As we have seen, British policymakers have attracted the notion of an Arab Caliphate but were also deeply suspicious of any pan-Islamic iteration thereof. They preferred that an Arab Caliph is a spiritual, rather than a temporal head of Islam. The idea of a Caliphate as related to the Sherifian revolt remained part of British policy through 1917.

On 16 November 1916 conference was held in Rabegh where it was decided to defend Rabegh, since it was seen as the key to the route to Mecca on one hand and the base for the three Arab armies’ operations on the other. However when in December the newly created War Cabinet decided to delegate the responsibility for sending a brigade to Sir Reginald Wingate, the latter, although he had been the most ardent advocate of the scheme, promptly shifted it onto Hussein, who in the meantime had been proclaimed ‘King of the Arab Nation’, his precarious position notwithstanding. By the middle of January 1917, it was evident that Hussein would not permit British troops to land in the Hijaz. This proved to Wingate’s own satisfaction that, if the Arab revolt collapsed, the blame lay firmly on Hussein’s shoulders.

Less mentioned, Ibn Saud was another player in the Arabian Peninsula that enjoyed the support of the British. He was gradually assuming control of the central and eastern provinces of the peninsula with encouragement and support from the Anglo-India Office. The latter was mindful of the need to preserve and safeguard routes to India, and had been looking to the possibility of air routes being opened up between Britain and India. It also was crucial to British interests that the whole of the peninsula, not just the Hejaz on the western boundary of the peninsula, should be friendly to the British.

 

The ‘Arab’ and the ‘Jewish’ question.

On 1 September 1916, a French mission arrived at Alexandria on its way to the Hijaz. It was headed by Colonel Edouard Brémond, according to T.E. Lawrence ‘a practicing light in native warfare’ who had been ‘a success .in French Africa’.¹ However, it was not as a soldier that Brémond would establish a reputation in the Hijaz. He did not conceal from his British interlocutors that Hussein’s revolt should not grow into something bigger than the local affair that it was. Cyril Wilson reported to Wingate on 24 October that Brémond believed that ‘the longer the Arabs take to capture Medina the better for Great Britain and France owing to the Syrian question probably then becoming acute’.² At that moment, there was naturally not the slightest chance that Hussein’s forces would capture Medina. The chances were far greater that Britain and France would have to intervene militarily to prop up Hussein’s tottering regime. Regarding the Rabegh question, Brémond was in favor of sending a Franco–British force. According to Lawrence, however, this was not as a means to save the sherif’s revolt, but because the landing of Christian troops would make Husayn’s position untenable in Muslim eyes. In the same memorandum that Murray and Robertson so eagerly seized on to torpedo the plans to send troops to Rabegh, Lawrence also observed that Brémond considered it vital that ‘the Arabs must not take Medina. This can be assured if an Allied force landed at Rabegh. The tribal contingents will go home, and we will be the sole bulwark of the Sherif in Mecca. At the end of the war we give him Medina as his reward.’³

T.E. Lawrence found a sympathetic ear for his observations with Sir Henry McMahon, Sir Archibald Murray and Wingate. Each of them approached the home authorities on the matter. McMahon wrote to Lord Hardinge that Brémond had confided to Lawrence that the French object with the brigade ‘was to thus disintegrate Arab effort, as they by no means wished to see them turn the Turks out of Medina any sooner than could be avoided […] It is of course always the old question of Syria’.⁴ Murray for his part warned Sir William Robertson that the French attitude towards Hussein’s revolt was based on the ‘fear that if the Sherif is successful in turning the Turks out of the Hijaz they will find that the Arabs pro- pose to operate in Syria. This would not suit them.’⁵ Wingate wired to the Foreign Office that the French worried about Hussein’s possible capture of Medina ‘in view of their future Syrian policy’. The occupation of Medina would lead to the ‘active support of all Arab tribes in the Syrian hinterland who have sworn to rise in Shereef’s favour immediately Medina is in his hands’.⁶ These telegrams, reports, and letters, however, did not initiate a policy revision with respect to French ambitions in Syria. The machinations of the head of the French mission in the Hijaz were completely irrelevant in view of the supreme aim of preserving cordial relations with France. Lawrence’s observation that Brémond favored a landing at Rabegh in order to discredit Hussein was completely ignored during the meeting of the War Committee on 20 November, where his report and person were extensively discussed. Lawrence’s re- marks on Brémond were moreover deleted from the report that George Clerk compiled at the request of the War Committee for the benefit of the French government,⁷ not only out of consideration for French feelings, but also, as Clerk minuted on Wingate’s telegram the next day, because ‘we have little evidence to support the theory that the French do not want the Sherif to take Medina, I find it hard to credit’.⁸ The source of these messages was, moreover, considered suspect. Sykes’s reaction to a report by Wilson was typical. Wilson related that a member of the British mission at Jedda had been informed that during a conversation between members of the French mission and Rashid Rida, the latter had told the French that ‘everybody in Egypt loathes the British and how overjoyed the Syrians were at the French joining the Arab movement as their Friend, etc.’ This made Sykes burst out in anger. In a letter to Hardinge he railed against the type of English- men who permitted the French ally to be spied on. This he blamed on the fact that ‘our people in Egypt, still think that there is a chance of getting Syria’. It was high time they realized that to the Arab cause ‘cooperation between French and British is more important than Rabegh’. Sykes suggested that ‘a very definite instruction should go to the sirdar urging him to see to frank and trustful cooperation among the officers of the two missions’. Wingate was accordingly informed that ‘it would seem desirable to impress upon your subordinates the need for the most loyal cooperation with the French whom His Majesty’s Government do not suspect of ulterior designs in the Hijaz’.⁹

This was the end of the affair as far as the Foreign Office was concerned. After this reprimand, Wingate and Wilson did not return to this subject other than Wingate transmitting Wilson’s assurance that he was ‘well aware of the necessity for loyal cooperation and that this policy will be scrupulously adhered to by me’.¹⁰ A report by Lawrence on a conversation between Faisal and Brémond, however, provided a good opportunity to make a fresh at- tempt to open the home authorities’ eyes to the problem. Brémond had observed to Faisal that he should not forget that ‘the firmness and strength of the present bonds between the allies did not blind them to the knowledge that these alliances were only temporary and that between England and France, England and Russia, lay such deep and rooted seeds of discord that no permanent friendship could be looked for’. Who exactly, so Wingate wrote to Balfour, was jeopardizing the all important British–French cooperation? The people in Cairo, who ‘loyally observed the policy of “hands off” in matters Syrian’, and scrupulously saw to it that ‘our policy and that of the French are, and will remain closely coordinated’, or Colonel Brémond, who ‘in conversation with the Arab leaders, has not scrupled to convey to them a contrary impression’? This time the Cairo authorities did not confine themselves to dispatching letters. On the suggestion of Wilson it was decided to send Captain George Lloyd, MP, to London. Lloyd, who had served in the Hijaz in the previous months, was entrusted with the task to explain that Brémond and his staff were responsible for the recurring problems in the Hijaz, and that more was at stake than a purely local affair.

The Foreign Office again refused to take the matter very seriously. Although Hardinge was now prepared to admit that Brémond had shown himself to be ‘unreliable and untrustful’, the forthcoming mission by Sykes and Georges-Picot would soon set matters right, the more so as Picot had told Sir Ronald Graham that he intended to assume control of affairs in the Hijaz. The instructions of Sykes and Georges-Picot constituted a faithful reflection of the Foreign Office’s policy towards the Middle East, with which Sir Mark completely identified. Everything turned on cordial relations between France and Britain. British diplomacy should spare no effort to accommodate French susceptibilities, whether these were justified or not. This was the reasoning be- hind McMahon’s convoluted formulations in his letters to Hussein in the autumn of 1915. This also explained the procedure of first coming to an agreement with France before the negotiations with Hussein could be finalized. This did not mean that Grey, Sykes and Foreign Office officials were blind to the problems that this policy entailed, but these counted for little compared to the all important objective of good relations with France. Bal- four’s minute on Wingate’s dispatch on Brémond’s machinations, however, indicated that he was less attached to this orthodoxy: ‘I think if the French intrigues go on in the Hedjaz we shall have to take a strong line. They may find us interfering in Syria if they insist on interfering in Arabia.’¹¹

 

‘A whole crowd of weeds growing around us’

Balfour’s minute constituted a first indication that British Middle East policy would change after Grey had left the Foreign Office. This was for the greater part due to the increasing meddling in foreign affairs by members of the War Cabinet, Prime Minister Lloyd George in particular, as well as the establishment of the interdepartmental Middle East Committee, subsequently the Eastern Committee, chaired by Curzon.¹² Balfour dominated British foreign policy-making to a far lesser extent than Grey had done in his days. In the early spring of 1917, matters still hung in the balance. For the time being Brémond could continue to make a nuisance of himself in the Hijaz.  The Failure of the ‘Projet d’Arrangement’ Sykes’s arrival in Egypt heralded the reversal of the Foreign Office’s attitude towards the complaints from Cairo about the French mission. From that moment on these were no longer treated as utterances by biased men on the spot who tried to blow up incidents to further their own Syrian ambitions. On 8 May 1917, Sykes – who at the beginning of March had already written to Wingate that he had ‘seen the George Lloyd correspondence and George Lloyd, truly Bremond’s performances have been disgusting’¹³ – telegraphed to Graham that after a careful investigation he had reached the conclusion that ‘the sooner French Military Mission is removed from Hedjaz the better’. The ‘deliberately perverse attitude and policy’ on the part of Brémond and his staff constituted the main obstacle in the way of Sir Mark’s attempts to improve relations between the French and the Arabs. These men were:  Without exception anti-Arab and only serve to pro- mote dissension […] Their line is to crab British operations to Arabs, throw cold water on all Arab actions and make light of the King to both. They do not attempt to disguise that they desire Arab failure. Without assistance I do not believe Picot will be strong enough to carry the day […] I suggest there- fore that His Majesty’s Government make representations that French military mission in Hedjaz has now fulfilled its purpose […] and that it should be brought to an end.

Sir Mark’s recommendation was not ignored by the Foreign Office. Four days later, Lord Bertie was instructed to impress on the French government that the mission to the Hijaz be withdrawn in view of the open enmity Brémond and his staff displayed towards the Arab cause, which ‘cannot but prejudice Allied relations and policy in the Hedjaz and may even affect whole future of French relations with the Arabs’.¹⁴ It took almost a fortnight before Bertie received a reply. In the meantime, the Foreign Office was informed of the instructions given to Si Mustapha Cherchali, an Algerian notable who was to leave for the Hijaz on a mission principally concerned with ‘purely Muslim affairs’. These confirmed that more was at stake than some local incidents. Besides instructions concerning the mission’s primary objective, there were instructions of a more general political nature. These were ‘of much greater importance and raise whole question of Franco–British relations in Arabia’, as they made clear that ‘French now de- sire to limit their recognition of our special position in Arabia to an admission of our preponderant commercial interests’:

France, in agreement with England, desires only to maintain on the one hand the independence of the Sherif, and on the other hand the integrity of his possessions. We feel as do our Allies, that no European Power should exercise a dominant or even preponderating influence in the holy places of Islam and we are resolved not to intervene in political questions affecting the Arabian Peninsula. We feel, more- over, in full accord with our Allies, that no European government should acquire a new foothold (établissement) in Arabia. While feeling that no Power should obtain either new territory or political prestige in Arabia, the French government recognize that the proximity of Egypt and the Persian Gulf creates a situation in favor of the commercial interests of the English Allies which you should bear in mind.

It was, in particular, this last sentence that Graham found unacceptable. If the French position was not challenged, then the door was wide open to, as Hardinge had formulated it in November 1916, ‘the reversal of our policy of the last 100 years which has aimed at the exclusion of foreign influence on the shores of the Red Sea’. According to Sir Ronald:  We can admit that no European Power should exercise a predominant influence in the holy places. But the French note goes much further than this in laying down that no Power is to obtain new territory or political prestige in Arabia and in limiting French recognition of our special position there to commercial interests. Hitherto the French have always recognized our special political position […] I fear we must conclude that the French desire to go back on this attitude and to claim an equality of political position with us in Arabia – when they had no position at all and owe any improvement that they have latterly achieved in this respect entirely to our help and influence. Such a submission, which is a poor return for our rapport, must be strongly resisted.  Graham proposed to consult Wingate on Cherchali’s instructions, as well as the most appropriate reaction. Cecil agreed but cautioned that the reply had to be formulated with the greatest care, as ‘it will be a definite statement of Franco–British relations in Arabia’.¹⁵ Wingate’s reaction to Cherchali’s instructions was along the same lines as Graham’s minute. He also believed that ‘we must insist on formal recognition by French government of our preponderant position in Arabia’. The French apparently threatened to forget that ‘only by our support military as well as diplomatic, can they expect to realize their present aims in Near East and, in particular, that our continued good offices with King Hussein and Syrian Moslems will be essential to an amicable settlement of Syrian question’.

