The Mandate for Palestine and the Prostate Period
On December 9, 1917, British troops under General Edmund Allenby took Jerusalem from the Turks, ending four centuries of Ottoman rule. Included in the British army were three battalions of the Jewish Legion, consisting of thousands of Jewish volunteers. An armistice was concluded with Turkey on October 31, 1918, and all of Palestine came under British military control.
The Ottoman Empire, defeated by the Western alliance of Great Britain, France, the United States, and others, was forced to relinquish much of its empire. Competing arguments, supporting either the Jewish (Zionist) claim or the Arab claim, were advanced at the various peace conferences and other venues where the postwar settlement and the future of Palestine were considered. Eventually, the British decided not to grant control of the area to either the Arabs or the Zionists and thereby incurred the displeasure of both parties.
Instead of making the decision soon after the cessation of hostilities, the British effectively postponed it and instead took upon themselves to retain control of Palestine. At the San Remo Conference of April 1920, the details of the mandate system were structured. The British mandate for Palestine was approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922, and became official on September 29, 1923.The mandate for Palestine provided the legal foundation and the administrative and political framework for the ensuing quarter of a century. The history of the modern Jewish state, from an administrative and bureaucratic perspective, begins with the creation of the mandate.
The mandate recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” called upon the mandatory power to “secure establishment of the Jewish national home,” and recognized “an appropriate Jewish agency” for advice and cooperation to that end. The WZO, which was specifically recognized as the appropriate vehicle, formally established the Jewish Agency in 1929. Jewish immigration was to be facilitated while ensuring that the “rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced.” English, Arabic, and Hebrew were all to be official languages.
The objective of the British mandate administration was the peaceful accommodation of Arabs and Jews in the mandate and the development of Palestine by Arabs and Jews under British control. Sir Herbert Samuel, the first high commissioner of Palestine, was responsible for keeping order between the two antagonistic communities.
He called for Jewish immigration and land acquisition, which enabled thousands of highly committed and well-trained socialist Zionists to enter Palestine between 1919 and 1923. The Third Aliyah, as it came to be called, made important contributions to the development of Jewish agriculture, especially collective farming.