...At the outbreak of the World War, Turkey joined the Central Powers. During the period 1914-18, various interested groups and organizations began to develop plans for a dismembered Turkey. Arab nationalists led by the Hashemite family of Mecca and Medina spearheaded a drive for the independence of the region south of the Taurus Mountains including Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. In addition, various Zionist leaders throughout the world saw the possibility for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Official French and British interests also demanded protection.
Anglo-Arab talks began in earnest in 1915; the French, fearing exclusion from territories of historical interest, then propose formal Anglo-French negotiations. The two series progressed simultaneously with Britain agreeing to the independence of an Arab area to the east and south but including Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Damascus. Though the exact excluded area was never clear, the territories comprehended presumably were intended to be divided into a French zone in the north and a British sphere or an international area (Palestine), in the south. The exact area intended in the exclusion was never too clear.
Concurrent Anglo-Zionist talks in London centered on the possibilities for a Jewish national homeland, either independent or under British tutelage. Certain Arab-Zionist discussions also took place regarding Jewish settlement.
On March 9, 1916, a secret Anglo-French memorandum, the so-called Sykes-Picot Agreement, laid the basis for a partition of the Near East. A truncated, independent Turkey was to be restricted to Anatolia. A French Zone included south-central Turkey and the coast of the Levant. Southeast of this zone was to be the independent Arab state (under French influence). Beyond the French zone, the agreement projected an international zone (Palestine) situated south of a line from the coast near Tyre to the Jordan River between lakes Hula and Tiberias. (Britain obtained the port and hinterland of Tyre.) The southern limit of the zone was to be the line from Gaza to the north-central part of the Dead Sea. These were the first "boundaries" for modern Palestine.
As British and Arab forces advanced into Turkey, British official thought underwent certain changes and Zionists, with rising hopes, began to consider seriously the boundaries envisioned for the homeland. The Zionists pressed not only for the inclusion of river basins necessary for the proper development of large-scale irrigation projects, but for lands capable of exploitation by a large number of immigrants. One Zionist projection placed the boundary with Lebanon on the lower Litani to include in the northeast the headwaters of the Jordan (Hasbani etc.) and the "snows of Mt. Hermon." On the east, the Jewish state would include the fertile Hauran and the Yarmuk valley (with the Baghdad-Maan rail line as the approximately eastern limit). Aqaba and Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba were to be claimed as part of the Sinai (El Arish). Even this territorial extent was considered too small by many, but most Zionists sought balanced limits for an economically and strategically viable Jewish state. The plans, of course, conflicted with the still secret Sykes-Picot agreement.
After the complete conquest of the Arab area, Britain created zones of military occupation. Occupied Enemy Territory Administration, (OETA), South roughly corresponded to Palestine: (bounded on the north by an east-west line from Lake Hula to the coast; in the east, by the Jordan-Dead Sea line; and in the south, by a boundary from the southern end of the Dead Sea to a point roughly midway on the Egypt-Turkish boundary) encompassing the Turkish independent sanjak of Jerusalem and the Beirut sanjaks of Nablus and Acre. OETA North extended northward in modern-day Lebanon; OETA East comprised greater Jordan and Syria. The OETA boundaries were merely military occupation lines but the OETA-South Limit came to affect the ultimate Lebanon-Palestine boundary.
At roughly the same time, the British, in the Balfour Declaration of November 1917, committed themselves publicly to support a Jewish homeland in Palestine, with vague limits: "... from Dan to Beersheba...". With military occupation, came the desire to maintain Palestine under British rather than international control. As this intent became known to the French, they requested that French troops participate in the occupation. The line of military separation between French and British troops soon required definition. The British Army proposed a boundary from Sidon eastward to include the lower Litani valley and (farther east) the oil fields of Mosul and Kirkuk. The French protested vehemently and made counter-proposals which, in the west, remained close to the Sykes-Picot boundary. Many factors entered into the discussion, including railroad projects and pipelines joining the Iraqi oil fields with the Mediterranean. The British sought the best topographic routes for their projects while the French insisted on maintaining the frontier along the Yarmuk.
Ultimately, British troops offered to withdraw to the northern boundary of OETA South, and proposed a compromise to satisfy the requirements of Palestine to control the headwaters of the Jordan and those of Syria to insure to Damascus control of its fertile surrounding plains. The British solution drew the frontier from Ras el Nakurah eastward to include the big bend of the Litani in Syria and Lebanon and then northeastward to the lower slopes of Mt. Hermon. Then the line was to proceed southward. The French, however, refused to compromise and in June 1920 proposed a line from Ras el Nakurah, the ladder of Tyre, to a point on the Jordan north of Metulla-Dan, then southward to lake Hula, the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk. All existing Jewish colonies were situated to the south or west of this line.
From the Palestinian viewpoint, it had little else to commend it. Finally in December of 1920, this boundary, placed a few miles north of the Sykes-Picot line, became the division between Palestine and Lebanon and Syria.
An Anglo-French commission erected demarcation pillars along the frontier and incorporated their report into the boundary agreement of 1923. In the meantime, the concept of mandates was advanced and the territories, instead of becoming protectorates, were designated as League of Nations mandates under the administration of France and the United Kingdom. As a result of the negotiations, Palestine gained the Safad-Metulla-Hula region centered on the middle Hasbani. The boundary remained stable throughout the mandate period. The 86th session (1934) of the Council of the League of Nations
approved the 1923 boundary agreement.
By the end of the interwar period, however, the future status of Palestine showed promise of becoming a vexatious issue. In 1939, the United Kingdom in a white paper declared "...unequivocally that it is not part of ... policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state."
With the Second World War, Jewish settlers continued to arrive, legally and illegally, in limited numbers. After the war, the persecuted remnants of European Jewry sought escape from the terrors they had experienced. Many fled to Palestine and many more sought a way to enter.
Anti-Zionist feelings grew among the Arabs who felt their brothers were being displaced from their homeland. Unable to find a solution to the growing chaos, Britain withdrew its forces and thrust the issue into the United Nations. The U.N. in November 1947 decreed the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab sectors joined only in economic union. The Zionist state was to include 5,670 square miles; Jerusalem and its surroundings were to constitute an international zone. Before the plan could be implemented, war broke out between Jews and Arabs. The Israelis proclaimed a new State on May 15, 1948.
Hostilities were halted by a Security Council cease-fire decree, and as a result of United Nations arbitration, armistice agreements were signed by representatives of Israel and its neighboring states...
In Ottoman times, no political entity called Palestine existed. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, European boundary makers began to take greater interest in defining territorial limits for Palestine. Only since the 1920s has Palestine had formally delimited boundaries, though these have remained subject to repeated change and a source of bitter dispute.
The southern boundary (with Egypt) is the subject of Volume I of this collection. In the Ottoman Sultan´s firman (decree) of 1841, the first map appeared showing the boundaries of the area under Mohammed Ali Pasha´s rule. The eastern frontier of Egypt was shown as a straight line drawn from El Arish to Suez. East of this line was the Sinai Peninsula, almost waterless and inhabited only by a few Bedouin tribes. In 1892, however, with the possibility of Turkish troops being stationed in the Sinai Peninsula, a heated exchange of diplomatic correspondence took place between Cairo, London, and Constantinople. An administrative line between El Arish to the Gulf of Aqaba was agreed upon but no legal frontier was defined between Egypt and Ottoman territories. Stormy negotiations ensued in 1905 when the Sultan made a more determined effort to occupy the Peninsula. The Aqaba Incident brought the British and the Ottoman Empires to the brink of war in 1906.
The first volume includes a selection from the personal papers of Mr W E Jennings-Bramly, who at the time was a Frontier Administration Officer and was ordered to occupy Naqb el Aqaba with a small detachment of Egyptian troops. His papers provide an on-the-spot description of events and enhance this documentary collection for those interested in the delimitation of the boundary which today is the accepted frontier between Israel and Egypt.
The Anglo-French Accord
Volumes II and III provide an interesting overview of the Anglo-French debate over the northern boundary of Palestine. During the course of the First World War, the British and the French governments anticipated the defeat of the Turks and in the famous Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, secretly divided the Ottoman Empire between themselves, the Russians and the Italians. However, British interest and political aspirations called for a rapid revision of the Sykes-Picot partition. Within less than a year of concluding the agreement, the government set out to modify the provisions concerning the status of Palestine.
In December 1918 the British Prime Minister Lloyd George secured French acceptance that Palestine should come under British rather than international administration. The records show how the following period of intense and sometimes bitter negotiations between British and French policy makers, with the Zionist Organization as an interested pressure group and virtual participant in the process came close to jeopardising the post-war peace settlement.
Zionist influence on boundaries
The controversy surrounding the subsequent negotiations was fuelled by conflicting wartime promises to the Zionists and to the Arabs. The Balfour Declaration of November 2nd, 1917, concerning the establishment of a Jewish National Home, formalised an alliance with the politically influential Zionist movement.
It was a matter of urgent importance to the Zionists that Palestine should acquire a defensible boundary which would circumscribe sufficient surface water supplies for the successful development of a Jewish agriculture. But while Lloyd George dedared that Palestine should be defined in accordance to its Biblical limits "from Dan to Beersheba", Dr Weizmann lobbied to extend the boundaries further north and east for economic and security considerations.
Britain´s promise to grant King Husayn of the Hedjaz an independent Arab Kingdom (Husayn-McMahon correspondence 1915-1916) in return for leading the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans during the First World War was increasingly compromised. Not only did the Hashemite states of Transjordan, Syria and later Iraq fall under British administration after the decision to apply the Mandate system to the territories was taken at San Remo in 1920, but Palestine, which was arguably promised to Husayn in 1915, was excluded from any Hashemite influence.
The eastern frontier with Transjordan
The eastern frontier was formally established in 1922 when the final draft of the Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan was approved by the League of Nations. This instrument provided the British with the authority to exclude the territory east of the Jordan river from those provisions concerning a National Home for the Jewish people. The British decided to administer Transjordan separately, leaving the Jordan river as the effective eastern boundary of Palestine.