Sykes, for his part, proposed his customary solution, to let Georges-Picot and him work out an arrangement. Lancelot Oliphant and Graham were not sure. According to Oliphant, Sykes, in any case, should ‘cease to be a free lancer’, and as far as Picot was concerned, he was ‘far from easy in my own mind as to the extent that M. Picot speaks for his own government (or even for himself) in talking to Sir M. Sykes’. Sir Ronald doubted ‘whether M. Picot exerts such a beneficent influence in the French government as Sir M. Sykes represents’. However that may be, there was ‘little prospect of their doing anything more where they are at present’. Sykes was accordingly instructed on 5 June ‘to proceed to London without stop- ping in Paris’. Two days later, the French government was requested also to recall Georges-Picot for further consultations.¹⁶ In a dispatch to Balfour, dated 11 June 1917, Wingate returned to the subject. The Sykes–Picot agreement was ‘unsatisfactory and inadequate in one, to my mind, all- important point of strategy’. It had not settled the British position in the Red Sea, while ‘our position here must be unassailable or we run the risk of creating a “Baghdad Railway” question in the Red Sea the development of which may gravely impair our relations with France and Italy and even menace the security of our imperial system’. Wingate’s remedy had two aspects, which he had most succinctly formulated in a telegram sent the day before:  Our policy should be to obtain French recognition of our predominant position in Arabian Peninsula as a preliminary to concluding a treaty with King Hussein which, whilst not impairing his independence vis-à- vis of Moslem world, will prevent any foreign power under guise of pilgrim interest from acquiring rights and privileges detrimental to our special political and economic interests in the Hedjaz.¹⁷

According to Sir Reginald, Hussein at the end of the day was no more than one of the many chiefs on the Arabian Peninsula. It was ‘very necessary to make a clear distinction between practical politics and propaganda’. He, therefore, did not see, ‘in view of the fact that we have created, directed and financed the Arab revolt’, why it would not be possible to conclude a treaty like the one he pro- posed. Naturally, ‘we must be careful to create and pre- serve, for as long as may be necessary, the facade of an independent Arab Empire’, as ‘an Arab caliph or imam buried away in the sands of the Arabian desert (would) appeal to Moslems nowhere’, but this did not imply that with the king no agreement could be signed ‘differing little from those we have made with the Trucial Chiefs’.¹⁸

To Sykes, however, it was unthinkable that Hussein would be treated on the same footing as the other rulers on the Arabian Peninsula. He argued that ‘if there is to be a King of Hejaz he must be independent of all foreign control otherwise he has no value or influence and is only a danger’. When Britain would ‘reduce him to the position of a feudatory chief in our pay, then we not only destroy the Arab movement but we throw the whole control of the Moslem world into the hands of the Turks, the pan-islamists, the seditionists and the Egyptian revolutionary nationalists’.¹⁹ Graham voiced the same argument in less alarmist terms in a minute on a further telegram by Wingate, in which the latter again urged a revision of the Sykes–Picot agreement in order ‘to eliminate present southern boundary of Area B’.

Sir Ronald believed that it was not in the interest of Great Britain ‘to assume publicly anything in the nature of a sort of British Protectorate over the holy places and the Shereef, who may well be caliph some day. To do so would destroy or at any rate weaken his position and land us in an embarrassing situation in the future.’ The revision advocated by Wingate was moreover completely unnecessary, since ‘our presence in Egypt close by, the great number of British native pilgrims as compared with those of any other State and our intimate existing relations with the Sherif and his family – financial and political – render it inevitable that we should enjoy a special position with him and in the Hedjaz’. Britain’s policy should be to get the other powers to give an undertaking that they would refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of the Hijaz. Hardinge concurred. Provided that ‘no foreign Power is allowed to obtain a preponderating influence in the Hedjaz we may regard with serenity the fact that it is not our protectorate […] We shall in the end by force of circumstances obtain a very strong position in the Hedjaz as the main support of the Sheriff’.²⁰ After Harold Nicolson had completed a first draft for a reply to the French memorandum with Cherchali’s instructions on 14 June, the question was referred to the Mesopotamian Administration Committee (MAC).²¹ This committee had been established by the War Cabinet on 16 March 1917. Besides Curzon as chairman and Sykes as secretary, it consisted of Lord Alfred Milner, Hardinge, Sir Arthur Hirtzel, Sir Thomas Holderness, Graham and Clerk. Sir Henry McMahon also became a member. The MAC had initially only dealt with the organization of the administration of the occupied territories in Mesopotamia, but it had soon been felt that it should have greater authority. The occasion had been Wingate’s dispatch of 11 June. On 7 July, Sir Eric Drummond wrote to Sir Maurice Hankey that Balfour wanted an extension of the MAC’s powers, ‘so as to enable it to deal with other questions such as Arabia, Hedjaz, etc. The idea is I believe to form a Committee of which the S. of S. for F.A. and the S. of S. for India will be permanent members in order to decide all Middle Eastern matters. It is a good scheme.’²² The War Cabinet accepted Balfour’s proposal a week later. At this meeting, Milner relinquished his seat, and the DMI was appointed as the military representative on the committee.²³ It was also decided to change the committee’s name into the Middle East Committee (MEC). On 23 August, Hardinge submitted to Cecil a new draft reply. It was in line with a memorandum written by Curzon. As ‘the matter is urgent, and has already been subject to much delay’, Hardinge proposed to settle the question right away. Cecil, however, hesitated to ‘authorise this draft in the absence of Mr Balfour’, but it was finally approved, with some minor revisions, on 28 August.²⁴

Sykes did not like the approved reply at all. He complained to Graham that:  It is very ridiculous to adopt a 1960 A.D. policy in India and a 1887 A.D. policy in the Red Sea. We certainly do not require any rights in HEJAZ over and above those to be enjoyed by our allies. The HEJAZ must be a completely independent state if we are to defeat the Turks. It will never be independent if we have a special position there, and the Sherif will always be our dependant and therefore out of the running for the caliphate; which is contrary to our interests because it fastens the caliphate for good and all onto the Turks.  It was his opinion that the best thing would be, as always, to let Picot and him settle the matter. But Clerk, who substituted for Graham, was not entirely convinced of this. It was one thing to show consideration for French ambitions, but it was quite another to give up British interests without getting anything in return:  Throughout these Asia Minor and Arabian negotiations it has seemed to me that Sir Mark Sykes, while quite rightly endeavoring to reach an understanding with the French which shall be free from all suspicion and misunderstanding, has gone to work on the wrong principle. He appears to think that the way to get rid of suspicion is always to recognize what the other party claims and to give up, when asked, our claims. For many years our relations with Germany were run on those lines. My own belief is that the right course is to be as accommodating as possible, and ready to recognize the legitimate claims of other people, but to be both frank and tenacious about those things which are held to be vitally necessary to the existence of the British Empire.

Hardinge fully agreed. There was nothing in Sykes’s letter to modify the approved note, and ‘thanks to the Sykes– Picot agreement our position is already a bad one in connection with Asiatic Turkey and Arabia, and for heaven’s sake let us not make it even worse’.²⁵ The British memorandum on Cherchali’s instructions was handed to Cambon on 29 August. Although Graham considered the French reply of 18 September ‘not altogether clear’, British claims were recognized in principle, and accordingly it ‘foreshadows an agreement which may prove satisfactory’. Hardinge believed that ‘the note is on the whole better than might have been expected’. His disparaging remark several weeks before notwithstanding, Hardinge accepted Graham’s suggestion to send Sykes to Paris in order ‘to draw up an agreement “ad referendum”’, be it with ‘definite instructions’. These were telegraphed to Bertie on 26 September. Sir Mark was directed to draw up a draft agreement ‘respecting future status of the Hejaz and Arabia’. The most important British desiderata in this agreement were:

a.  That [it] is essential to obtain explicit recognition by France of British political supremacy in Arabia as a whole with the exception of the Hedjaz.

b.  That the limits of the Hedjaz shall be defined.

c.  That within those limits Hedjaz shall be recognized as a sovereign, independent State but that the existing arrangements for dealing with King Hussein and the Arabs shall hold good for the duration of the war.

d.  That France on her part shall undertake to enter in no Agreement with the King or Government of Hedjaz on any matter concerning the Arabian Peninsula or the Red Area or Area B (Anglo– French Agreement of May 1916) without the knowledge and consent of Great Britain.

e.  That Great Britain on her part shall undertake to enter into no Agreement with the King or Government of Hedjaz on any matter concerning either the Blue Area or Area A (Anglo–French Agreement of May 1916) without the knowledge and consent of France.²⁶

Even though these instructions evidently reflected the accursed spirit of ‘1887 A.D.’, within a week Sykes and Picot managed to complete a draft agreement (Projet d’Arrangement) that, in the words of Clerk, ‘seems to cover the instructions sent to M. Sykes pretty well’. The most important point was that the French government were finally prepared explicitly to recognize Britain’s special interests in the Arabian Peninsula, and confirmed its intention ‘not to seek any political influence in these regions’. Hardinge noted with satisfaction that the French were ‘ready to accept our political supremacy in the Arabian Peninsula, with the exception of the Hedjaz’, which was ‘a point gained’. Especially when one took into account that regarding the Hijaz, ‘owing to the close connection of the holy places with Egypt, Aden and Mesopotamia [there should] be no difficulty for us in acquiring and eventually asserting a position of predominance there also’.²⁷ Apart from a few minor points that needed modification, the desired supplement to the Sykes–Picot agreement with respect to the Arabian Peninsula seemed finally to be within reach. The French government, however, failed to ratify the draft agreement. Although the Quai d’Orsay time and again confirmed that the Council of Ministers could approve the arrangement any moment, they failed to do so. On 4 December, the Foreign Office replied to Wingate, after the latter had enquired how matters stood, that ‘exchange of notes has not yet actually taken place, but it is hoped to complete arrangement within the next fortnight’.²⁸ However, this hope, too, was dashed.

 

Enter Abd al-Aziz ibn Sa’ud

On 17 December, Hardinge instructed Sykes ‘to ascertain the situation in regard to the proposed Anglo–French Agreement on the subject of the Hedjaz and Arabia, and to take steps to expedite its conclusion’.²⁹ In his report on his visit to Paris, Sykes did not touch upon this topic.³⁰ In the middle of January 1918, the India Office also wanted to know how things stood with the agreement. Sir Mark minuted that, as far as he knew, approval was imminent. Hardinge decided to enquire of the British Ambassador to France Bertie, whether the French government had perhaps approved the agreement without informing London about it.³¹ The ambassador had to disappoint the permanent undersecretary, ‘French government have not yet approved agreement negotiated by Sir M. Sykes regarding Anglo–French interests in Arabia’.³²

In the subsequent weeks, the officials and ministers involved rather lost interest in the attempt to amend the Sykes–Picot agreement by securing French recognition of British predominance in Arabia. In view of the course events took, in particular, Allenby’s successful advance into Palestine, they started to direct their attention to proposals that aimed at a far more fundamental revision of the Sykes–Picot agreement, or even its abolishment. Sykes also favored a comprehensive revision of the agreement, but his opinion would count for less and less after 1917. The failure of the Projet d’Arrangement was a blemish on his reputation. Sykes himself tried to play down this failure, for instance by predicting to Lloyd that it would not matter, ‘as it is ten to one that all agreements will be nullified by later events, peace conference and the like’.³³ However, the failure of his standard solution to British–French problems regarding the Middle East (‘let Picot and me set matters straight’), which had more or less remained concealed with respect to the Sykes–Picot mission but was now clear to see for all involved, signified a serious and, as it turned out, permanent weakening of his position vis-à-vis other British decision makers dealing with Middle East policy.  The Hogarth Mission  After the meeting of 20 May 1917, at the opening of which King Hussein had assented to ‘the formula’, Faisal approached Sykes with a request from his father that showed that Hussein perhaps was less worried about his good name and reputation in view of French ambitions in the Lebanon and Syria than the realization of his ambitions vis-à-vis the other chiefs on the Arabian Peninsula, in particular, Abd al-Aziz ibn Sa’ud (usually referred to as Ibn Sa’ud), the Sultan of Najd and leader of the Wahhabite movement. According to Wilson, ‘Faisal said that the Sherif was most anxious for both the above (the other chief being the Idrisi of Asir) to acknowledge him as King and that as the Sherif had done what we wanted as regards Syria could not we make the above Chiefs recognise the Sherif’.

