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In many articles and commentaries the impression is given that Mandatory Palestine appeared fully-formed in 1919 or 1920 - just after the destruction of World War I, that Palestine was establish in all of this fully-formed Mandatory Palestine, and that Transjordan was abruptly split off, again fully-formed, from Palestine in 1921 or 1922.

That, however, is not the case.

First a Little Background Information:

In October, 1918 as World War I was ending, the British military, who were in overall command of the region, divided the area which is now Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Jordan into three zones which were called Occupied Enemy Territory Administrations (OETA).

OETA South was occupied and administered by the British and was later to become Palestine in Mandatory Palestine.

OETA South was a strip of land along the eastern Mediterranean coast between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, Dead Sea and Wadi Arabah. Its southern boundary was where the Egyptian-Israeli border is today, and its northern boundary was roughly were the Lebanese-Israeli border is today.

OETA West was occupied and administered by the French and was later to become a part of Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon.

OETA West was a strip of land along the eastern Mediterranean coast about as wide as OETA South, which was to its south and Alexandretta was its northernmost district. The southern part (roughly 40%) of this area later became the Republic of Lebanon.

OETA East was occupied by Arab forces and administered by an Arab administration, both led by Emir Faisal, until July, 1920 when French forces defeated the Arab forces in OETA East and ended its Arab administration.

OETA East was inland of both OETA West and OETA South. The much larger northern part of OETA East, which was east of OETA West, was to became a part of Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon. The much smaller southern part of OETA East, which was east of OETA South, was to become the initial part of Transjordan in Mandatory Palestine.

- * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * -

- When Great Britain was selected to be the Mandatory for Palestine by the Principal Allied Powers on April 25, 1920 during the San Remo Conference the borders of Mandatory Palestine were left undefined, but during the conference the Principal Allied Powers also gave themselves the power to determine the borders of the mandates for Syria, Mesopotamia, and Palestine.

- The border between Egypt and Mandatory Palestine already existed in 1920. It had been established in 1906 in the AGREEMENT signed and exchanged at Rafeh on (13 Shaban, 1324, 18th Ailul 1322), 1st October, 1906, between the Commissioners of the Turkish Sultanate and the Commissioners of the Egyptian Khediviate, concerning the fixing of a separating administrative line between the Vilayet of Hejaz and Governorate of Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula.

In 1906 Egypt was technically a part of the Ottoman Empire but had been essentially independent of the Ottoman Empire and ruled by a hereditary Khedive (Viceroy) since 1840. While at the same time Egypt was controlled by the British who had been occupying and controlling Egypt since 1882.

On May 3, 1906 the British Government issued an ultimatum to the Ottoman Emperor and threatened to seize Ottoman islands in the Mediterranean Sea if the Emperor didn’t agree within ten days to a demarcation of the Egyptian border on the traditional Rafah to Aqaba line.

The British took this action because the Ottoman Emperor had been considering shifting the border westwards to a line which would run from Rafah to Suez, and the British did not want this to happen because it would place the border at the southern entrance to the Suez Canal.

The Ottoman Emperor accepted the British Government’s terms and an Ottoman-Egyptian Commission demarcated the border on the ground and prepared a report on the demarcation. Of the four ‘Egyptian’ members of the Commission three were British, and of the two ‘Egyptian’ signatories on the agreement one was British.

On November 5, 1914, as World War I began, the British deposed the Khedive. They then declared the end of the Khediviate, ended Ottoman sovereignty over Egypt, established the Sultanate of Egypt, made Egypt a protectorate, and declared that the uncle of the deposed Khedive would be the new Sultan.

The Khedives and Sultans of Egypt were not Egyptians or Arabs; they were the descendents of an Albanian, Muhammad Ali, who was a Commander in the Ottoman Army and had seized power in Egypt in the early 1800s after having been sent there by the Ottoman government.

The 1906 border was confirmed several times during the mandate period by the British and Egyptian Governments, and the League of Nations. The last time being in 1947, when the Egyptian Government informed the British Government that it would build a fence along the border through the British military base at Rafah which extended 2 miles over the border into Egyptian territory. The British requested that the base’s perimeter be accepted as the frontier but the Egyptians refused the request.

