The Peel Commission recognised that there was an insoluble conflict in Palestine between the Arabs and Jews, necessitating the partition of Palestine into two independent sovereign states. There was no mention of a third interested party – the “Palestinians” or “the Palestinian people” – who also deserved a separate state. This “people” was the subsequent creation of skillful Arab propaganda in the 1950’s and ’60’s in response to Israel’s creation in 1948.
The Peel Commission Report succinctly summed up the nature of the conflict in the following words:
“An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible. The Arabs desire to revive the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews desire to show what they can achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. Neither of the two national ideals permits of combination in the service of a single State.”
In 1937, there was no independent state called Jordan. It was then called Trans-Jordan, and it comprised 77% of the territory administered by Great Britain under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine – the operation of which was specifically the subject of inquiry and consideration by the Peel Commission. The right of Jews to settle in Trans-Jordan pursuant to the Mandate had been “postponed or withheld” by Britain with the consent of the League of Nations from 16 September 1922, thus restricting the right of the Jews to reconstitute their national homeland in only the remaining 23% of Palestine.
The Peel Report records that: “The articles of the Mandate concerning the [Jewish] National Home do not apply to Trans-Jordan and the possibility of enlarging the National Home by Jewish immigration into Trans-Jordan rests on the assumption of concord between Arabs and Jews.”
That concord never eventuated and Trans-Jordan remained an exclusively Arab reserved territory in 77% of Palestine – free of any Jewish settlement – until independence was granted by Great Britain in 1946, with the approval of the League of Nations at its last sitting before dissolution. No Jew resides there today.
The Peel Commission proposed partition into two independent sovereign states, Arab and Jewish. The Arab State was to be in all of Trans-Jordan – where no Jews and an estimated 300,000 Arabs lived – united with a further part of Palestine in which only about 1,250 Jews lived among about 750,000 Arabs. This would have given the Arabs a sovereign state in about 90% of the territory of the Mandate.
The remaining 10% was to become the sovereign Jewish State, where about 400,000 Jews and 225,000 Arabs then lived, whilst a new Mandate was to be enacted “for the protection of the Holy Places, solemnly guaranteed by the League of Nations, to remove all anxiety lest the Holy Places should ever come under Jewish control.”
Transfer of the minority population in each state was also proposed, to follow the precedent set by the exchange between the Greek and Turkish populations following the Greco-Turkish War of 1922.
The Peel Report noted:
“There was a time when Arab statesmen were willing to concede little Palestine to the Jews, provided that the rest of Arab Asia were free. That condition was not fulfilled then, but it is on the eve of fulfilment now. In less than three years’ time all the wide Arab area outside Palestine between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean will be independent, and, if Partition is adopted, the greater part of Palestine will be independent too.”
The Report stated the advantages to the Arabs and the Jews of partition in the following terms:
“The advantages to the Arabs of Partition on the lines we have proposed may be summarized as follows: (i) They obtain their national independence and can co-operate on an equal footing with the Arabs of the neighbouring countries in the cause of Arab unity and progress; (ii) They are finally delivered from the fear of being swamped by the Jews, and from the possibility of ultimate subjection to Jewish rule.”The advantages of Partition to the Jews may be summarized as follows: (i) Partition secures the establishment of the Jewish National Home and relieves it from the possibility of its being subjected in the future to Arab rule; (ii) Partition enables the Jews in the fullest sense to call their National Home their own; for it converts it into a Jewish State. Its citizens will be able to admit as many Jews into it as they themselves believe can be absorbed. They will attain the primary objective of Zionism – a Jewish nation, planted in Palestine, giving its nationals the same status in the world as other nations give theirs. They will cease at last to live a minority life.”
The Arabs rejected the proposal and therein sowed the seeds for the continuation of the conflict that still remains unresolved in 2007 in just the West Bank and Gaza – only 6% of Palestine – where sovereignty still remains unallocated between Arabs and Jews.
Click here to read more about What is the Peel Commission?