Sykes left it to Wilson to answer, who explained that ‘we had agreements with both Chiefs and that it was up to the Sherif to induce Arab Chiefs to recognize him overlord but that personally [he] thought that if the large majority of Chiefs recognizes the Sherif as Suzerain the two above named Chiefs would soon follow suit’.³⁴ Sykes nevertheless complied with Hussein’s request. Two days later he sent a telegram to Sir Percy Cox in which he claimed that the king ‘and his son are really very moderate in their views’, and suggested that ‘if Ibn Saud could by some means convey to Sherif that he regards him as the titular leader of Arab cause without in anyway committing his own local position I believe much good would result’.³⁵ Cox, however, declined to approach Ibn Sa’ud on the subject. He telegraphed to the India Office that he did not see his way to comply with Sykes’s re- quest without Ibn Sa’ud questioning his ‘bona fides’.³⁶ On 26 December 1915, Cox had concluded the Treaty of Darin with Ibn Sa’ud. In this treaty, Great Britain recognized the Najd’s independence, promised assistance in case it was attacked by a foreign power, and granted Ibn Sa’ud a subsidy for his military campaign against Ibn Rashid, the Emir of Ha’il, who was loyal to the Turks. On the day of the signing of the treaty, Ibn Sa’ud had characterized Hussein to Cox as ‘essentially unstable, trivial, undependable’.³⁷ A few weeks later, Lawrence had noted that ‘the Wahabis are too weak at present to cause the Sherif any apprehension’, but that there was ‘little doubt, however, that there will be a clash between them again, if Ibn Saoud grows really strong’.³⁸ After Hussein had started his revolt, Cox had reported that Ibn Sa’ud had been ‘pleased to get [the news] because it meant, in any case, a severe blow to Turks’, but that he had been rather worried by the official communiqué as this referred ‘to “the Arabs” as a whole’. He, therefore, had felt obliged to remind Sir Percy that there had been ‘a feud between him and Sherif for years on account of Sherif’s persevering endeavors to interfere amongst tribes and settlements of Nejd’.³⁹ Since then, relations had deteriorated to such an extent that in May 1917 it had been decided to send Ronald Storrs, who had joined Cox’s staff a couple of weeks before, on a mission to Ibn Sa’ud to set the latter’s mind at ease as to Hussein’s intentions. Storrs had, however, suffered from sun stroke, and had had to abandon his mission. The rivalry between the two chiefs continued to deepen throughout the year. According to Lawrence, it all turned on the allegiance of the Ateiba and Meteir tribes,⁴⁰ which occupied the territory between the Hijaz and Najd, and in this struggle, so Wingate explained to Balfour some months later, Ibn Sa’ud ‘is fanning the flames of Wahabite zealotry as a necessary but dangerous counterpoise to Sherifial gold and ordnance’.⁴¹

At the end of September 1917, Sir Percy proposed a new mission to reduce the tension between Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud. This time, however, the mission would be a more complicated affair. Both the Foreign Office and the India Office would select a representative. The India Office delegated this task to Cox, who appointed Harry St John Bridger Philby,⁴² a member of his staff, while the Foreign Office appointed Storrs, who was on leave in London. The plan was that Storrs would travel via Cairo to Jedda to discuss matters with Hussein, after which he would journey overland to Ryadh, to meet Philby and Ibn Sa’ud. Storrs ‘would then explain position to Bin Saud and would endeavor to induce him to send a representative on a friendly mission to the King of the Hedjaz. He would then travel back with the delegate, leaving him to proceed to Mecca and himself returning to London via Jeddah and Cairo.’⁴³ On 12 November, Wingate reported that ‘after some difficulty’ he had ‘obtained from King promise of safe conduct through Hedjaz and convoy for Storrs’,⁴⁴ but nine days later he had to inform the Foreign Office that Hussein had revoked his approval. Sir Reginald offered no suggestion as to how this fresh problem could be resolved.⁴⁵

While Storrs was still preparing for his journey to Hussein – it had been decided that he would first go to Jerusalem and from there to Jeddah by airplane – Philby had already arrived at Riyadh. After conversations with Ibn Sa’ud, he reported to Sir Percy that the ruler of Najd displayed a ‘consuming jealousy of Sherif whose assumption in correspondence of title “King of the Arab Countries” galls him to distraction, while at the back of his mind is the suspicion that Sherif’s attitude in this connection is based on some secret understanding with us’, and that he wanted a ‘greater equality of treatment both politically and financially’.⁴⁶ After his interviews, Philby decided to travel to Jeddah overland.⁴⁷ On 27 December, Wingate telegraphed that Philby had arrived in Taif, and would proceed to Jeddah. He also explained that, as Storrs had unexpectedly been appointed military governor of Jerusalem,⁴⁸ he would send David Hogarth to Jeddah in his stead, and that he had ‘informed King it would be most desirable he should visit Jedda while Phil- by and Hogarth are there’.⁴⁹ Hogarth left for Jeddah on 2 January. The next day, Sir Reginald confided to Clayton that he regarded the situation ‘distinctly dangerous’ and that, if Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud quarreled, ‘it will be nuts to the Turkish party […] I wish I could spare someone to return to Baghdad with Philby and endeavour to make Cox understand the situation. He evidently thinks that we are rather running the Hedjaz against Nejd and Mesopotamia, but of course this is by no means the case – all we want to do is to try and preserve the unity of the Arabs and prevent them from making fools of them- selves’.⁵⁰ Wingate also believed that Hussein would certainly ask how matters stood with respect to ‘the formula’, especially in view of the Balfour Declaration. He, therefore, considered ‘it very necessary at present juncture that we should make a communication to Shereef on these subjects’. He submitted the ‘following formulas’ to the Foreign Office for approval:

1.  Jews must be accepted by Arabs in reservations (or colonies) in parts of Palestine to be settled at Peace Conference. Rest of Syria to be Arab but precise status to be left to peace conference. If Syrians demand it we should welcome (a) King Hussein’s overlordship if local autonomy secured and (b) Feisal at Damascus but French must be consulted as chiefly interested.

2.  That Bagdad is to be Arab under British protection but its precise government must await wishes of inhabitants and result of Peace Conference.  The Foreign Office replied on 4 January 1918. The telegram had mainly been drafted by Sykes, who had considerably rephrased Wingate’s proposed formulas. With respect to Palestine, it sounded determined and clear:

Since the Jewish opinion of the world is in favor of a return of Jews to Palestine and inasmuch as this opinion must remain a constant factor, and further as His Majesty’s Government view with favour the realisation of this aspiration, His Majesty’s Government are determined that in so far as is compatible with the freedom of the existing population both economic and political, no obstacle should be put in the way of the realisation of this ideal. In this matter it should be pointed out to the King that the friend- ship of world Jewry to the Arab cause is equivalent to support in all States where Jews have political influence.

With regard to the future status of Baghdad and Syria, however, the telegram was very vague. It merely stated that ‘the Entente Powers are determined that the Arab race shall be given full opportunity of once again forming a nation in the world. That this can only be achieved by the Arabs themselves uniting, and that Great Britain and her Allies will pursue a policy with this ultimate unity in view.’ Sykes had wanted to be more specific, and formulated a clause with respect to the future status of Syria and Mesopotamia stating that ‘the Entente Powers will only approve of measures and forms of government […] which put no obstacle in the way of ultimate unity’, but Hardinge had deleted it, since ‘we must be particularly careful to give no handle to any scheme by which our hold on Busra would be affected’.⁵¹ Hogarth arrived in Jeddah on 6 January 1918. Two days later he had a first meeting with Hussein, in the presence of Philby and Lieut.-Colonel J.R. Bassett, who was substituting for Wilson (having fallen ill, Wilson had re- turned to Egypt to convalesce). The relationship between Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud was discussed at the second meeting, while the Foreign Office formulas were conveyed during the third. Altogether, Hogarth had ten meetings with the king, at two of which Philby was present. Both Hogarth and Philby reported on Hussein’s attitude towards Ibn Sa’ud. Hogarth did not deny that to Hussein ‘Arab unity’ meant ‘very little […] except as a means to his personal aggrandisement’, but saw some merit in Hussein’s point of view in the question of his title. The king was moreover too weak to risk an armed conflict with Ibn Sa’ud: 

He both fears Ibn Sa’ud as a centre of a religious movement, dangerous to the HEJAZ, and hates him as irreconcilable to his own pretensions to be ‘King of the Arabs’. This latter title is the King’s dearest ambition, partly no doubt, in the interest of Arab unity, which he constantly says, with some reason, can never be realised until focused on a central personality. He apposes to our argument that he cannot be ‘King of the Arabs’ till the Arabs in general desire him to be so, the counter-argument that they will never so desire till he is so called […] The resultant situation, however, is that the King is very unlikely to provoke a conflict with Ibn Sa’ud while the European War lasts. He is not easy in his mind either about Central Arabia or about the loyalty of his own Hejaz people […] He is quite firm in his friendship to us, but none too firm on his throne.⁵²

Philby judged Hussein altogether more harshly, and failed to see any merit in the latter’s arguments:

In all matters relating Saud, King utterly impossible and unreasonable, though unable substantiate single accusation or grievance. The basic principle of King’s policy seems to me the determination to prevent any Arab potentate sharing in bounty of Britain, lest his difficulties in establishing unjustifiable claims of Kingship of all Arab countries be thereby increased. Unable, however, openly profess such policy he talks vaguely of conscientious necessity for concentrating all material resources […] to operations Sherifian forces, no other object being worth serious consideration.⁵³  At a conference to evaluate the situation, which took place at the Residency in Cairo on 21 January, Philby emphasized that the conflict, first of all, must be seen as a local one. Ibn Sa’ud objected to Husayn’s pretensions to be more than one of the potentates on the Arabian Peninsula. The former was ‘quite prepared to recognize King Hussein as King of the Hedjaz, but no more grandiose title’. Philby moreover had no doubt that Ibn Sa’ud wished ‘himself to be styled King of Nejd (including Hail) although he has never put forward any specific claim to this’. According to Sir Reginald, everybody in the room agreed on the local origins of the conflict. In line with Lawrence’s and his own earlier observations, Wingate claimed that ‘the most important bone of contention appeared to be the control of the Ataibah whom Abdalla wooed with British gold and Saud with the more dangerous and subtle weapon of Wahabite propaganda’. What made matters worse was that it was ‘impossible to define a hard and fast boundary between Sherifial and Nejdian control of the Ateibah in view of the wide peregrinations of the latter’. Accordingly, the conflict ‘would be insoluble without a display of good-will and consideration by both parties to the dispute’. Failing that, all the authorities in Cairo and Baghdad could do ‘during the war and for long as possible afterwards’, was to ‘impress on their respective protégés the necessity for a policy of “hands off”’ the other’s vital interests’.⁵⁴ Hogarth mentioned in his report on the Syrian question that Hussein had ‘some hope of forcing France’s hand when it comes to the point, and expects us to back him […] He listened to my protestation of our perfect accord with France, and of the latter’s good intentions towards the Arabs, with politeness, but lack of conviction.’⁵⁵ Hussein was apparently confident of ultimate success, but Wingate was less sure in view of the vague formula on Allied support for ultimate Arab unity in the Foreign Office telegram of 4 January. Turkish propaganda exploiting the contents of the Sykes–Picot agreement, which the Bolshevik revolutionaries had made public soon after they had seized power in Petrograd at the end of October 1917, seemed to provide a good opportunity to force the hand of the Foreign Office. Less than a fort- night after Hogarth had conveyed the Foreign Office formulas to Husayn, Wingate telegraphed that there was ‘evidence that Turk propaganda based on recent revelations in Russian press is producing growing uneasiness amongst Arabs about Entente’s intentions for Arab countries […] Latest example is an urgent appeal to me by Emir Abdulla for definite refutation of Jemal Pasha’s assertions, that Palestine and Irak are to be received by British and Syria by French.’ He pointed out that ‘in present critical state of Arab feeling […] vague or general assurances about Arab future are not only ineffectual, but harmful, and that explicit denials of enemy assertions are necessary to restore confidence in Entente’s good intentions’. Wingate therefore urgently requested – ‘the matter presses if enemy propaganda is to be checked’ − the Foreign Office’s sanction to notify Hussein officially:

1.  That His Majesty’s Government is still determined to secure Arab independence and to fulfil promises made through him at the beginning of the Hedjaz revolt.

2.  That His Majesty’s Government will countenance no permanent foreign or European occupation of Palestine, Irak, (except for province of Basrah) or Syria after the war.