- The Treaty of Sevres was signed by the Allies and the Ottoman Empire on August 10, 1920.

In the treaty the Ottoman Empire gave up all its rights to its Arab territories, agreed to the creation of the mandates for Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine, and agreed that the Principal Allied Powers would select their Mandatories and determine their borders.

However, the treaty was never ratified by the Ottoman Parliament and never came into effect. It was superseded by the Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923.

- When the Arab administration in OETA East was forcibly ended by the French in July, 1920, the southern part of OETA East, which was not included in Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon, was left without an administration.

The British High Commissioner of Palestine, Herbert Samuel, went to this area on August 20, 1920 to establish a British presence there and described these events in:

AN INTERIM REPORT ON THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION OF PALESTINE,
during the period 1st JULY, 1920--30th JUNE, 1921.

X.--TRANS-JORDANIA.

Included in the area of the Palestine Mandate is the territory of Trans-Jordania. It is bounded on the north by the frontier of Syria, placed under the mandate of France; on the south by the kingdom of the Hejaz; and on the west by the line of the Jordan and the Dead Sea; while on the east it stretches into the desert and ends--the boundary is not yet defined--where Mesopotamia begins. Trans-Jordania has a population of probably 350,000 people. It contains a few small towns and large areas of fertile land, producing excellent wheat and barley. The people are partly settled townsmen and agriculturists, partly wandering Bedouin; the latter, however, cultivate areas, more or less fixed, during certain seasons of the year.

When Palestine west of the Jordan was occupied by the British Army and placed under a British military administration, over Trans-Jordania and a large part of Syria there was established an Arab administration, with its capital at Damascus. The ruler was His Highness the Emir Feisal, the third son of H.M. King Hussein, the King of the Hejaz. When Damascus was occupied by French troops in July, 1920, and the Emir Feisal withdrew, it was necessary to adopt fresh measures in Trans-Jordania. I proceeded to the central town of Salt on August 20th, and, at an assembly of notables and sheikhs of the district, announced that His Majesty's Government favoured the establishment of a system of local self-government, assisted by a small number of British officers as advisers.

Local councils were accordingly formed in the various districts, the people not being ready to unite in any form of combined government for Trans-Jordania as a whole. Five British officers were appointed to assist the councils and their officials and to aid in organising a gendarmerie. No British troops were stationed in the district.

...

Submitted to the League of Nations by Herbert Samuel,
High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief on July 30, 1921
At this time Transjordan consisted of only three districts: Ajloun - the northern district, Balqa - the central district, and Karak - the southern district.

- The northern border of Mandatory Palestine (with Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon) was first defined in the Franco-British Convention on Certain Points Connected with the Mandates for Syria and the Lebanon, Palestine and Mesopotamia, which was signed by the British and French Governments on December 23, 1920.

The borders were very generally defined in the convention so the terms of the convention called for the establishment of a commission which would determine the borders in detail, demarcate them on the ground, and prepare a final detailed report on the border for the approval of the British and French Governments.

The convention also stated that if there were any disputes between the two governments about the report, the matter would be referred to the Council of the League of Nations for a final decision.

- On April 11, 1921 Emir Abdullah, after reaching an agreement with the British Government, took over the administration of Transjordan under the supervision of the British High Commissioner of Palestine. The events are described in:

AN INTERIM REPORT ON THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION OF PALESTINE,
during the period 1st JULY, 1920--30th JUNE, 1921.

X.--TRANS-JORDANIA.

...

It cannot be claimed that the system of administration so set up was satisfactory. The authority of the councils was flouted by large sections of the population; taxes were collected with difficulty; the funds at the disposal of the local authorities were insufficient to ensure the maintenance of order, still less to defray the cost of roads, schools, hospitals, or other improvements for the benefit of the people.

