November 2, 1917
In seeking official government endorsement for the Zionist cause from a great power, the leadership of the Zionist Organization was successful in obtaining that endorsement from the British government in 1917. It came in the form of a private letter from the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, the head of the British Zionist Organization.
Above: Arthur Balfour’s letter conveys the news to Lord Rothschild that the British government supports the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
For the time being, while the letter had no international legal standing, the Declaration was received with great excitement by the Zionist leaders and those recent immigrants to Palestine. The Declaration evoked consternation to Arab leaders, primarily in Syria and the Arabian peninsula who thought that Palestine should be territory that they would control after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The Balfour Declaration was discussed at the 1919 Paris Peace conference and again when the future of the Middle East was ratified in the 1920 San Remo Treaty. And then when the British issued their outline for how Palestine would be governed, the contents of the Balfour Declaration were found in the League of Nation’s July 1922 ratification of how Palestine would operate, The Articles of the Palestine Mandate. Thus the League of Nations gave the Declaration international sanction and legitimacy..
The Articles of the Mandate encourage the development of “a Jewish national home in Palestine” facilitated by Great Britain. Controlling Palestine physically fit conveniently with larger British strategic interests in the Middle East. Before, during, and after World War I, British strategic interests included the establishment of a “land bridge’ from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean in order to insure British economic and political influence and control from India to Egypt. For the British, the Declaration was one of many building blocks that asserted British influence and territorial control over the Middle East, connecting Britain’s Arab allies, clients, kings, and tribal leaders into a desired geo-political network of influence across the region. This strategy included agreements with Arab tribal leaders in Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan, and the Arabian Peninsula. Securing Palestine as geographic buffer for British presence in Egypt and protection of the Suez Canal was necessary from Britain’s viewpoint. Thus, Zionist and British interests dovetailed into a workable and functioning symbiosis.