3.  That these districts will be in possession of their natives and that foreign interference with Arab countries will be restricted to assistance and protection.⁵⁶

Wingate’s request was referred to the MEC. Before taking a decision, it wanted to receive Sir Percy’s ‘considered opinion on the whole question of future policy in Mesopotamia’.⁵⁷ The latter rather doubted the necessity ‘to make any fresh declaration of our intentions’, but if such a declaration had to be made, then he strongly urged that Mesopotamia was not again, ‘as in the negotiations of 1915 […] treated as a pawn in our negotiations or relations with young Arabs of Egypt and the Sherif, whose comprehensive ambitions in direction of Kingship of all Arabia, have been sufficiently demonstrated in the recent telegraphic correspondence regarding Nejd’.⁵⁸ During the Committee’s meeting on 2 February, Lord Islington, parliamentary under-secretary for India, strongly supported Cox’s objections against any ‘new assurances specifically to Irak’, while Sir Mark explained that ‘the real apprehension at the back of King Hussein’s mind was the accusation which might be cast against him by Moslems, that by his action and cooperation with England he had brought about the replacement of the Moslem by the Christian flag in Arab countries’. The Committee instructed Sykes to draft a reply, which should not be sent before it had been approved by Curzon, Balfour, and the India Office.⁵⁹ The telegram was dispatched on 4 February 1918. Although it referred to promises made to Hussein in line with Wingate’s first clause, it did not contain any specific reference to Pales- tine, Syria or Iraq as future Arab countries. On top of that, although Sykes had wished to state that ‘liberation and not annexation is the policy of H.M.G.’, Hardinge’s Indian reflexes had prevented the words ‘and not annexation’ being included in the telegram. Wingate could transmit the following message to Hussein:

The Turkish policy is evidently to sow distrust between the Powers of the Entente and the Arabs […] by suggesting to the Arabs that the Entente Powers de- sire Arab territory, and to the Powers of the Entente that the Arabs can be turned from their purpose of self liberation […] H.M.G. along with their Allies stand for the Cause of the liberation of the oppressed nations […] H.M.G. reaffirm their former pledges to H.H. in regard to the freeing of the Arab peoples. Liberation is the policy H.M.G. have pursued and intend to pursue with unswerving determination by protecting such Arabs as are already liberated from the danger of reconquest and assisting such Arabs as are still under the yoke of the oppressor to obtain their freedom.⁶⁰

On 11 February, Wingate wired that Hussein had begged him ‘to convey his profound thanks for this expression of sentiments and policy of His Majesty’s Government to- wards Arab cause’.⁶¹ He refrained from commenting on the merits of the message, but two weeks later he could not help complaining to Bassett about ‘the great difficulty the French and British governments have in even adumbrating a clear cut policy’.⁶² Bassett for his part had already indicated that Hussein surely would ‘be well satisfied by the re-affirmation by His Majesty’s Government of their former “pledge”’, but, as Sir Reginald very well knew, the king had ‘read into the terms of that “pledge” very wide territorial boundaries, and professes the most implicit trust in the intention and ability of Great Britain to redeem the “pledge” as he reads it’.⁶³

 

French Participation in the Administration of Palestine

On 1 January 1918, Sykes submitted a memorandum on ‘The Palestine and West Arabia Situation’, in which he noted that ‘a whole crowd of weeds are growing around us’, such as ‘(1) Arab unrest in regard to Zionism. (2) French jealousy in regard to our position in Palestine. (3) Syrian–Hedjaz friction among the Arabs. (4) Franco– Italian jealousy’ and, finally, the accursed ‘Cairo Fashoda spirit’. What caused these weeds to grow up (and here Sykes returned to one of his favorite themes) was that there did not exist in London ‘an executive capable of taking immediate action, guiding policy, and directing and following events under the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs subject to the War Cabinet’. Hardinge, who as viceroy had done his utmost to undermine Sykes’s earlier co-ordination schemes, now, as permanent under- secretary at the Foreign Office, agreed with ‘some of Sir M. Sykes recriminations’ and that it was ‘desirable that some person with knowledge should have charge of problems relating to Palestine and the Hedjaz here in London’. He welcomed ‘the suggestion that Sir M. Sykes should be that person’. Cecil assented,⁶⁴ while Hankey saw no objections to Sykes’s transfer from the War Cabinet secretariat to the Foreign Office.⁶⁵

His appointment as acting adviser on Arabian and Palestine Affairs was subsequently finalized in the middle of January. Sykes’s ambition to become the ‘executive capable of taking immediate action’ with respect to the Middle East would never be realized. A powerful competitor appeared on the scene right away: Curzon. As Cecil confessed to Balfour on 8 January, he had attempted ‘to smother decorously’ the MEC – ‘the function of which seems mainly to be to enable George Curzon and Mark Sykes to explain to each other how very little they know about the subject’ − but had been found out by Curzon, who held ‘strongly to it’. Cecil’s attempt accordingly ‘had to be abandoned. They are now to meet regularly on Saturday mornings: a tune fixed with the hope that it may ultimately prove discouraging to their existence’.⁶⁶

At the MEC’s next meeting, Curzon explained that he ‘had latterly found that a number of questions which had been raised and could advantageously have been discussed by the Committee had been dealt with departmentally. He hoped that in the future the position of the Committee would be placed on a more regular footing and that meetings would be held more frequently.’ Cecil voiced his agreement, but also mentioned Sykes’s appointment in the Foreign Office.⁶⁷

Curzon’s position vis-à-vis Sykes was strengthened even further by the War Cabinet’s decision to merge the MEC with the Persia and the Russia Committee at the beginning of March 1918. This merger originated in a growing dissatisfaction with the way in which Balfour and Cecil were running the Foreign Office. As Hankey noted in his diary on 1 March, ‘as long as Balfour and Cecil remain at the F.O. peace is utterly impossible, owing to their ultra-caution and laziness and lack of drive’. One week later, he recorded an interview with Curzon, in which the latter had complained ‘about the inefficiency of the Foreign Office under Balfour’s régime, which, he said, was losing us the war’. Sir Maurice had replied that ‘to the best of [his] knowledge, the P.M. and all his colleagues shared this view’. Curzon had then wanted to know why the Prime Minister did not make a change. When Hankey had answered that there was the difficulty of ‘finding a suitable successor without taking someone out of the War Cabinet’, Curzon had immediately volunteered to give up his seat. Hankey had reported the conversation to Lloyd George who, until then, ‘had always refused to look at Lord Curzon for the post’, but this time the Prime Minister had wondered ‘what sort of Secretary he would make’?⁶⁸

Lloyd George nevertheless did not want Balfour’s position undermined. As chairman of the new Eastern Committee it was left to Curzon to draft its terms of reference, but ‘care must be taken to safeguard the departmental authority and responsibility of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs’.⁶⁹ One of the problems with which the London authorities were confronted in the first half of 1918 was the very familiar one that ‘the’ Syrians, however internally divided they might be, greatly objected to French pretensions in Syria, which both Syrians and the French understood to include Palestine. The policy line advocated by Sykes was to try and mediate between the two camps, but Wingate in Cairo and Clayton in Jerusalem took the Syrians’ side against the French. They strongly protested against any suggestion coming from London to ameliorate Georges- Picot’s awkward position in Palestine. Giving in to French claims would only increase Syrian anxieties, and could lead to the Syrians definitely throwing in their lot with the Turks. On 15 December 1917, Bertie reported that French foreign minister Stephen Pichon wished that ‘General Allenby will, as soon as possible, establish at Jerusalem mixed administration system provided for in Franco–British Agreement’. That same day, Clayton wrote to Sir Mark on ‘the question of Picot’. The latter claimed that the French and British governments had agreed that he would be ‘the French representative in a joint Anglo– French provisional administration […] in Palestine until the end of the war’. Clayton had ‘heard nothing of it, and I cannot protest too strongly against any such unworkable and mischievous arrangement. The country is under Martial Law and under Martial Law it must remain for a long time to come  probably till the end of the war.’⁷⁰

Graham was of the same opinion. He minuted on Bertie’s telegram that Pichon’s request should be refused ‘at once […] It is without doubt that in the present situation in Palestine with military operations in full swing it would be ridiculous to attempt to institute a mixed administration.’ Hardinge fully agreed – ‘we should be quite firm in resisting any such claims while military operations are in full progress’ – and a telegram in this sense was sent to Bertie on 20 December.⁷¹ According to Cecil, the French were: Dreadfully afraid that we are going to oust them from their traditional guardianship of Near Eastern Christianity. Pichon spoke to me about this and asked me to hasten the establishment of civil government, which by our engagement is to be internationalized. I replied soothingly. It would be a good thing if Allenby could appoint French and Italian officers as governors of some of the holy places – pending a final arrangement on the subject.⁷²  On 30 December, Bertie telegraphed that the ‘French government fully recognise necessity in present circumtances and in view of uncertainty of situation in Palestine of maintaining exclusively military administration’, but that they insisted that it might be possible ‘to give effect to the agreements of December 1916’. This telegram was submitted to Sykes for his observations. He agreed with Lord Robert that some kind of gesture should be made. It would be wise if Allenby ‘of his own accord employed some French officers in civil posts, that it would [serve] at once to calm the French and improve our own position […] M. Gout [Jean Goût, head of the Asian Department in the French ministry of foreign affairs; R.H.L.] and M. Pichon both said that this would suffice’.⁷³ Hardinge concurred, and enquired whether the CIGS could assent ‘to the participation of French and Italian officers in the administration of Palestine’. Robertson saw no objections, and Clayton and Allenby were instructed accordingly, on the understanding that ‘this could only be done if it in no way hampered military operations, nor must we do anything to jeopardise our future political position’.⁷⁴

Although the MEC on 12 January were ‘unanimously of the opinion that the War Office should press General Allenby to carry out the […] suggestion for diplomatic reasons’,⁷⁵ General Macdonogh reported two weeks later that Allenby had replied that it was ‘not practicable to appoint any French or Italian officers to administrative posts in Palestine’. The MEC did not challenge Allenby’s decision.⁷⁶ The issue of Picot’s position subsequently dropped from view, mainly because Picot was not very successful in his efforts to win over the local population to the French cause. On 14 January, Weizmann already wrote to Brandeis that ‘the French are making themselves as disagreeable as possible there. They pose as the conquerors of Palestine, as the Protectors of the Christians, as the modern Crusaders’,⁷⁷ while Clayton gleefully observed to Wingate on 4 February that ‘Pro-British feeling in Palestine, especially in Jerusalem is remarkable and is increasing daily. They say openly in many quarters that of course we have come to stay and they welcome it. A tribute to Picot’s efforts!!’⁷⁸ It seemed that Georges-Picot also gave up trying. On 15 March, Clayton referred to the latter as ‘quiescent but disgruntled’.⁷⁹ Two months later, Clayton even went so far as to suggest that, ‘unless political considerations forbid, it would be desirable from local point of view to put an end definitely to Anglo–French Mission and thereby dispense with necessity of any French Representative until military operations approach the districts where the French have special interests’.⁸⁰ It was precisely in this context that the issue of political desiderata versus military necessities returned to the Eastern Committee’s agenda, especially after Sykes had had a ‘private and personal conference’ with Picot at the beginning of July. According to Sir Mark, Picot had:  Found himself in an impossible position and [had done] his best to maintain his dignity without provoking a real rupture. The French feel that we have made good politically in Palestine by setting up an all-British administration. They now fear we may ex- tend this all-British provisional administration in Syria if the fortune of war carried us there […] I regard it as essential to disabuse the French of any idea of our having ulterior motives in Syria.  Sykes proposed that ‘it would be a proper and graceful act on our part if we were to inform the French that in all matters concerning political relations between the E.E.F. and inhabitants of the areas of special interest to France that we should use the French mission as our medium’, and that Allenby should be instructed to ‘regard the French Commissioner as his political adviser on military- political questions which directly concern these regions’, and that ‘in event of our occupying any part of these areas of special interest to France, we should rely on the French mission to organise and control (with due regard to military decision) any temporary administration which it might be necessary to set up’.⁸¹

At the Eastern Committee’s meeting of 11 July 1918, Sykes defended his proposal, but General Smuts believed that ‘it was impossible to agree to this’.⁸² The discussion was continued a week later. Sir Mark explained that ‘he thought it very necessary to give the French an assurance that if, and when, we get into Syria they will be accorded special privileges’. He ‘quite recognised that any administration […] must be subject to military considerations; but they wanted from us a definite guarantee that we will not treat Syria as we have treated Palestine and take over its government ourselves. If we did not give way on this point he apprehended serious trouble.’ Macdonogh however was ‘quite certain that General Allenby would strongly object to having a French High Commissioner administering Syria when he got there […] No General would like to have foreign administrative officers in charge of “back areas”.’ Where Sykes stressed the vital importance of smoothing French ruffled feelings, Balfour and Montagu emphasised that ‘military considerations must outweigh all others’, and that Allenby must have ‘supreme jurisdiction’. The Committee decided to send a telegram to Allenby ‘asking his opinion as to the steps that would require to be taken to meet French views in the event of his forces advancing into Syria’.⁸³ On 21 July, Macdonogh submitted a draft telegram to the Foreign Office. It was ‘from a political point of view’:

Very desirable that we should be able to give the French assurances that, subject to your supreme authority, French advice would be taken and French assistance accepted in regard to purely administrative affairs in areas of special interest to France in event of their occupation by your forces, but of course it is realised that, in war, military considerations are paramount. I should be glad of your personal opinion and views on this question and hope you may be able to meet the French wishes.⁸⁴

The Foreign Office approved the telegram, and it was sent on 25 July. Allenby reacted the very next day. He was ready to accept, ‘subject to my supreme authority, French advice and assistance in regard to purely administrative affairs so long as they do not conflict with military requirements’.⁸⁵ Curzon was quite satisfied with this reply, as it ‘showed that General Allenby was prepared to accept the Committee’s suggestion in quite the right spirit’,⁸⁶ but both Sykes and Cecil, although they had not objected to the draft telegram, were not yet prepared to give up their position that more was required than accepting ‘French advice and assistance’. After the French Embassy had inquired on 1 August how matters stood with the administration of the territories in the French sphere of influence, they tried to make Allenby’s instructions more specific, and more in line with Sykes’s earlier proposals. Sir Mark drew up a brief memorandum on the ‘French– Syrian question’, as well as two declarations (a third declaration ‘(C), to the King of the Hijaz', was also annexed). These were circulated to the members of the Eastern Committee by Cecil, who expressed his agreement. In the first declaration (A), it was stated that Allenby would recognize Georges-Picot ‘as his adviser on matters pertaining to any administration of a civil character which it may be necessary to set up in such areas’, and would rely on the latter ‘to provide the administrative personnel for the purpose of carrying on the administration’, while in the second declaration (B), in full agreement with the original instructions of the Sykes–Picot mission of February 1917, it was stated that Allenby would consider Georges-Picot ‘as his direct political adviser in regard to any negotiations which it may be necessary to enter into with the native elements permanently inhabiting Syrian areas of special interest to France but still in Turkish occupation’. During the subsequent meeting of the Eastern Committee on 8 August, Cecil again put forward that it was accepted policy that ‘when we entered Syria, to place the French civil administration on the same footing as our own administration in Palestine’, and that it was desirable to demonstrate to the French ‘our disinterestedness’. However, Smuts and Macdonogh would have none of it. In their view, Allenby’s formula was ‘as far as it was necessary to go’, and Cecil had to give in. The Committee decided to request the Foreign Office to re- draft the declarations.⁸⁷

This was done personally by Cecil some ten days later. He decided to drop declaration (B), and in declaration (A) Allenby was merely instructed ‘in the event of the occupation […] of Syrian areas which are of special interest to France’, to be ‘ready to accept French advise and assistance in regard to purely administrative and political affairs so long as they do not conflict with military requirements’.⁸⁸ Despite Sykes’s repeated warnings of possible dire consequences for Anglo– French relations, military exigencies had again trumped French Syrian susceptibilities.  Syria: Syrian, French and Hashemite Ambitions  In his dispatch of 11 June 1917, Wingate had also touched upon the well-known conflict between French and Arab ambitions with respect to Syria, and had argued that Britain was bound to assist ‘the Arab peoples […] in arriving at a solution satisfactory both to the future administrators of the country (i.e. the French) and to its inhabitants’.⁸⁹

Sykes naturally saw things differently. Britain should stand by France and they should together search for a solution that would satisfy both French and Arabs. As he explained in a letter to Clayton at the end of July 1917, ‘there is only one possible policy, the Entente first and last, and the Arab nation the child of the Entente. Get your Englishmen to stand up to the Arabs on this and never let them accept flattering of the “you very good man, him very bad man” kind.’ Clayton assured Sir Mark that he ‘need not be afraid of any Fashodaism’ on his part, and that for him ‘the indissoluble Entente is everything’, but admitted that ‘honestly, I fail to see how the French are ever going to make good their aspirations in Syria (all the indications at present available go to show that they are disliked and distrusted by nearly all sections of the people interested in their proposed sphere)’.⁹⁰ One of the means Sykes considered would ameliorate the situation was that the French government should publicly disavow annexationist designs on Syria and the Lebanon, and declare its support of the Arab nationalist movement. As he wired to Clayton on 26 November, until the idea of France annexing Syria and the Lebanon was ‘squashed you cannot expect enthusiasm or real help. Annexation is contrary to democratic spirit now prevailing in all countries.’⁹¹ Clayton concurred: ‘lack of any definite pronouncement against annexation especially in Syria, is causing distrust and uneasiness’. He also ob- served that ‘as regards Syria there is an impression that we may be only marking time until our military successes place us in a position to hand Syria over to France with as few pledges as possible’. He particularly urged that the French government make ‘a definite pronouncement disclaiming any idea of annexation in Syria (including blue area) and emphasising their intention of assuring liberty of all Syrians and helping them along the path towards independence and government by people’. Graham reacted favorably, ‘the importance of reassuring the Syrians and forestalling possible Turkish manoeuvres is considerable. I believe it would be a good thing if we sent Sir M. Sykes to Paris to discuss matters with the French authorities in this sense.’⁹²

Sykes, for his part, thanked Clayton for his ‘illuminating’ telegram, and informed him that he, in anticipation of Clayton’s suggestion, had already written to Goût in this sense.⁹³ In the middle of December, Sykes was sent to Paris to inquire after the fate of the ‘projet d’arrangement’, and took the opportunity to discuss the matter with Goût. The latter agreed on the desirability of making a declaration, and ‘we accordingly met the Syrian Committee and conjointly delivered the enclosed speeches; Monsieur Gouts observations will I make no doubt have a good effect’. Sykes had emphasized the unity of purpose between Great Britain and France. They were ‘completely united in their policy regarding the non-Turkish parts of the Ottoman Empire’, and there existed no ‘points of divergence or dispute between the two countries’. He had also represented to the Syrians that they must ‘wish that France renders you her indispensable assistance, which a long oppressed people needs before it can walk by itself’. Goût had impressed upon the audience that:  The two Allies reject all ideas of colonial domination and are determined, each in its own sphere of action, to guide the Arabic-speaking populations and all those speaking other languages inhabiting the regions extending from the Anatolian Mountains to the Indian Ocean to a regime of autonomy and civil development with mutual respect between the religions and the nationalities. Guide to a better future, arbiter between religious and ethnic groups, friendly counsellor of civilisation, this is the role that France and Great Britain are prepared to take up, the one in the north and the other in the south.⁹⁴  On 16 February 1918, Wingate wired to London that he had seen a copy of the newspaper Al Mustakbil, which was published in France, containing the two speeches. He presumed that he was ‘at liberty to make full use of these important pronouncements on Anglo–French policy. Their publication will have good effect on local Syrians.’ On the suggestion of Sykes the Foreign Office replied in the affirmative.⁹⁵

Communicating the speeches to leading Syrians in Cairo had, however, not the expected benevolent effect. As Wingate confided to Clayton, ‘the apparent coalition of the Moslem and Christian sections against French initiative rather surprised me by its vehemence’.⁹⁶ He in- formed the Foreign Office that the reception had been ‘decidedly unfavourable’, and explained that the source of the Syrians’ ‘hostility is almost ineradicable belief that however liberal and rational may be a French programme its execution will be left to capitalists and clericals to the detriment of conception of ambition of greater Syria […] Many Moslems make no secret of their preference to re- main under Turk rather than to come under France.’ Harold Nicolson complained of ‘the culpability of the Egyptian Intelligence Department’, and Sir Mark squarely laid the blame for this fiasco with the Cairo authorities. He minuted that ‘Sir R. Wingate has not General Clayton’s knowledge and his staff is composed of either purely Hejaz specialists or not the best men’.⁹⁷ Sykes also wrote to Clayton that he:

Might point out to the Syrian Committee in Cairo that it took me all my time to get Gout to repudiate once for all every idea of annexation. You might also tell them that it is not encouraging if one gets the French to adopt a more liberal line than they have ever adopted before, to find that this is not met with any response on their side. The best way to solve the problem was that ‘we should do our utmost to encourage the advance of Faisal in Syria. The moment an opportunity arises, of establishing direct touch with Faisal we should take advantage of the event to recognise Arab independence on Arab soil.’ When due publicity was given to this ‘fait accompli’ this ‘should do much to satisfy Arab sentiment, pull the Syrians together force the French into adopting a policy which would do them some good instead of harm’.⁹⁸

This was again wishful thinking on Sykes’s part because of the one thing Syrians – Muslims and Christians alike − dreaded just as much as French designs on Syria were Hashemite designs on the country. On 2 November 1917, Wingate informed Balfour that ‘progress of revolt has shown very clearly that Shereef is not likely to put up any form of government which would be acceptable in Syria, either to Christians or Moslems, and it appears improbable that such personal aspirations as he may have in that area can ever be realised’, and although many Syrians regarded Faysal ‘as possible head of a Syrian–Arab State’, the ‘idea of a pure Sherifian government is distasteful to all classes and whatever Arab government is instituted in Syria can never be more than nominally under Meccan control or Suzerainty’.⁹⁹ Clayton also recognized the difficulty. At the end of November, he telegraphed to Sykes that there was ‘no doubt’ that there existed ‘a very real fear amongst Syrians of finding themselves under a government in which patriarchalism of Mecca is predominant. They realise that reactionary principles from which Sherif of Mecca cannot break loose are incompatible with progress on modern lines.’ He, therefore, urged that the British should ‘avoid any impression that we intend to force Sherif of Mecca or any Sherifian form of government on peoples who are unwilling to accept him’.¹⁰⁰

Wingate chimed in the next day by stating that ‘King Hussein has in no degree abated his original pretensions concerning Syria and apparently still nourishes illusion that through the good offices of His Majesty’s Government he may be installed as, at any rate nominally, overlord of greater part of the country’, but he was sanguine that the whole problem would never materialize as the ‘inefficiency of the Hedjaz Administration is a practical guarantee against the spread of Meccan patriachialism’.¹⁰¹ Clayton for his part saw a light at the opposite end of the tunnel. Fear of Zionist ambitions might induce the Syrians and the Hashemites to unite. As he explained to Gertrude Bell at the beginning of December 1917, ‘up to date the Syrian Arab has shown the utmost distaste for any idea of a government in which Meccan patriarchalism has any influence. Hence a lack of real sympathy with the Sherif. Fear of the Jew may cause rapproachment.’¹⁰² An opportunity to tackle Syrian dislike of the Hashemites and aversion to the French seemed to offer itself in the form of an address by seven ‘Syrian Politicians and exiles resident in Egypt’ that Wingate received in the first week of May 1918. He reported to Balfour that from his ‘knowledge of their personalities and antecedents I should say they were well qualified to represent Syrian Moslem opinion in Egypt’, and that they asked ‘for a guarantee of the ultimate independence of Arabia – in which term they comprise, besides the Arabian Peninsula, the Gezira, Syria, Mesopotamia, Mosul and a large part of the province of DiarBekr – as a condition to their energetic action with their fellow countrymen on behalf of the Allies and against the Turks’. Sir Reginald realized that Britain could not ‘give the far-reaching guarantees they ask for’, but he felt ‘strongly that we should be ill-advised to ignore the aspirations towards independence and eventual political union’. He also believed – and here Wingate returned to a favorite theme – that ‘it would be advantageous to supplement, if possible, the very general – and in native eyes, vague and consequently unsatisfactory – lines of our declared policy in regard to the future of Arab peoples’. One of the reasons the seven Syrians presented their address was that they wanted to be provided with ammunition to counter the ‘sarcastic’ reproach made ‘by some Egyptians’ that their allies France and England ‘have concluded amongst themselves an agreement to divide your territory into two zones, the North of which is to be under French influence and the South to be under British’. They therefore inquired whether they could ‘assure our people that it is the aim of the British government that the Arabs should enjoy complete independence in Arabia?’

Their other worry was the relationship with Hussein, and accordingly, they also wished to know whether it was British policy ‘to assist the inhabitants of these countries to attain their complete independence and the composing of an Arab government decentralised  like the United States of America?’ They claimed that ‘the Syrians, though only too glad to form part of the Arab Federal government, have […] for a long time previous to the war, been working to apply the principle of decentralisation to Syria’, and that although ‘the source of the Arab revolution appeared in the Hedjaz its corner stone was Syria and it had the greater share in the intellectual movement’.¹⁰³ The dispatch reached London four weeks later. It was left to Sykes to draw up a reply. This time Sir Mark was prepared to oblige Wingate. On 11 June a telegram was sent to Cairo, approved by Hardinge, but not sub- mitted to the Eastern Committee (it received a copy for its information), which stated that:

The areas mentioned in the memorandum fall into four categories.