Some progress was beginning, however, to be made when, in the month of November, H.H. the Emir Abdallah, the second son of King Hussein, arrived from the Hejaz at Ma'an, to the south of Trans-Jordania. His purpose was declared to be to restore a Shereefian government in Damascus. His arrival caused much disturbance in the minds of the people of Trans- Jordania and further impaired the authority, already slight, of the local authorities. From Ma'an the Emir proceeded on March 2nd to Amman, a town on the Hejaz Railway to the east of Salt, and there established his headquarters.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies being in Palestine in the month of March, a Conference was held with the Emir, who came to Jerusalem for the purpose. An arrangement was reached by which the Emir undertook to carry on the administration of Trans-Jordania, under the general direction of the High Commissioner of Palestine, as representing the Mandatory Power, and with the assistance of a small number of British officers, for a period of six months pending a definite settlement. Order and public security were to be maintained and there were to be no attacks against Syria. Since that time a close connection has continued between Palestine and Trans-Jordania. British representatives remain in the principal centres.

I paid a visit to Amman on April 18th as the guest of the Emir and explained in an address to the sheikhs and notables the arrangement that had been made. The Emir came to Palestine again in the month of May. The political and technical officers of the Palestine Administration have made frequent visits to Trans-Jordania and have assisted the local officials with their advice. The difficulties of local finance have continued. Order and security are still lacking. A grant-in-aid of £180,000 was, however, voted by Parliament in July for the assistance of Trans-Jordania, and it is hoped that this assistance will enable an effective reserve force of gendarmerie to be established, revenue to be collected and the government of the district to be placed on a sounder footing. The district possesses great agricultural wealth, and the local revenue, if it were collected, would fully meet the local expenditure.

...

Submitted to the League of Nations by Herbert Samuel,
High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief on July 30, 1921
- The Demarcation Agreement containing the final report of the commission established in the Franco-British Convention on Certain Points Connected with the Mandates for Syria and the Lebanon, Palestine and Mesopotamia of 1920 was signed by the British and French Governments on February 3, 1922 and ratified by them on March 7, 1923.

The report included in the agreement defined in detail only the Palestine section, from the Mediterranean Sea to El-Hamme - located southeast of Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), of the border between Mandatory Palestine and Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon

- On July 24, 1922 the Council of the League of Nations approved the Mandate for Palestine. However, it was also agreed by the Council that the Mandate for Palestine and the Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon would not come into force until the negotiations between the French and Italian Governments in regard to a matter related to the mandate for Syria had resulted in a final agreement between the two Governments.

Article 25 of the Mandate for Palestine allowed for special provisions to be made for Transjordan with the consent of the Council.

Article 25

In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions, provided that no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.

- On August 10, 1922 the British Government enacted the Palestine Order in Council which defined in detail how the British Government would administer Palestine and under which British laws the British Government was permitted to do so.

In Article 74 the Order was made retroactive to July 1, 1920, and in Article 86 the Order was made inapplicable to Transjordan. Article 86 also mentions the western boundary of Transjordan.

The Palestine Order in Council
AT THE COURT AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE,
The 10th day of August, 1922

74. The Proclamations, Ordinances, Orders, Rules of Court and other legislative acts which have been issued or done by the High Commissioner or by any Department of the Government of Palestine on or after July 1st, 1920, shall be deemed to be and always to have been valid and of full effect and all acts done thereunder and all prohibitions contained therein shall be deemed to be valid.

86. This Order In Council Shall Not Apply To Such Parts Of The Territory Comprised In Palestine To The East Of The Jordan And The Dead Sea As Shall Be Defined By Order Of The High Commissioner. Subject To The Provisions Of Article 25 Of The Mandate, The High Commissioner May Make Such Provision For The Administration Of Any Territories So Defined As Aforesaid As With The Approval Of The Secretary Of State May be prescribed.

- On September 23, 1922 the Council of the League of Nations approved the Transjordan Memorandum which had been submitted by the British Government. The Memorandum’s coming into force was subject to the same condition which was agreed on by the Council on July 24, 1922 regarding the coming into force of the Mandate for Palestine and the Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon.

In the Memorandum the border between Palestine and Transjordan was defined, the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine which would not be applied to Transjordan were listed, and the British Government described itself as being the Mandatory for Transjordan.

2. “... the territory known as Trans-Jordan, which comprises all territory lying to the east of a line drawn from a point two miles west of the town of Akaba on the Gulf of that name up the centre of the Wady Araba, Dead Sea and River Jordan to its junction with the River Yarmuk; thence up the centre of that river to the Syrian Frontier.”

...

