How Chaim Weizmann Crafted the First Arab-Zionist Alliance

“No true Arab can be suspicious or afraid of Jewish nationalism. . . . We are demanding Arab freedom and we would show ourselves unworthy of it if we did not now, as I do, say to the Jews—welcome back home.” These words were spoken by Faisal al-Hashemi—the future king of Iraq—at a banquet in honor of Chaim Weizmann on December 29, 1918. T.E. Lawrence (a/k/a “Lawrence of Arabia”) served as the translator. While many today see the Israeli-Arab conflict as both eternal and inevitable, the idea of an alliance between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East seemed perfectly natural to Weizmann and to Faisal, who were seen by the British empire as the representatives of their respective peoples. Rick Richman tells the story of this alliance:

On January 3, 1919, a few weeks after World War I ended, the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann met with Emir Faisal, the commander-in-chief of the Arab uprising against the Ottoman empire, at a London hotel. . . . At the meeting, Weizmann and Faisal signed an agreement, brokered over the preceding month by Lawrence, exchanging Arab acceptance of the Balfour Declaration for Zionist support of an Arab state in the rest of the Ottoman lands. In February, they traveled to the Paris Peace Conference, where the victorious Allies would remap Europe and the Middle East, and made complementary presentations about the future of the region. . . .

Faisal and his father, [King Hussein of the Hejaz], believed Zionism would bring financial resources and technical expertise to Palestine, transforming the economic circumstances of the Arabs in both Palestine and beyond. In January 1918, D.G. Hogarth, director of Britain’s Arab Bureau in Cairo, had traveled to Jedda to deliver to King Hussein a formal message regarding British policy: the Arabs would be given “full opportunity of once again forming a nation,” and “no obstacle should be put in the way” of the return of the Jews to Palestine. All holy sites would be protected, and the religious and political rights of all residents preserved. The message emphasized the importance of “the friendship of world Jewry” to the Arab cause.

In an article published in March 1918 in al-Qibla, the daily newspaper in Mecca, the king wrote that Palestine was “a sacred and beloved homeland” for “its original sons” [abna’ihi-l-asliyin], and the “return of these exiles [jaliya] to their homeland” would be beneficial to the region.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Balfour Declaration, Chaim Weizmann, History & Ideas, Israel-Arab relations, T. E. Lawrence, Zionism

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at New York Times

More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria