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written agreement

Faisal–Weizmann Agreement

The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement was signed on January 3, 1919, by Emir Faisal (son of the King of Hejaz) and Chaim Weizmann (later President of the World Zionist Organization) as part of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 settling disputes stemming from World War I. It was a short-lived agreement for Arab-Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East.

One or more of the Allies may have suggested that a representative of the Zionist Organization secure the agreement. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement had called for an 'Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States'... ...'under the suzerainty of an Arab chief.' The French and British also proposed 'an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Shereef of Mecca.'

Background

Weizmann first met Faisal in June 1918, during the British advance from the South against the Ottoman Empire in World War I. As leader of an impromptu "Zionist Commission", Weizmann traveled to southern Transjordan for the meeting. The intended purpose was to forge an agreement between Faisal and the Zionist movement to support an Arab Kingdom and Jewish settlement in Palestine, respectively. The wishes of the Palestinian Arabs were to be ignored, and, indeed, both men seem to have held the Palestinian Arabs in considerable disdain. Weizmann had called them "treacherous", "arrogant", "uneducated", and "greedy" and had complained to the British that the system in Palestine did "not take into account the fact that there is a fundamental qualitative difference between Jew and Arab". After his meeting with Faisal, Weizmann reported that Faisal was "contemptuous of the Palestinian Arabs whom he doesn't even regard as Arabs".

In preparation for the meeting, British diplomat Mark Sykes had written to Faisal about the Jewish people "...this race, despised and weak, is universal and all powerful and cannot be put down. Under such circumstances, the secret British communication contended, Faisal was well advised to cultivate the Zionist movement as a powerful ally rather than to oppose it. In the event, Weizmann and Faisal established an informal agreement under which Faisal would support dense Jewish settlement in Palestine while the Zionist movement would assist in the development of the vast Arab nation that Faisal hoped to establish.

Weizmann and Faisal met again later in 1918 in London and soon afterwards at the Paris peace conference. In their first meeting in June 1918 Weizmann had assured Faisal that "the Jews did not propose to set up a government of their own but wished to work under British protection, to colonize and develop Palestine without encroaching on any legitimate interests". On January 3, 1919, they signed the written agreement which is known by their names.

The agreement

Main points of the agreement:

  • The agreement committed both parties to conducting all relations between the groups by the most cordial goodwill and understanding, to work together to encourage immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale while protecting the rights of the Arab peasants and tenant farmers, and to safeguard the free practice of religious observances. The Muslim Holy Places were to be under Muslim control.
  • The Zionist movement undertook to assist the Arab residents of Palestine and the future Arab state to develop their natural resources and establish a growing economy.
  • The boundaries between an Arab State and Palestine should be determined by a Commission after the Paris Peace Conference.
  • The parties committed to carrying into effect the Balfour Declaration of 1917, calling for a Jewish national home in Palestine.
  • Disputes were to be submitted to the British Government for arbitration.

Weizmann signed the agreement on behalf of the Zionist Organization, while Faisal signed on behalf of the short-lived Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz.

Two weeks prior to signing the agreement, Faisal stated:

The two main branches of the Semitic family, Arabs and Jews, understand one another, and I hope that as a result of interchange of ideas at the Peace Conference, which will be guided by ideals of self-determination and nationality, each nation will make definite progress towards the realization of its aspirations. Arabs are not jealous of Zionist Jews, and intend to give them fair play and the Zionist Jews have assured the Nationalist Arabs of their intention to see that they too have fair play in their respective areas. Turkish intrigue in Palestine has raised jealousy between the Jewish colonists and the local peasants, but the mutual understanding of the aims of Arabs and Jews will at once clear away the last trace of this former bitterness, which, indeed, had already practically disappeared before the war by the work of the Arab Secret Revolutionary Committee, which in Syria and elsewhere laid the foundation of the Arab military successes of the past two years.

The areas discussed were detailed in a letter to Felix Frankfurter, President of the Zionist Organisation of America, on March 3, 1919, when Faisal wrote :

The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper.

The boundaries of Palestine shall follow the general lines set out below: Starting on the North at a point on the Mediterranean Sea in the vicinity South of Sidon and following the watersheds of the foothills of the Lebanon as far as Jisr el Karaon, thence to El Bire following the dividing line between the two basins of the Wadi El Korn and the Wadi Et Teim thence in a southerly direction following the dividing line between the Eastern and Western slopes of the Hermon, to the vicinity West of Beit Jenn, thence Eastward following the northern watersheds of the Nahr Mughaniye close to and west of the Hedjaz Railway. In the East a line close to and West of the Hedjaz Railway terminating in the Gulf of Akaba. In the South a frontier to be agreed upon with the Egyptian Government. In the West the Mediterranean Sea.
The details of the delimitations, or any necessary adjustments of detail, shall be settled by a Special Commission on which there shall be Jewish representation.

Implementation

Faisal conditioned his acceptance on the fulfillment of British wartime promises to the Arabs, who had hoped for independence in a vast part of the Ottoman Empire. He appended to the typed document a hand-written statement:

"Provided the Arabs obtain their independence as demanded in my [forthcoming] Memorandum dated the 4th of January, 1919, to the Foreign Office of the Government of Great Britain, I shall concur in the above articles. But if the slightest modification or departure were to be made [regarding our demands], I shall not be then bound by a single word of the present Agreement which shall be deemed void and of no account or validity, and I shall not be answerable in any way whatsoever."

The Faisal-Weizmann agreement survived only a few months. The outcome of the peace conference itself did not provide the vast Arab state that Faisal desired mainly because the British and French had struck their own secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 dividing the Middle East between their own spheres of influence, and soon Faisal began to express doubts about cooperation with the Zionist movement. After Faisal was expelled from Syria and given the Kingdom of Iraq, he contended that the conditions he appended were not fulfilled and the treaty therefore moot. St. John Philby, a British representative in Palestine, later stated that Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca and King of Hejaz, on whose behalf Faisal was acting, had refused to recognize the agreement as soon as it was brought to his notice. However, Sharif Hussein formally endorsed the Balfour Declaration in the Treaty of Sèvres of 10 August, 1920, along with the other Allied Powers, as King of Hedjaz.

The United Nations Special Committee On Palestine did not regard the agreement as ever being valid, while Weizmann continued to maintain that the treaty was still binding. In 1947 Weizmann explained :

"A postscript was also included in this treaty. This postscript relates to a reservation by King Feisal that he would carry out all the promises in this treaty if and when he would obtain his demands, namely, independence for the Arab countries. I submit that these requirements of King Feisal have at present been realized. The Arab countries are all independent, and therefore the condition on which depended the fulfillment of this treaty, has come into effect. Therefore, this treaty, to all intents and purposes, should today be a valid document".

According to C.D. Smith the Syrian National Congress had forced Faisal to back away from his tentative support of Zionist goals.

Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties

Footnotes

References

  • Weisgal (Ed.). (1977). Chaim Weizmann to Arthur Balfour, The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann. Series A, Volume VIII. Israel University Press.

External links

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