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In 1917, the British foreign minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration (the Balfour Declaration) announcing his government’s support for the establishment of “a Jewish national home in Palestine.” A third promise, in the form of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, was a secret deal between Britain and France to carve up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire and divide control of the region.

After the war, Britain and France convinced the new League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations), in which they were the dominant powers, to grant them quasi-colonial authority over former Ottoman territories.

Mc Mahon convinced Husayn to lead an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, which was aligned with Germany against Britain and France in the war. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), was successful in defeating the Ottomans, and Britain took control over much of this area during World War I.

Mc Mahon promised that if the Arabs supported Britain in the war, the British government would support the establishment of an independent Arab state under Hashemite rule in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine. But Britain made other promises during the war that conflicted with the Husayn-Mc Mahon understandings.

The Ottoman Empire was weakening, and European powers were strengthening their grip on areas along the eastern Mediterranean, including Palestine.

During 1915–1916, as World War I was underway, the British high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry Mc Mahon, secretly corresponded with Husayn ibn ‘Ali, the patriarch of the Hashemite family and Ottoman governor of Mecca and Medina.

Britain obtained a mandate over Iraq, as well as the area that now comprises Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan.

The district of Jerusalem was under the direct authority of the Ottoman capital of Istanbul because of the international significance of the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem as religious centers for Muslims, Christians and Jews.

That same name was also used to designate a less well-defined “Holy Land” by the three monotheistic religions.

Following the war of 1948–1949, this land was divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip.

The British and French regimes were known as mandates.

France obtained a mandate over Syria, carving out Lebanon as a separate state with a (slight) Christian majority.