Among the misconceptions that have been repeated in connection with the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Anglo-French plan to partition the Middle East is the notion—heard from both friends and foes of the Jewish state—that the treaty furthered the Zionist cause. Quite the contrary, writes Martin Kramer:
The Sykes-Picot map . . . constitutes the first partition plan for Palestine, into no fewer than five zones. . . . Many of the most veteran Zionist settlements—Metullah, Rosh Pina, Yesod Hamaalah, Mishmar Hayarden—would be in the exclusively French zone, as would Safed. The internationalized . . . zone would include Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Tiberias, as well as newer settlements such as Tel Aviv, Petaḥ Tikvah, Rishon Letzion, Reḥovot, and Zichron Yaakov. [The pro-British Zionist leader Chaim] Weizmann called this division a “Solomon’s judgment of the worst character; the child is cut in two and both halves mutilated.” Were Sykes-Picot implemented, he protested, “the Jewish colonizing effort of some 30 years [would be] annihilated.”
Second, the agreement gave France a dominant role as far as the Jews were concerned. France would have full control of the Galilee settlements, and would be on equal par with Britain in Judea and the coastal plain. Weizmann regarded France as wholly unsympathetic to Zionism; far from facilitating Zionist colonization, France would block it. . . .
The Balfour declaration of 1917 was one of several moves in the following years that effectively undermined the agreement:
Sykes-Picot became a dead letter as regards Palestine no later than 1918, if not earlier. Has it left any legacy at all? The Sykes-Picot map proclaimed that no one actor could unilaterally determine the fate of the country. There were too many conflicting interests. During the mandate years, Britain had enough power to call the shots alone. But only twenty years after Sykes-Picot, partition again became the solution to solving clashing interests in Palestine. So it has been from the Peel plan of 1937, to the UN partition plan of 1947, and ever since. The idea of agreed partition is the lasting legacy of Sykes-Picot.