1.  Areas in Arabia which were free and independent before the outbreak of the war.

2.  Areas emancipated from Turkish control by the action of the Arabs themselves during the present war.

3.  Areas formerly under Ottoman dominion, occupied by the Allied forces during the present war.

4.  Areas still under Turkish control. In regard to the first two categories, His Majesty’s Government recognise the complete and sovereign independence of the Arabs inhabiting these areas and support them in their struggle for freedom. In regard to the areas occupied by the Allied forces […] It is the wish and desire of His Majesty’s Government that the future government of these regions should be based upon the principle of the con- sent of the governed and this policy has and will continue to have the support of His Majesty’s Government. In regard to the areas mentioned in the fourth category, it is the wish and desire of His Majesty’s Government that the oppressed peoples of these areas should obtain their freedom and independence and towards the achievement of this object His Majesty’s Government continue to labour.¹⁰⁴

A fortnight later, Wingate reported that Hogarth had met with two of the seven Syrians. He had read out a statement in which categories one and two, and three and four, had been put together. Regarding the first group, ‘Arab lands [that] have long enjoyed or recently attained in arms complete and sovereign independence’, Hogarth had proclaimed that the British government fully recognized their sovereignty, while with respect to the second, ‘the other Arab lands […] still occupied by the troops of the Allies or by the enemy’, he had declared that ‘His Majesty’s Government hopes and trusts that freedom will be established and that after the war a settlement will be arrived at in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants’. Hogarth’s statement had been well received: ‘one of the signatories expressed his great gratification’. The other had wished to know ‘if such governments as the Arabs might set up would be recognised by His Majesty’s Government?’ Hogarth had replied in the affirmative, provided these were ‘properly established and effective’.¹⁰⁵

The reply to the memorandum of the seven Syrians drafted by Sykes had not addressed the question of the relations between Syria and the Hijaz. This was one of the reasons why Sir Mark and Georges-Picot decided during their private conference at the beginning of July that yet another declaration, this time a joint one to the King of the Hijaz, was needed. The major advantages of a declaration of this kind, so Sykes explained in a memorandum on 3 July 1918, were first that it ‘would dispel for good and all the idea that we are endeavouring to secure Syria as a French Colony’, and second that ‘it will be seen that we in no way commit ourselves to any idea of a Pan Arab Empire which is so detestable to Syrians and others and makes the King of the Hejaz’s cause less popular than it would otherwise be’. Sir Mark admitted that the proposed declaration was ‘susceptible of amendment’, but believed that ‘if in substance it is presented to the King of Hejaz and the main lines of it indicated when and where occasion required, our position vis-à-vis the Arabic speaking peoples will be improved, and we shall be rid of a constantly recurring difficulty’. They proposed the following declaration:

The governments of Great Britain and France desire jointly to inform the Government of Hejaz that their policy in regard to the Arabic speaking peoples of Arabia, Syria, Jazirah, and Irak is as follows:

1.  In such areas as were free before the war the governments recognise and reaffirm the existing freedom and independence of the inhabitants.

2.  In such areas as have been liberated since the war by the efforts of the inhabitants, the two governments recognise the complete and sovereign independence of the inhabitants of those regions.

3.  With regard to such areas as are now occupied by the Allied forces it is the intention and desire of the two governments that those areas should be permanently delivered from the oppression under which they formerly suffered, and that their future government should be based upon the principle of the consent of the governed.

4.  With regard to areas still subject to Ottoman oppression it is the desire of the two governments that the inhabitants of these areas should be delivered from the oppression to which they are now subjected, and that the inhabitants should be put into a position to decide upon forms of government which appear most suitable for the various regions with due regard to the maintenance of security and order.

5.  The two governments desire to make it clear to the Government of Hejaz and to the Arabic speaking peoples above mentioned, that on the part of neither government has there ever been any intention of annexing these areas nor of disposing of them, nor allowing them to be disposed of by any other party, in any way other than is desired by the populations thereof.¹⁰⁶

Sykes did not think that ‘we are sacrificing anything by making such a declaration, and it is in fact only slightly different from one His Majesty’s Government made to the Arab memorialists’, but this was not quite true. Paragraph 5 had not figured in the Declaration to the Seven. It was a further attempt by Sykes to push through a ‘no annexation’ policy, and it was immediately stopped.¹⁰⁷ In yet another memorandum on the subject prepared for the Eastern Committee, Sykes had already foreseen that people might object to ‘the no-annexation clause’,¹⁰⁸ and sure enough Curzon did not fail to do so at the Committee’s meeting on 15 July. He pointed out that ‘in the reply which His Majesty’s Government had sent on the 11th June to the memorial of seven Syrians in Egypt, no disclaimer of annexation had been made, whereas in Sir Mark Sykes paper […] the words “no intention of annexing”, which had been introduced, appeared gratuitously to raise the question of Basra’.¹⁰⁹

At the Committee’s next meeting, Curzon returned to the attack, ‘it was quite gratuitous to volunteer pledges now for which no one had asked’, and it was decided to delete from paragraph 5 the ‘no annexation’ clause. The rest of the declaration fared even worse. Smuts thought that ‘confusion was bound to be caused by the varying formulae adopted in several paragraphs of the draft declaration’, and Cecil agreed. He suggested that ‘the first four paragraphs of the declaration might be eliminated’. Sykes stressed the importance of inducing ‘the French to associate themselves with us in some such declaration’, but in Montagu’s opinion a joint declaration on the Middle East should be avoided. He wondered ‘whether it was desirable, as proposed in the preamble, to associate ourselves in any way with the French in a declaration that embraced Mesopotamia with which the French had nothing to do’. The Eastern Committee, in the end, decided to replace the preamble and the five paragraphs with the following formula:

The Governments of Great Britain and France desire to make it clear to the Government of the Hejaz, and Arabic-speaking peoples of Arabia, Syria, Jazirah, and Irak, that on the part of neither government has there ever been any intention of disposing of these areas, or of allowing them to be disposed of by any other party, in any way other than as desired by the population thereof.¹¹⁰  Sykes had again suffered a resounding defeat in the Eastern Committee.

 

Palestine: Syrian, Zionist and Hashemite Ambitions

In August 1917, Clayton had already prophesied in a letter to Sykes that it would ‘not help matters if the Arabs – already somewhat distracted between pro-Sherefians and those who fear Meccan domination, as also between pro- French and anti-French are given yet another bone of contention in the shape of Zionism in Palestine as against the interests of the Moslems resident there’.¹¹¹ On 6 December 1917, the French embassy in London communicated a telegram from Picot for Sykes in which the former observed that it was evident from: ‘all conversations I have had here since my arrival, that Mr Balfour’s declarations on the subject of Zionism have provoked considerable emotion among the Syrian Arabs’, and warned that whatever demonstrations of Zionist and Arabian cooperation and solidarity were organized in England, ‘they do not correspond to any reality here’. Clayton informed Sykes a few days later that he agreed ‘in principle’ with Picot’s telegram, and that ‘in spite of all arguments Mecca dislikes Jews […] while Arabs of Syria and Palestine fear repetition of story of Jacob and Esau’. Sykes would have none of this. The Balfour declaration, so he claimed in a telegram to Picot that Hardinge considered ‘a good reply’:

Amply safeguards local Arab interests. Jews at all meetings emphasise necessity, not only of cordial cooperation against common Turkish enemy but emphasise their firm intention and determination of paying scrupulous attention to Arab rights and interests in land matters. I am convinced, from what I have seen, as is every Arab, and they are many, who has come in contact with S. and W. [Sokolow and Weizmann; R.H.L.], that the fears which you inform me of are unfounded.¹¹²

Picot’s and Clayton’s warnings seemed only to strengthen the case for a Zionist commission headed by Weizmann to be sent out to Palestine as soon as possible. On 17 December 1917, Weizmann submitted a brief note on the status and the objects of the commission. The commission’s status should be that of ‘an advisory body to the British Authorities in Palestine in all matters relating to Jews or which may affect the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish people in accordance with the Declaration of His Majesty’s Government’. Weizmann distinguished six objectives, the fifth of which was ‘to help in establishing friendly relations with the Arabs and other non-Jewish communities’.¹¹³ The MEC discussed the project during its meeting on 19 January. Its members were not so much concerned with the effectuation of the Balfour declaration as with, and in line with Sykes’s point of view, ‘the necessity of bringing the British authorities in Egypt and Palestine and the Arabs into contact with the responsible leaders of the organisation’.

This had the result that, although the committee approved the dispatch of the Zionist Commission, Weizmann’s statement on the status of the commission with its explicit link with the Balfour declaration was deleted, and that ‘to help in establishing friendly relations between the Jews on the one hand, and the Arabs and other non-Jewish communities on the other’ became the commission’s first objective. It was also decided that a political officer should be attached to the commission, who would be responsible to Clay- ton.¹¹⁴ Two weeks later, Sir Mark, in view of several letters he had received ‘from Palestine showing that the local Zionists and Jews were inclined to complicate matters with their Arab neighbours’, urged the commission’s early departure, but it was not until the beginning of March that it finally left England for Egypt and Palestine. In the meantime, William Ormsby Gore had been appointed political officer with the commission. His instructions did not contain any reference to the Balfour Declaration. The commission’s first task was to get ‘in touch with the Arab leaders and representatives of other communities in Palestine’. It should also investigate ways to prevent ‘land speculation during the continuance of the war’, as well as the ‘re-opening (of) Zionist banks in Jaffa and Jerusalem subject to the approval of the military authorities’.¹¹⁵

 

Chaim Weizmann’s visit to Palestine.

Weizmann's first visit to Palestine was in 1907, a decade before the Balfour Declaration.

"This morning I returned from a tour of the Hebrew colonies in Judea," Weizmann wrote to his wife, Vera. "Seeing all that was created by Jewish hands, watching the blooming gardens now after twenty years of hard work, seeing them replace the sands and the swamps, seeing Jewish farmers – that feeling is worth living for." (The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann Vol. V Series A January 1907-February 1913, 1974.)

The Zionist Commission arrived in Alexandria on 20 March 1918. Kinahan Cornwallis, director of the Arab Bureau, reported a month later that, before the commission’s arrival, among ‘leading Syrians and Palestinians’ there had existed ‘a deeply felt fear that the Jews not only intended to assume the reins of Government in Palestine but also to expropriate or buy up during the war large tracts of lands owned by Moslems and others, and gradually to force them from the country’. Naturally, British officers had done ‘everything possible’ to allay these fears, but it had not helped that they had been ignorant ‘of the exact programme of the Zionists’. This unsatisfactory state of affairs had been explained to Weizmann upon his arrival, and the latter had ‘lost no time in meeting the leading Syrians and Palestinians’, and had elucidated the Zionist aims. It was:  His ambition to see Palestine governed by some stable government like that of Great Britain, that a Jewish government would be fatal to his plans and that it was simply his wish to provide a home for the Jews in the Holy Land where they could live their own national life, sharing equal rights with the other inhabitants.  Weizmann had also assured them that ‘he had no intention of taking advantage of the present conditions caused by the war by buying up land’, but merely wished ‘to pro- vide for future emigrants by taking up waste and crown lands of which there were ample for all sections of the community’. Cornwallis concluded that ‘this frank avowal of Zionist aims has produced a considerable revulsion of feeling amongst the Palestinians, who have for the first time come into contact with Jews of good standing’. Admittedly ‘suspicion still remains in the minds of some’, but he did not doubt that it would ‘gradually disappear if the Commission continues its present attitude of conciliation’.¹¹⁶

Clayton was also full of praise for Weizmann’s performance. He wrote to Sykes on 4 April that ‘we are all struck with his intelligence and openness and the Commander-in-Chief has evidently formed a high opinion of him. I feel convinced that many of the difficulties which we have encountered owing to the mutual distrust and suspicion between Arabs and Jews will now disappear.’¹¹⁷ Fourteen days later, Clayton assured Sykes that he ‘personally’ was in favor of Zionism, and that he was ‘convinced that it is one of our strongest cards’, but that Sykes, with his ‘knowledge of all that has taken place in the past in this area’, would agree with him on ‘the necessity of caution if we are to bring that policy to a successful conclusion’, especially since, as Clayton explained to Balfour that same day, British officers experienced ‘some difficulties in consequence of the fact that up to date our policy has been directed towards securing Arab sympathy in view of our Arab Commitments. It is not easy therefore to switch over to Zionism all at once in the face of a considerable degree of Arab distrust and suspicion.’ He reiterated this point to Wingate three days later. It was ‘not an easy thing […] to endeavour to bring together two parties and policies whose aims hitherto have been almost diametrically opposed. It is all very well for people at home to give vent to high-sounding sentiments but we are up against the practical difficulties.’ He could only hope that London ‘should leave the execution of the policy to us here […] and not rush us’. But there was more. Clayton saw himself first of all as a champion of the Arab cause. He could not ‘conscientiously carry out any line of policy which will go against our pledges to the Arabs’. At the same time he felt bound to say that ‘so far things have gone excellently well and a “rapprochement” between Arabs and Jews looks far more probable than I had ever anticipated […] Weizmann himself is very tactful and good with them.’¹¹⁸ This was a conclusion Ormsby Gore could subscribe to. Even though Weizmann at times was ‘too fanatical and too partisan and uncompromising’, all in all he was ‘doing well. He is very fair and reasonable with the Arabs, and rules his own people with a big stick.’¹¹⁹