3. His Majesty's Government accept full responsibility as Mandatory for Trans-Jordan, and undertake that such provision as may be made for the administration of that territory in accordance with Article 25 of the Mandate shall be in no way inconsistent with those provisions of the Mandate which are not by this resolution declared inapplicable.

- On April 25, 1923 the British Government recognized the Emirate of Transjordan, under the rule of Emir Abdullah, as an independent government in Transjordan, with Britain retaining its authority and obligations as the Mandatory, and subject to the approval of the Council of the League of Nations.

- The Treaty of Lausanne was signed by the Allies and the Government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on July 24, 1923 and came into force on August 6, 1924.

In the treaty Turkey renounced all rights and title to all territories situated outside the borders established in the treaty.

- The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, the League of Nations Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, and the Transjordan Memorandum entered into force on September 23, 1923.

Following this, France and Britain no longer had the power to independently determine borders which they had been granted under the terms of the decisions made at the San Remo Conference in 1920.

Mandate for Palestine - ARTICLE 5

The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power.

Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon - ARTICLE 4

The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no part of the territory of Syria and the Lebanon is ceded or leased or in any way placed under the control of a foreign Power.

However, the Mandates also stated that modifications to the mandates could be made with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations.
Mandate for Palestine - ARTICLE 27

The consent of the Council of the League of Nations is required for any modification of the terms of this mandate.

Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon - ARTICLE 18

The consent of the Council of the League of Nations is required for any modification of the terms of this mandate.

At this time Palestine’s borders were complete.

However, only the western border (with Palestine) and the northern border (with Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon) of Transjordan, which still consisted of only three districts, had been defined at this time.

- In the spring of 1924 Sultan Abdul Aziz, then the Sultan of Nejd and later the King of Saudi Arabia, attacked the Kingdom of Hejaz. After suffering many military defeats King Hussein, the King of Hejaz and the father of Emir Abdullah, abdicated and his son Ali became the King of Hejaz.

Sultan Abdul Aziz’s military victories presented a major problem for the British because the northernmost district of the Kingdom of Hejaz was the Ma’an-Aqaba District, which was just to the south of the Karak District of Transjordan, and were Sultan Abdul Aziz, who had expansionist tendencies, to conquer the Kingdom of Hejaz, he would then have a common border with Palestine along the Wadi Arabah.

As a result, Emir Abdullah, with British encouragement, unilaterally annexed the Ma’an-Aqaba District to Transjordan on June 25, 1925.

The Sultanate of Nejd was in the interior of and along some of the northeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula and had been a British protectorate since 1915. The Kingdom of Hejaz was along most the southwest coast of the Arabian Peninsula and was a British ally during and after World War I. In 1932 they were combined to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

- In order to establish a border between Transjordan and the Sultanate of Nejd, the British Government and the Sultan of Nejd, after more than two years of negotiations, signed the Hadda Agreement on November 2, 1925.

The treaty contained provisions which were designed to force the Sultan to end the Bedouin raids which were being made from Nejd territory, to within 15 kilometers of Amman.

The border between Transjordan and the Sultanate of Nejd is described in Article 1 of the Treaty.

Article 1.

The frontier between Nejd and Trans-Jordan starts in the northeast from the point of intersection of meridian 39° E and parallel 32° N, which marks the termination of the frontier between Nejd and 'Iraq, and proceeds in a straight line to the point of intersection of meridian 37° E and 31° 30' N, and thence along meridian 37° E to the point of its intersection with parallel 31° 25' N. From this point, it proceeds in a straight line to the point of intersection of meridian 38° E and parallel 30° N, leaving all projecting edges of the Wadi Sirhan in Nejd territory; and thence proceeds along meridian 38° E to the point of its intersection with parallel 29° 35' N.

The border was established along these lines in order to leave the Wadi Sirhan, which was a vital part of the caravan route between the Arabian Peninsula and Damascus, and the oasis at Kaf in the Sultanate of Nejd.

The border defined in this treaty ends abruptly in the middle of the desert about 300 km east of Aqaba.

- Following Sultan Abdul Aziz’s conquest of the Kingdom of Hejaz at the end of 1925, the British again negotiated with Abdul Aziz, who was then the King of Hejaz and of Nejd, in an effort to establish a border between Transjordan and the Kingdom of Hejaz. King Abdul Aziz claimed the Ma’an-Aqaba District was in the Kingdom of Hejaz, while the British claimed that the district was in Transjordan.

