British Policy in Palestine: Interests versus Reality (1917-1922)

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Abstract


The period between the publication of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and League of Nations mandate’s official assignment to Great Britain in 1922 was not lengthy, but highly eventful. All this time England was maneuvring between the Jewish and the Arab national movements, which also gradually formed their own demands and objectives. The problem was, pursuing British interests was possible through maneuvring only, as support of just one “local” force was not quite strategically advantageous. Britain’s official commitment to the Balfour Declaration remained at the core of its policy, however it could not completely ignore the demands of the Arab polutaion of Palestine. Although there were quite a number of British administrators and imperial politicians, who were sympathetic towards the Zionist cause and thus were ready to meet their requests to a certain extent, adherence to the British Middle East interests remained crucial to them. The idea of a “Jewish national home” (not a state, though) in Palestine did not come into contradiction with the general policy of Great Britain in the Middle East: it was rather its integral part. At the same time implementing the Zionist project had to be in line with it: any relatively radical (from the British administrators’ point of view) proposals were rejected or postponed indefinitely. Towards the Arabs of Palestine Great Britain was conducting mainly declarative policy without any serious consideration of their problems and grievances, although trying to appease their demands to a certain extent. Even the Arab riots of 1920 and 1921 did not cause a serious change in the British political course in Palestine, although they did contribute to the emergence of Churchill’s White Paper in 1922, declaring certain concessions to the Arab national movement, which never accepted the document. At the same time British policy in general was neither pro-Zionist, nor pro-Arab: England was pursuing its long-term strategic goals in the Middle East, skillfully utilizing Zionist and Arab national movements to achieve them.


About the authors

Liudmila Maksimovna Samarskaia

Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
Email: saluma@bk.ru
23, Profsojuznaja str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117418

Junior Researcher at the Center for the Middle East Studies, IMEMO RAS; postgraduate student at the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University

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