandate system, they both used it as a tool to pursue their interests, which was nationalism for France and capitalism for Britain. Analyzing the failures is important to recognize because it helps explain why major destabilization remains in the area.

 Nele Matz, “Civilization and the Mandate System under the League of Nations as Origin of Trusteeship,” Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law 9 (2005): 54.

 Randi Deguilhem, “Turning Syrians into Frenchmen: The Cultural Politics of a French Non‐governmental Organization in Mandate Syria (1920–67)—the French Secular Mission Schools,” Islam and Christian‐Muslim Relations 13, no. 4 (October 2002): 449.

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