The Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate, 1917–1923: British Imperialist Imperatives

By William M. Mathew

ABSTRACT The article sets the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the final
confirmation of Britain’s Palestine Mandate in 1923 within the context of national
imperial concerns: in particular, anxieties over the security of the Suez Canal and
the country’s sea-route to its economic and military power-base in India. In 1917
strategic issues were paramount in the progressive annexation of Palestine by the
Lloyd George coalition, this the essential territorial precondition for the pursuit of
the Zionist project. In 1923 these global considerations were again to the fore
when the new Conservative administration, less Zionist than its predecessor,
decided finally to accept and implement the League of Nations Mandate for
Palestine and the obligation therein to advance the cause of a Jewish national
home. And throughout this period there was a widespread sense in official circles
that Zionist settlers might perform as direct agents of Empire, acting as grateful,
loyal, and developmental servants of the British imperial interest. Paradoxically,
however – and largely on account of the ill-informed and reflexive manner
in which plans were formulated in London – the entire exercise was, in the
long-term, to prove a source of profound weakness to Britain’s strategic authority
in the East. Palestine policy, like so much imperial reasoning in the twentieth
century, was to prove intrinsically delusional.

The article is published in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (2013): The Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate, 1917–1923: British Imperialist Imperatives DOI: 10.1080/13530194.2013.791133
The abstract is reproduced with permission from the author.

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