The negotiations were unsuccessful. However, two Notes were included in the Treaty of Friendship and Good Understanding between His Britannic Majesty and His Majesty the King of the Hejaz and of Nejd and its Dependencies, which was signed by representatives of the British Government and King Abdul Aziz on May 20, 1927 and in which the British Protectorate of Nejd was ended and the independence of the Kingdom of Hejaz and of Nejd was recognized.

In the British Note, the British stated that they considered the border between Transjordan and the Kingdom of Hejaz as being defined as:

The frontier between the Hejaz and Transjordan starts from the intersection of meridian 38°E and parallel 29°35'N which marks the termination of the frontier between Nejd and Transjordan, and proceeds in a straight line to a point on the Hejaz Railway two miles south of Mudawara. From this point it proceeds in a straight line to a point on the Gulf of Aquaba two miles south of the town of Aquaba.
In King Abdul Aziz’s Note, he stated that:
... we find it impossible, in the present circumstances, to effect a final settlement of this question. Nevertheless in view of our true desire to maintain cordial relations based on solid ties of friendship, we desire to express to your Excellency our willingness to maintain the status quo in the Ma'an-Aqaba district, and we promise not to interfere in its administration until favourable circumstances will permit a final settlement of this question.
- In order to finalize the northern border of Transjordan - between Mandatory Palestine and Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon, as had been called for in the Franco-British Convention on Certain Points Connected with the Mandates for Syria and the Lebanon, Palestine and Mesopotamia of 1920, the British and French Governments signed the Protocol of Agreement on October 31, 1931.

Many changes were made to this border in the protocol so it had to be submitted to the Council of the League of Nations for approval and it was approved by the Council on January 30, 1932.

- Between July 31, 1932 and August 16, 1932 the border between the Kingdom of Iraq and the Emirate of Transjordan was established.

In an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister of Iraq, the Chief Minister of Transjordan, and the British Resident in Transjordan between July 31, 1932 and August 16, 1932 the border between the Kingdom of Iraq and the Emirate of Transjordan was established and defined as:

The frontier between Iraq and Trans-Jordan starts in the south at the point of junction of the Iraq - Nejd frontier and the Trans-Jordan - Nejd frontier and ends in the north at that point on the Iraq - Syria frontier and the Trans-Jordan - Syria frontier, as ultimately delimited, which is nearest to the summit of the Jebel Tenf. Between these two terminal points the frontier follows where possible prominent physical features, provided that it shall not diverge more than 5 kilometers from a straight line between these two terminal points.
At this time all of the borders of Transjordan were defined, although the Transjordan-Kingdom of Iraq border had only been defined in very general terms and the Transjordan-Kingdom of Hejaz border had only de facto status.
- * - * -

As World War I ended, the area which was to become Palestine in Mandatory Palestine was placed under a British military administration in a zone which was called OETA South.

While the three districts which were to initially comprise Transjordan in Mandatory Palestine were placed under an Arab administration in the southern part of a zone which was called OETA East.

When the Arab administration of OETA East was forcibly ended by the French military in July, 1920 these three districts were left without an administration for about a month, until the British High Commissioner of Mandatory Palestine visited these districts and installed a very minimal British presence there which was to work under him and with the local population in administering the disricts.

About eight months later in April, 1921 the local administration of these three districts, which were now called Transjordan, was taken on by Emir Abdullah, who had arrived in the area a few months earlier and was now to administer Transjordan under the authority and supervision of the British High Commissioner of Mandatory Palestine.

In the meantime a much better organized, financed and manned British civil administration was settling in after having taken over from the British military administration and was administering what had been OETA South as the Government of Palestine, also under the authority and supervision of the British High Commissioner of Mandatory Palestine.

It took about three years for the paperwork, administration, and borders of Palestine to be completed and put in place. While it took about twelve years for most of the same to be accomplished in Transjordan, but even then two sections of the borders of Transjordan remained incomplete in one way or another.

- * - * -

This map of Transjordan shows
many of the places and borders mentioned.

Syria 1922

Originally posted to InAntalya on Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 08:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Western Asia and Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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