Indeed, Palestine is positioned such that 1917 England saw in it a link joining various parts of the British Empire, and constituting an unbroken chain extending from the middle of the Pacific to the Atlantic. A constitution of the state of Israel would likewise elicit the support of Russian and American Jews against Germany in WW1.
Others suggest that England’s presence in Palestine was engineered to overcome the Turks, and, as noted before, to guard it from the French. Others suggest that the motive was to enlist, not only the support of Russian and American Jews against Germany, but to enlist the support of American president Woodrow Wilson, whose closest advisors were ardent Zionists. Since Russia was in the midst of a Communist revolution, whose advocates were largely Jewish, there was obvious strategic advantage in appealing to their Jewish ethnic identity to assist in the Allied war effort.
It was particularly within the context of World War 1 that Palestine served a particularly important political interest to the British. In particular, Palestine quickly become of great interest to the British when the Ottoman Empire joined forces with Germany. The British desired to safeguard their connection with India through the Suez Canal,a s well as protecting the Persian Gulf. 1915 saw efforts by the British to reach the Russians through the Dardanelles.
As Balfour noted, Palestine consisted of approximately 700,000 poor Arab peasants, with a Jewish population of less than 60,000, 40,000 of whom had their roots in the land. The 12,000 remaining were Zionists. Since the Arabs constituted 90 percent of the population, they obviously resented an influx of Jewish foreigners.
It was in 1915 that England promised Sharif Hussein Ibn Ali of Mecca his own independent Arab kingdom for a revolt against the Ottoman Empire, which he carried out in 1916. In what later came to be known as the McMahon-Hussein correspodnence, Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner of Egypt, and a Lieutenant-Colonel promised the Arabs an independent state reaching from the Arabian peninsula to Damascus in return for their participation in an overthrow of the Ottoman Empire.
Lord Kitchener, a British Cabinet member, had also promised Hussein that he would retain his title of Grand Sharif, as well as pledging their own support and protection against aggressors, as well as general support. England supplied the Arabs with the materials necessary for the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire, with certain British military advisors visiting the Arabs personally to help them organize their army.
At the same time the British were discussing arrangements with Arabs, Sir Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet of Sledmere, was soon to become one of Weizmann’s most crucial Zionist allies. The British were also discussing the future of the Arab land with the French and the Russians; something which the Arabs did not appreciate when they found out. The Anglo-French-Russian agreement of 1916 entailed the distribution of parts of land that would be allocated to the French, and other parts, to the British.
Both of them wanted Palestine, but agreed that an international condominium would parcel out this part of the land. Meanwhile, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, southern Turkey, Syria and Iraq would be divided between the British and French, with the Russians insisting on leaving Jerusalem and portions of Palestine to the international condominum. The Yemen Arab Republic and Saudi Arabia were the only pieces of land left alone.
It wasn’t long, however, that Sharif Hussein became suspicious of the Allies. Sir Mark Sykes visited the British Foreign Office personally in 1917 to reassure him. Sykes wisely kept from Hussein the details of the Sykes-Picot agreement, according to which large portions of Arab land would be given to the French and British. It was not until the Turks informed Hussein of this development that he found out.
Grey, Mary. The Balfour Declaration – Key players and events. Retrieved from: http://www.balfourproject.org/the-balfour-declaration-key-players-and-ev…