Jewish Agency for Palestine, The

Specified in Article 4 of the ‘British Mandate for Palestine’ formulated at the post WW I San Remo Conference in 1920 and confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, the Article called for the formation of an Agency that will administer and respond to the needs of the Zionist and Jewish population of Palestine The Arabs were offered the opportunity to establish a parallel agency, but their leadership turned it down.

British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, upon visiting the Middle East in 1920 and 1921 responding to anti-Semitic voices raised in the government claiming that the Jews are not needed to develop  Palestine, said:  “Left to themselves the Arabs of Palestine would not in a thousand years have taken effective steps towards irrigation and electrification of Palestine. They would be content to dwell in the wasted sun-drenched plains letting the waters of the Jordan flow unhindered into the Dead Sea.” The Mandate of Palestine-Transjordan was awarded to Britain by the League of Nations while the French were awarded the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon. The British Mandate in Palestine lasted from 1920 to 1948, and was governed by a series of seven High Commissioners.

The Jewish Agency became the quasi-government of the Jewish inhabitants and was headed by Ben Gurion whose party dominated it. It performed all governmental functions in addition to fostering and supporting illegal immigration to Palestine, land purchases, the establishment of settlement and the development and repopulation of the land. The Histadrut became the Jewish Agency’s economic arm and the Haganah its defense force, fending off Arab attacks.

In 1948, upon the British departure and the declaration of the independent state of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Palestine led by Ben- Gurion transformed itself into the provisional government of the new state.

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