Why was almost 80% of the Mandate territory of Palestine given to Arab Jordan?
The British underwent a change of heart about the establishment of the Palestine Mandate. The reasons were related to political developments that had taken place in the region between 1920 and 1922. The result was that Abdullah, an Arab from the Hejaz (now Saudi Arabia), was abruptly installed as the Emir of Transjordan by the British. In a British memorandum presented to the League of Nations on 16 September 1922, it was declared that the provisions of the Mandate document calling for the establishment of a Jewish national home were not applicable to the territory known as Transjordan (today called Jordan), thereby severing almost 80% of the Mandate land from any possible Jewish Homeland.
The world seems to have plunged into historical amnesia about this. Most people somehow forgot that Arab claims towards Palestine were already satisfied once. It is the Jews and not the Arabs who suffered from the "game" that was played between the Great Powers after World War I. International lawyer David Fromkin described these events in his book A Peace To End All Peace. Fromkin wrote:
- Britain feared that if Arabs from the territory of British Palestine were to attack the French in Syria, France would retaliate by invading British Palestine.
Thus, Winston Churchill opted for a "Hashemite solution." He decided to "buy off [Prince] Abdullah: to offer him a position in Transjordan." Churchill brought a memorandum to the March, 1921 Cairo Conference, which envisaged:
- ... establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine west of the Jordan and a separate Arab entity in Palestine east of the Jordan. Abdullah, if installed in authority in Transjordan, could preside over the creation of such an Arab entity.
Churchill disregarded important objections that "since Transjordan had been included by the League of Nations in the territory of [mandated] Palestine, it was not open to Britain unilaterally to separate it from the rest of Palestine." In order to silence Churchill's opponents, Britain accepted a "compromise concept of Transjordan: while preserving the Arab character of area and administration to treat it as an Arab province or adjunct of Palestine."
It is important to indicate that the British Colonial Office regarded "the administrative separation of Transjordan as a merely provisional measure. It [was] decided not to allow Zionism in Transjordan for the present but also not to bar the door against it for all time." As it often happens, the temporary arrangement "hardened into an enduring political reality and the Arabian prince became a permanent factor of the Palestine Mandatory regime."
Therefore, 76% of the country was given "to an Arab dynasty that was not Palestinian. The newly created province of Transjordan, later to become the independent state of Jordan, gradually drifted into existence as an entity separate from the rest of Palestine; indeed, today it is often forgotten that Jordan was ever part of Palestine."
From the moment of its creation, Transjordan was closed to all Jewish migration and settlement, a clear betrayal of the British promise in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and a patent contravention of its Mandatory obligations. Britain continued in its role as Mandatory over the whole of the area of the Mandate from 1922, but Jewish hopes of reconstituting the Jewish National Home were thereafter to be limited within the 23% of Palestine west of the Jordan River, an area that includes what is today called the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The League of Nations was dissolved after the conclusion of World War II with the terms of the Mandate still uncompleted, and a new body, the United Nations,was founded on June 26, 1945. Article 80 was specifically placed in the UN Charter to cover Mandates for places like Palestine where the purposes of those Mandates still remained uncompleted at the time of the demise of the League of Nations. Article 80 made it clear that the rights created by the Mandate and the terms of the Mandate were not to be affected.
Palestine continued to be administered by Great Britain under the Mandate until 1946 when Transjordan was granted independence. In one fell swoop, sovereignty in 77% of Palestine had been awarded to the Arabs. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended that both a Jewish State and an Arab State be created in the remainder of the Mandated territory west of the Jordan River, and that Jerusalem be internationalised. Even though this was dramatically favorable to the Arabs and punative to the Zionist Jews, the Jews accepted the proposal. The Arabs rejected it.