Then & Now: Unpromised Land

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The Independent Online
September 1921: Britain had said it favoured the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, provided the rights of those living there were not infringed. T E Lawrence had visited Arabia four years earlier to ensure that the Balfour Declaration did not dampen Arab enthusiasm for their revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Subsequently, Lawrence joined Arab delegates at the Paris peace negotiations. A cable from Lawrence to the Foreign Office describes his difficulties:

'On my return King (Hussein of the Hejaz) went back on his decision and demanded (1) Return of all states in Arabia, except his, to their pre- war boundaries (2) Cession to him of all areas so vacated (3) Right to appoint all Cadis and Muftis in Arabia, Mesopotamia, Palestine (4) Recognition of his supremacy over all Arab rulers everywhere.

My reply made him send for a dagger and swear to abdicate and kill himself. I said we would continue negotiations with his successor. Ali (King Hussein's son) then took a strong line and formed a committee . . . Things are now going in most friendly and rational way. King is not formally superseded but has certainly lost much of his power. The sons report to him and the Queen, who is of our party, lectures him at night.'

September 1992: At the Middle East peace talks in Washington, the Palestinians argued that to accept Israel's offer of limited autonomy would make them puppets of the occupation and cement de facto annexation of Palestinian lands. This, they said, would prejudice their right to full statehood. Israel said it was prepared to cede Arab land in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement with Syria.