The British Role in the Creation of a Jewish State in Palestine
The Middle East region has always played a significant role in the international relations. From the ancient times, it has been a strategic intersection between continents and a link from Europe to Asia and Africa. Moreover, when significance of oil production has increased, the role and value of the region has grown at times. The Great Powers sought to strengthen their dominance after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and every winning state received territories which became their sphere of influence. The British Empire has received Palestine under its control. This territory was essential for the British government because of its location near the Suez Canal. The intercontinental sea route was under the British control from the time of its construction and allowed the British ships to access India, which was the most significant part of the Empire (Falk, 2009). For that reason, the British Empire has played on the events and conflicts in the region in its favor in order to consolidate and maintain the influence. It is well known that the establishment of the State of Israel has been a long-standing dream of the Jews all around the world. According to the religious tradition, this state was to be created in the land of Palestine. The British role in creating Israel was important. However, the Jews thought that the willingness to create a state was two-sided. In contrast, the British Empire was willing to create a homeland rather than an independent state in order to save its influence in the important region by staying in good relations with both the Arabs and the Jews.
The first step for creating the Jewish homeland and establishing the British zone of influence was undertaken in November 1917, when a British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued a document, later called the Balfour Declaration. The British Empire was looking positively on the establishment of the homeland for the Jewish people on the Palestinian territory (Gartman, 2015). The possible target of the declaration was an intention of the British government to receive a moral right to arrange control over Palestine. According to the pre-declaration Anglo-French agreement, it was a plan to create a zone under international, rather than British, control in the central Palestine. This situation did not comply with the plans of the British Empire: the country did not want to share this region with the rest of the winners. As a result, in 1922, the League of Nations gave the Empire a mandate to rule the Palestinian land, explaining this as the need to establish all necessary conditions for the safety of the Jewish homeland. From this moment, the land was officially under control of the British government, and it could be calm that no one would interfere (Adelman, 2008, p. 137).
The Balfour Declaration did not contain such words as ‘the Jewish state’, but the document facilitated migration of the Jews to Palestine from different countries. They thought that the word homeland meant their so-called return home, even though the Arabs had lived there for a long time (Hamilton, 2013, p. 99). The Arab population of Palestine was the majority and did not want to be reconciled with the flows of the Jewish immigrants to their lands. The British Empire had to control the flows of the migrants with the help of the White Paper. This document regulated the British policy in Palestine taking into account potential conflicts and interests of the Jewish and Arab populations. Nevertheless, clashes between Arabs and Jews did not cease since migrants influenced the unemployment and economic situation for the worse. The White Paper 1931 rejected the view that the Balfour Declaration for the establishment of the Jewish homeland should have been the basis of the British government’s policy in Palestine (Cohen, 2014, p. 115). The government should have suspended the Jewish immigration if the process limited the work opportunities for the Arabs. The Jews considered this decision as anti-Zionist.
The British policy in the Palestine gave grounds for developing Zionism, which was not spread before (Rosen, 2012). The Jews all around the world had a strong belief that the Palestinian land belonged only to one nation and never intended to reconcile the claims of the Arabs. The latter demanded to stop the Jewish immigration, but negotiations with the British government reached an impasse because Arabs and Jews rejected British proposals to solve escalated problems. The Palestinian Royal Commission headed by Peel came to Palestine in 1936 in order to establish a peaceful situation there (Whiting, 2008, p. 125). Finally, after analyzing all aspects that led to the Arab uprising, the commission decided that problem would not be real to solve within the framework of one state, and it recommended the solution, namely, the partition of Palestine in two states. Nonetheless, Arabs believed that Jews had no rights to expel people from their lands.
The Arabs reaction to the actions of the British Empire was negative becausee Zionist movement forced a great amount of the Arab people to leave their home without their consent. However, support from the Arabs and Islamic world was important to the British Empire before the war. For this reason, in the White Paper 1939, the British government made concessions to them (Wendehorst, 2012, p. 110). The two main principles of that document escalated the conflict even more. Arabs did not agree with the statement that the independent Jewish state would appear on their territory in ten years, and Jews did not agree with the decrease in the number of Jewish immigrants.
The Zionist movement resulted in creation of the Jewish state in 30 years, even though it was not proclaimed in the Balfour Declaration. In the context of the Second World War, the reduction of the immigration sentenced many Jews to an inevitable death. In May 1947, the special session of the UN General Assembly considered the Palestinian issue (Whiting, 2008, p. 152). The UN Special Committee on Palestine decided to terminate the British Mandate. Most of the committee members were standing for the partition of Palestine into two independent states, Jewish and Arab ones, and for creating a special international zone including Jerusalem with the surroundings. Both states were to form an economic union. The British government has refused to cooperate and announced the withdrawal from Palestine by 15 May 1948. Finally, in May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was established (Immell, 2010).
The British Empire has had its own goals in the region, but it was not ready to resolve the conflict that has been brewing for several years and stays one of the most important problems in the international relations. However, nowadays, it is difficult to understand what the British government should have done. The officials were acting accurately in the region and, maybe, had no idea that proclamation of a Jewish homeland would bring such a great amount of them on the territory, which did not belong to them. The British impact on the creation of the Zionist movement is significant: the idea of the Jewish homeland has influenced many Jews all around the world and they were returning to the land that they saw as their Promised Land. They were searching for a better life because of the anti-Semitic policy in Europe, and to a certain extent, their position could be understood. Perhaps, the Jews could be simply destroyed as a nation during the Second World War if the British government had not acted the way it did.