The first high point of Weizmann’s attempts to soothe the Palestinian leaders was a speech he delivered at a dinner party organized by Storrs on 27 April. The latter reported three days later that Weizmann:  Read aloud the speech a copy of which is attached. It will be seen that the document is a frank, and, from the Arab point of view, somewhat drastic exposition of the theme ‘back to the land’ with the subtle distinction that the land in question is not for the moment the national property of those who propose to go back to it. From an oratorical point of view the speech was not impressive being neither rhetorically nor, as English, accurately pronounced […] It is my opinion, without wishing to over-estimate the results of an evening’s enthusiasm, that much good has already been done, and more may follow, as the result of these frank and friendly exchanges of programmes.¹²⁰  Ormsby Gore agreed with Storrs’s last observation. He was confident that ‘relations between Jews and Arabs show a distinct change for the better’, and considered that Weizmann’s ‘speech exactly fitted the requirements of the local situation and occasion’.¹²¹

In his report on his interviews with Hussein, Hogarth had already hinted at a possible deal between the Hashemites and the Zionists. According to Hogarth, the king ‘probably knows little or nothing of the actual or possible economy of Palestine and his ready assent to Jewish settlement there is not worth very much. But I think he appreciates the financial advantage of Arab cooperation with the Jews.’¹²²

On 2 April, Clayton noted ‘a certain distrust of Zionist aims’ on the part of Faysal, and stressed the desirability of a meeting with Weizmann so that the Emir could be ‘reassured in regard to the scope of the Zionist movement’.¹²³ This meeting finally took place at Faisal’s headquarters in the neighborhood of Akaba on 4 June. According to Clayton, Weizmann was ‘much pleased with result’. At first sight this seemed a bit puzzling, because Faisal claimed that he was in no position ‘to express definite opinions on political questions as he was merely his father’s agent in such matters’, and felt unable ‘to discuss the future of Palestine’, but what counted was that Faysal had twice stressed the ‘necessity of close cooperation between Jews and Arabs especially at present time’, and ‘for mutual benefit of both’.¹²⁴

Colonel P.C. Joyce, who acted as interpreter, gave it as his ‘private opinion that Feisal really welcomed Jewish cooperation and considered it essential to future Arab ambitions’. Joyce had also gained the impression that ‘Feisal fully realises the future possibility of a Jewish Palestine and would probably accept it if it assisted Arab expansion further north’.¹²⁵ After his meeting with Faisal, Weizmann proceeded to Alexandria, where he had several conversations with Wingate’s confidant Major Stewart Symes. At the time, Symes was struggling with the problem that ‘the three policies – Zionist, Syrian and Sherifial – […] present several points of conflict’, and that ‘until and unless we can find a common basis of agreement between them there is serious danger of their disagreement being exploited to our (British) and Arabs disadvantage at the Peace Conference’. On 9 June, Weizmann had a conversation with Symes during which he ‘stigmatised the Palestinian Arabs as a demoralised race with whom it was impossible to treat: and contrasted their type with Feisal – a true Prince and a man “whom one would be proud to have as an enemy and would welcome as a friend”’. Symes subsequently reported to Wingate his ‘impression that W. had it in mind to bargain with the Sherifials for a free hand with the Palestinians’. The next day, Weizmann returned to this theme and, finally, ‘with all diffidence’ put forward ‘a suggestion which had occurred to him “as the result of much thought on the subject”’, which he had already ‘mentioned to General Clayton’. The bargain Weizmann had in mind was:  Shortly, that, recognising that the King of the Hedjaz was the Head of the Arab Movement, the Zionists, acting as a private organization, should deal direct with him and should offer:

(a)  Financial and, if necessary, other assistance for the establishment of the Kingdom of the Hedjaz.

Support in Europe and America of Syrian autonomy, without French or an enemy’s power’s intervention, but with British assistance as may be desired by the Sherifial and Syrian factions:

In return for:

Recognition of Zionist aims in Palestine.

Weizmann realized that he should ‘obtain President Wilson’s support’, but once he had this, he would convene a Jewish congress in Jerusalem, which ‘would ask for a British Protectorate over Palestine and publicly declare their alliance with the Sherifials and their support of the Syrians’ aspirations for autonomy, with or without Sherifial Suzerainty, and under British (not French) guidance. Symes was all in favor of Weizmann’s proposed bargain, in particular considering that the main bone of contention ‘between the Sherifials and the Syrians may be eliminated by the offer by the latter of their Emirate to Feisal’. This was the common basis he had been looking for, and it seemed that ‘a working agreement mutually advantageous and politically efficient might be reached between these three parties’. However, nothing would come of this unless ‘our obligations to France under the Sykes-Picot agreement were finally repudiated and all idea of conserving the privileges of the Palestine Arabs abandoned’.¹²⁶

Wingate extensively quoted Symes’s note in a long dispatch on the extent to which ‘King Hussein’s policy can be reconciled with other leading factors in the situation’. His starting point was Weizmann’s suggestion that Arab recognition of Zionist aspirations in Palestine was possible if the Zionists for their part gave financial aid and other assistance to the Hijaz, and supported ‘Syrian aims and sympathies’ in Europe and America. In an attempt not to offend Sykes’s well-known sensibilities, Wingate prudently deleted Weizmann’s original references to an autonomous Syria without French intervention and with British assistance. He also toned down Symes’s verdict that the Sykes–Picot agreement had to be repudiated. According to Sir Reginald, a reconciliation of Syrian, Hashemite and Zionist ambitions could only be attained ‘if our formal obligations to France respecting Syria are regarded as no longer binding’. He also did not mention Weizmann’s intention of organizing a Jewish congress in Jerusalem that would publicly declare support for Syrian autonomy under British guidance. How- ever, all this was of no avail. The only thing that Sir Mark picked up when he read Wingate’s dispatch was the anti- French nature of the proposed arrangement. The most ardent advocate of ‘the Entente first and last’ angrily minuted that:

Sir R. Wingate’s Despatch and Dr Weizmann’s indicated policy show a decided anti-French tendency. Dr Weizmann’s ideas are naturally based on a Zionist and not a British hypothesis, it is easy to see that he would naturally prefer an all British policy because if Great Britain is behind Zionism and at the same time runs Damascus, Mecca and Baghdad, there is a fine opportunity for the Zionist element to have a preponderating influence in all the countries surrounding Palestine […] We have to bear in mind that French interest in Syria is no imaginary thing and that it must be reckoned with from an Entente point of view.  The only ‘real way’ of dealing with the Syrian difficulty was ‘(a) for the French to come out with a real assurance of Syrian independence […] (b) for us to assure the Syrians that we concur in and support French policy, that we are not going to quarrel with our Allies to please Syrian politicians.’ Everything depended ‘on two things (1) the initial sincerity of Great Britain and France (2) Their capacity to resist temptation in the future’.

Hardinge minuted that ‘we must certainly take steps to correct some of Sir R. Wingate’s ideas and […] point out our complete detachment from Syria and the danger of encouraging any exclusive pro-British sympathies […] It would be very advantageous to get from the French a declaration of policy regarding Syria that would satisfy King Hussein, but it would not be easy to obtain’. Cecil concurred: ‘we should aim at settling with the French on the basis that they publicly and definitely renounce all idea of annexing or occupying Syria and that we recognise that it is outside our and inside their sphere of interest’. This position ‘must be made very clear to Sir R. Wingate […] Finally we must confine Zionist activities to Palestine. Dr Weizmann is an enthusiast which means that he looks only at one side of the problem and he must be controlled.’ However desirable, a dispatch once again impressing upon Wingate Britain’s complete disinterestedness in Syria was not sent, because Cecil first wanted a ‘very short memorandum […] stating in the form of definite propositions our policy’. Sykes subsequently drew up a Memorandum on Eastern Policy on 2 August, containing a list of eight proposals,¹²⁷ but the next day this memorandum was replaced by Sykes’s very brief memorandum on the ‘French–Syrian question’ to which the two draft declarations (A) and (B) , as well as the pruned version of the ‘declaration to the King of Hedjaz’ were annexed. After the Eastern Committee had rejected draft declarations (A) and (B), neither Sykes, Hardinge, nor Cecil did return to the subject that Wingate should be told to obliterate from his mind any thought of exploiting Syrian, Zionist and Hashemite anti-French sentiment to Great Britain’s advantage.

The ‘Arab revolt’, Britain, and the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East.

Mark Sykes returned to England where, almost immediately, he was thrust into negotiations with M. Charles François Georges-Picot, French counselor in London and former French consul general in Beirut, to try to harmonize Anglo-French interests in ‘Turkey-in-Asia’. Picot on the other hand had ‘expressed complete incredulity as to the projected Arab kingdom, said that the Sheikh had no big Arab chiefs with him, that the Arabs were incapable of combining, and that the whole scheme was visionary. 'The Arab question and the ‘shocking document’ that shaped the Middle East.

The rebellion sparked by the Hussein-McMahon correspondence; the Sykes-Picot agreement; and memoranda such as the Balfour Declaration all have shaped the Middle East into forms which would have been unrecognizable to the diplomats of the 19th century. The Menace of Jihad and How to Deal with It.

The below mentioned Foreign Office (FO) documents can be searched and read online, here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/foreign-commonwealth-correspondence-and-records-from-1782

 

1.T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph (London, 1977: Penguin), p. 113; cf. also Général E. Brémond, Le Hedjaz dans la guerre mondiale (Paris, 1931: Payot), pp. 35–44, and Dan Eldar, ‘French policy towards Husayn, Sharif of Mecca’, Middle Eastern Studies, 26 (1990), pp. 337–8.

2.  Tel. Wilson to Wingate, no. W. 394, 24 October 1916, Wingate Papers, box 141/3.

3. G.O.C.-in-C., Egypt to D.M.I, no. I.A. 2629, 17 November 1916, Cab 42/24/8; cf. also Eldar, ‘French policy’, p. 339.

4. McMahon to Hardinge, 21 November 1916, Hardinge Papers, vol. 27.

5. Murray to Robertson, 28 November 1916, Add. Mss. 52462.

6. Tel. Wingate to Grey, no. 29, 23 November 1916, FO 371/2776/236128.

7. See Grey to Bertie, no. 779, 22 November 1916, FO 371/2776/232712.

8. Minute Clerk, 23 November 1916, FO 371/2776/ 236128.

9. Sykes to Hardinge, 21 November 1916, minutes Clerk, 22 November 1916, and Hardinge, not dated, and tel. Hardinge to Wingate, private, 24 November 1916, FO 371/2779/233854.

10. Tel. Wingate to Hardinge, private, 27 November 1916, Wingate Papers, box 143/4.

11. Wingate to Balfour, private, 11 February 1917, and minutes Hardinge, not dated, Graham, 24 February 1917, and Balfour, not dated, FO 371/3044/40845.

12. See also Roberta M. Warman, ‘The erosion of Foreign Office influence in the making of foreign policy, 1916–1918’, The Historical Journal, 15/1 (1972), pp. 133–59.

13. Sykes to Wingate, 6 March 1917, Sykes Papers, box 2.

14. Sykes to Graham, no. 23, in tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 497, 8 May 1917, and tel. Balfour to Bertie, no. 1243, 12 May 1917, FO 371/3051/93348.

15. French Embassy to Foreign Office, 16 May 1917, reprinted in John Fisher, Curzon and British Imperialism in the Middle East 1916–1919 (London, 1999: Frank Cass), pp. 313–16, tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 540, 29 May 1917, and minutes Graham, 21 May 1917 and Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3056/100065.

16. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 583, 3 June 1917, minutes Oliphant, 4 June 1917, Graham, not dated, tels Balfour to Wingate, no. 571, 5 June 1917, and Balfour to Bertie, no. 1521, 7 June 1917, FO 371/3056/110589.

17. Wingate to Balfour, no. 127, 11 June 1917, FO 371/3054/125564, and tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 609, 10 June 1917, FO 371/3054/115603.

18. Wingate to Balfour, no. 127, 11 June 1917, FO 371/3054/125564.

19. Minute Sykes, 22 June 1917, on tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 609, 10 June 1917, Cab 21/60.

20. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 696, 3 July 1917, minutes Graham and Hardinge, not dated, FO 371/3056/131922.

21. See Nicolson, ‘Draft for a Note to the French ambassador’, 14 June 1917, FO 371/3056/132784.

22. Drummond to Hankey, 7 July 1917, Cab 21/60.

23. Minutes War Cabinet, 13 July 1917, Cab 23/3.

24. Minutes Hardinge and Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3056/165801.

25. Sykes to Graham, not dated, and Clerk to Hardinge, 28 August 1917, minute Hardinge, not dated, FO 371/3044/168691.

26. Memorandum French Embassy, 18 September 1917, minutes Graham and Hardinge, not dated, and tel. Balfour to Bertie, no. 2387, 26 September 1917, FO 371/3056/181851.

27. Minutes Clerk, 8 October 1917, and Hardinge, not dated, on ‘Projet d’Arrangement’, 3 October 1917, FO 371/3056/191542.

28. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1152, 4 December 1917, FO 371/3056/227997.

29. Instructions to Sir Mark Sykes, 17 December 1917, FO 371/3056/239988.

30. See Sykes, Report on visit to Paris, 25 December 1917, FO 371/3056/245878.

31. I.O. to F.O., no. P.74, 15 January 1918, minutes Sykes and Hardinge, not dated, and tel. Balfour to Bertie, no. 140, 18 January 1918, FO 371/ 3380/9495.

32. Tel. Bertie to Balfour, no. 100, 20 January 1918, FO 371/3380/12438.

33. Lloyd to Wingate, private, 2 Feb 1918, Wingate Papers, box 148/5.

34. Wilson to Clayton, 24 May 1917, FO 882/16.

35. Sykes to Cox, 22 May 1917, in tel. Cox to S.S.I., no. 1837, 24 May 1917, FO 371/3054/108249.

36. Tel. Cox to S.S.I., 2 June 1917, FO 371/3054/119702.

37. G.O.C.-in-C., Force ‘D’ to C.I.G.S., 5 January 1916, encl. in I.O. to F.O., no. P.72/16, 7 January 1916, FO 371/2769/4650.

38. Lawrence, ‘the Politics of Mecca’, encl. in McMahon to Grey, no. 25, 7 February 1916, FO 371/2771/30673.

39. Cox to Arbur (Cairo), 9 September 1916, encl. in I.O. to F.O., no. P.365/5, 13 September 1916, FO 371/2769/182436.

40. See Lawrence, note, 29 July 1917, encl. in Wingate to Balfour, no. 179, 16 August 1917, FO 371/3054/174974.

41. Wingate to Balfour, no. 315, 23 December 1917, FO 371/3380/12076.

42. Tel. Cox to viceroy, 30 October 1917, FO 371/ 3061/209456.

43. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1037, 5 November 1917, FO 371/3061/205968.

44. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1198, 12 November 1917, FO 371/3061/216252.

45. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1241, 21 November 1917, FO 371/3061/222650.

46. Tel. Cox to Wingate, 15 December 1917, FO 371/ 3061/239273.

47. See Briton Cooper Busch, Britain, India, and the Arabs 1914–1921 (Berkeley, 1971: University of California Press), p. 254.

48. At the end of December, Storrs was in Jerusalem. Neville Travers Borton, former governor of the Red Sea Province and postmaster-general, Egypt, had been appointed military governor of Jerusalem on the recommendation of Clayton and Wingate. However, he suffered a nervous breakdown and resigned on 25 December. Storrs was appointed in his place a few days later.

49. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1403, 27 December 1917, FO 371/3061/244397.

50. Wingate to Clayton, Strictly Private & Personal, 3 January 1918, Wingate Papers, box 148/2.

51. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1418, 31 December 1917, minute Hardinge, not dated, and tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 24, 4 January 1918, FO 371/3054/245810.

52. Hogarth, REPORT ON MISSION TO JEDDAH, 15 January 1918, FO 371/3383/25577.

53.Tel. Cox to viceroy, no. P. 389, 13 January 1918, 53 FO 371/3383/10166.

54.ARABIAN AFFAIRS, Private note of meeting held at The Residency, Cairo, at 10.30 am on 21st January 1918 (underlining in original), Wingate Papers, box 148/1.

55. Hogarth, REPORT ON MISSION TO JEDDAH, 15 January 1918, FO 371/3383/25577.

56. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 154, 22 January 1918, FO 371/3380/14373.

57. Minutes Middle East Committee, 26 January 1918, Cab 27/23.

58. Tel. Cox to viceroy, 25 January 1918, FO 371/3380/18462.

59.Minutes Middle East Committee, 2 February 1918, Cab 27/23.

60. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 163, 4 February 1918, minute Hardinge, not dated, FO 371/3380/22108.

61. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 281, 11 February 1918, FO 371/3380/26617.

62. Wingate to Bassett, private, 24 February 1918, Wingate Papers, box 148/5.

63. Bassett to Wingate, private, 11 February 1918, encl. in Wingate to Sykes, 19 February 1918, FO 371/3380/42105.

64. Sykes, ‘The Palestine and West Arabia situation’, 1 January 1918, minutes Hardinge, 4 January 1918, and Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3388/3787. Seven months later, Hardinge would claim that ‘Sykes was not my invention, but was imposed upon me’. Hardinge to Cecil, 20 August 1918, Balfour Papers, Add. Mss. 49748.

65. Hankey to Cecil, Confidential, 2 January 1918, Cecil Papers, FO 800/98.

66. Cecil to Balfour, 8 January 1918, Balfour Papers, FO 800/207.

67. Minutes Middle East Committee, 12 January 1918, Cab 27/22.

68. Hankey, diary entries 1 and 8 March 1918, Hankey Papers, vol. 1/3.

69. Minutes War Cabinet, 11 March 1918, Cab 23/5.

70. Clayton to Sykes, 15 December 1917, Clayton Papers, G//S 513.

71. Tel. Bertie to Balfour, no. 1482, 15 December 1917, minutes Graham, 17 December 1917, and Hardinge, not dated, and tel. Balfour to Bertie, no. 3101, 20 December 1917, FO 371/3061/237728.

72. Cecil to Lloyd George, 27 December 1917, Lloyd George Papers, F/6/5/11.

73.Tel. Bertie to Balfour, no. 1556, 30 December 1917, minute Sykes, not dated, FO 371/3061/245443.

74. Hardinge to D.M.I., no. 245878/W/44, 2 January 1918, tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 5, January 1918, FO 371/3056/245878.

75. Minutes Middle East Committee, 12 January 1917, Cab 27/22.

76. Minutes Middle East Committee, 26 January 1918, Cab 27/23.

77. Weizmann to Brandeis, 14 January 1918, FO 371/3394/21931.

78. Clayton to Wingate, private, 4 February 1918, Wingate Papers, box 148/5.

79. Clayton to Wingate, private, 15 March 1918, Wingate Papers, box 148/6.

80. Clayton to Balfour, no. P. 74, 19 May 1918, Bodleian Library, Milner Papers.

81. Sykes, memorandum, and Annex (A), E.C.-825, not dated, Cab 27/24.

82. Minutes Eastern Committee, 11 July 1918, Cab 27/24.

83. Minutes Eastern Committee, 18 July 1918, ibid.

84. Draft tel. C.I.G.S. to G.O.C.-in-C., Egypt, in DMI to Foreign Office, 21 July 1918, FO 371/3383/127256.

85. G.O.C.-in-C., Egypt to C.I.G.S., no. P. 387, 26 July 1918, Cab 27/29.

86. Minutes Eastern Committee, 29 July 1918, Cab 27/24.

87. Appendix, E.C.–1028, and minutes Eastern Committee, 8 August 1918, ibid.

88. Cecil, Draft (A), not dated, FO 371/3381/143456.

89. Wingate to Balfour, no. 127, 11 June 1917, FO 371/3054/125564.

90. Sykes to Clayton, 23 July 1917 and Clayton to Sykes, 20 August 1917, Sykes Papers, box 2.

91. Sykes to Clayton in tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1126, 26 November 1917, FO 371/3054/225623.

92. Clayton to Sykes, in tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1281, 28 November 1917, minute Graham, not dated, FO 371/3054/227658.

93. Sykes to Clayton, in tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1146, 1 December 1917, FO 371/3054/234304.

94. Sykes, Report on Visit to Paris, 25 December 1917, Sir Mark Sykes’ speech at Paris, and M. Gouts speech to the Syrians in Paris, FO 371/ 3056/245878.

95.Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 320, 16 February 1918, minute Sykes, not dated, and tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 262, 20 February 1918, FO 371/3380/30325.

96. Wingate to Clayton, private, 6 March 1918, Wingate Papers, box 148/6.

97.Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 399, 1 March 1918, minutes Nicolson, 2 March 1918 and Sykes, not dated, FO 371/3380/38817.

98. Sykes to Clayton, 3 March 1918, FO 800/221.

99. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1153, 2 November 1917, FO 371/3048/210013.

100. Clayton to Sykes, in tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1281, 28 November 1917, FO 371/3054/227658.

101. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1286, 29 November 1917, FO 371/3054/228069.

102. Clayton to Bell, 8 December 1917, Clayton Papers, G//S 513.

103. Wingate to Balfour, no. 90 (70/333), 7 May 1918, and ‘Address Presented by Seven Syrians to H.C. Cairo on May 7th 1918’, FO 371/3380/98499.

104. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 753, 11 June 1918, Cab 27/27.

105. Wingate to Balfour, no. 127 (70), 25 June 1918, FO 371/3381/126861.

106. Sykes and Georges-Picot, Declaration to the King of Hejaz, 3 July 1918, Cab 27/28.

107. Sykes, Memorandum, E.C.-766, 3 July 1918, FO 371/3381/117108.

108. Sykes, Memorandum, E.C.–825, not dated, Cab 27/24.

109. Minutes Eastern Committee, 15 July 1918, ibid.

110. Minutes Eastern Committee, 18 July 1918, ibid.

111. Clayton to Sykes, 20 August 1917, Sykes Papers, box 2.

112. Tels Georges-Picot to Sykes, communicated by French embassy, 6 December 1917, and Clayton to Sykes in Wingate to Balfour, no.1334, 12 December 1917, Sykes to Georges-Picot in tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1181, 15 December 1917, minute Hardinge, FO 371/3054/235780.

113. STATUS OF THE COMMISSION AND OBJECTS OF THE COMMISSION, encl. in Weizmann to Sykes, 16 January 1918, FO 371/3394/14214.

114. Minutes Middle East Committee, 19 January 1918, FO 371/3394/19932.

115. Instructions to Captain Hon. W. Ormsby-Gore on proceeding to Egypt with the Commission of Zionist leaders, 21 February 1918, FO 371/3394/32926.

116. Cornwallis, memorandum, 20 April 1918, FO 371/3394/85169.

117. Clayton to Sykes, 4 April 1918, FO 371/3391/76678.

118. Clayton to Sykes, 18 April 1918, Clayton to Balfour, 18 April 1918, and Clayton to Wingate, Personal, 21 April 1918, Wingate Papers, box 148/8.

119. Ormsby Gore to Hankey, 19 April 1918, Cab 21/58.

120. Storrs, Note by the Military Governor of Jerusalem, 30 April 1918, encl. in Clayton to Balfour, no. 10685/B/14, 7 May 1918, FO 371/3395/98470.

121. Ormsby Gore in Clayton to Balfour, no. 121 I/1083b/10, 7 May 1918, FO 371/3395/99963.

122. Hogarth, REPORT ON MISSION TO JEDDAH, 15 January 1917, FO 371/3383/2577.

123. Tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. I.B. 1055, 2 April 1918, Cab 27/25.

124. In his report to the Zionist Organisation, Weizmann had been more concrete. This paragraph, however, never reached the Zionist Organisation as it was censored by Clayton:

Dr Weizmann pushed the idea of collaboration a little further. He said that Jews and Arabs have parallel interests and thus it was possible for the Jews who were a great force to help him, to realise his great ambitions. We could help him towards Damascus and the territory to the North, which ought not to be encroached upon by the Powers who had really no interests there. By encroachment he meant France.

In view of this, it is rather ironic that on 14 June Clayton was instructed to convey to Weizmann Balfour’s ‘appreciation of the tact and skill shown by him in arriving at a mutual understanding with the Sheikh’. Report Zionist Commission to Zionist Organisation, no. Z.C. 263, encl. in Clayton to Balfour, 11 July 1918, FO 371/3395/137853, and tel. Balfour to Clayton, no. 133, 14 June 1918, FO 371/3398/105824.

125. Tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. P. 174, 12 June 1918, Cab 27/27.

126. Symes, SECRET. NOTE, 13 June 1918 (underlining in original), Wingate Papers, box 148/10.

127.Wingate to Balfour, no. 129, 25 June 1918, 127 minutes Sykes, Hardinge and Cecil, not dated, Sykes, MEMORANDUM ON EASTERN POLICY, FO 371/3381/123868.

 

 

 

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