The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement was signed on 3 January 1919, by Emir Faisal (son of the King of Hejaz), who was for a short time King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria or Greater Syria in 1920, and was King of the Kingdom of Iraq from August 1921 to 1933, and Chaim Weizmann (later President of the World Zionist Organization) as part of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 settling disputes stemming from World War I. It was a short-lived agreement for Arab–Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East.
One or more of the Allies may have suggested that a representative of the Zionist Organization secure the agreement. The secret Sykes–Picot Agreement had called for an "Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States ... under the suzerainty of an Arab chief." The French and British also proposed an international administration, the form of which was to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, "and the representatives of the Shereef of Mecca."
Weizmann first met Faisal in June 1918, during the British advance from the South against the Ottoman Empire in World War I. As leader of an impromptu "Zionist Commission", Weizmann traveled to southern Transjordan for the meeting. The intended purpose was to forge an agreement between Faisal and the Zionist movement to support an Arab Kingdom and Jewish settlement in Palestine, respectively. The wishes of the Palestinian Arabs were to be ignored, and, indeed, both men seem to have held the Palestinian Arabs in considerable disdain. Weizmann had called them "treacherous", "arrogant", "uneducated", and "greedy" and had complained to the British that the system in Palestine did "not take into account the fact that there is a fundamental qualitative difference between Jew and Arab". After his meeting with Faisal, Weizmann allegedly reported that Faisal was "contemptuous of the Palestinian Arabs whom he doesn't even regard as Arabs".
In preparation for the meeting, British diplomat Mark Sykes had written to Faisal about the Jewish people, "I know that the Arabs despise, condemn, and hate the Jews" but he added "I speak the truth when I say that this race, despised and weak, is universal, is all-powerful and cannot be put down" and he suggested that Faisal view the Jews as a powerful ally. In the event, Weizmann and Faisal established an informal agreement under which Faisal would support close Jewish settlement in Palestine while the Zionist movement would assist in the development of the vast Arab nation that Faisal hoped to establish.
At their first meeting in June 1918 Weizmann had assured Faisal that "the Jews did not propose to set up a government of their own but wished to work under British protection, to colonize and develop Palestine without encroaching on any legitimate interests". Weizmann and Faisal met again later in 1918, while both were in London preparing their statements for the upcoming peace conference in Paris.
They signed the written agreement, which bears their names, on 3 January 1919. The next day, Weizmann arrived in Paris to head the Zionist delegation to the Peace Conference. It was a triumphal moment for Weizmann; it was an accord that climaxed years of negotiations and ceaseless shuttles between the Middle East and the capitals of Western Europe and that promised to usher in an era of peace and cooperation between the two principal ethnic groups of Palestine: Arabs and Jews.
Henry McMahon had exchanged letters with Faisal's father Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca in 1915, in which he had promised Hussein control of Arab lands with the exception of "portions of Syria" lying to the west of "the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo". Palestine lies to the south of these areas and wasn't explicitly mentioned. That modern-day Lebanese region of the Mediterranean coast was set aside as part of a future French Mandate. After the war the extent of the coastal exclusion was hotly disputed. Hussein had protested that the Arabs of Beirut would greatly oppose isolation from the Arab state or states, but did not bring up the matter of Jerusalem or Palestine. Dr. Chaim Weizmann wrote in his autobiography Trial and Error that Palestine had been excluded from the areas that should have been Arab and independent. This interpretation was supported explicitly by the British government in the 1922 White Paper.
On the basis of McMahon's assurances the Arab Revolt began on 5 June 1916. However, the British and French also secretly concluded the Sykes–Picot Agreement on 16 May 1916. This agreement divided many Arab territories into British- and French-administered areas and allowed for the internationalisation of Palestine. Hussein learned of the agreement when it was leaked by the new Russian government in December 1917, but was satisfied by two disingenuous telegrams from Sir Reginald Wingate, High Commissioner of Egypt, assuring him that the British government's commitments to the Arabs were still valid and that the Sykes-Picot Agreement was not a formal treaty.
According to Isaiah Friedman, Hussein was not perturbed by the Balfour Declaration and on 23 March 1918, in Al Qibla, the daily newspaper of Mecca, attested that Palestine was "a sacred and beloved homeland of its original sons," the Jews; "the return of these exiles to their homeland will prove materially and spiritually an experimental school for their [Arab] brethren." He called on the Arab population in Palestine to welcome the Jews as brethren and cooperate with them for the common welfare. Following the publication of the Declaration the British had dispatched Commander David George Hogarth to see Hussein in January 1918 bearing the message that the "political and economic freedom" of the Palestinian population was not in question. Hogarth reported that Hussein "would not accept an independent Jewish State in Palestine, nor was I instructed to warn him that such a state was contemplated by Great Britain". Continuing Arab disquiet over Allied intentions also led during 1918 to the British Declaration to the Seven and the Anglo-French Declaration, the latter promising "the complete and final liberation of the peoples who have for so long been oppressed by the Turks, and the setting up of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations."
Lord Grey had been the foreign secretary during the McMahon-Hussein negotiations. Speaking in the House of Lords on 27 March 1923, he made it clear that he entertained serious doubts as to the validity of the British government's interpretation of the pledges which he, as foreign secretary, had caused to be given to Hussein in 1915. He called for all of the secret engagements regarding Palestine to be made public. Many of the relevant documents in the National Archives were later declassified and published. Among them were the minutes of a Cabinet Eastern Committee meeting, chaired by Lord Curzon,which was held on 5 December 1918. Balfour was in attendance. The minutes revealed that in laying out the government's position Curzon had explained that: "Palestine was included in the areas as to which Great Britain pledged itself that they should be Arab and independent in the future".
Main points of the agreement:
- The agreement committed both parties to conducting all relations between the groups by the most cordial goodwill and understanding, to work together to encourage immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale while protecting the rights of the Arab peasants and tenant farmers, and to safeguard the free practice of religious observances. The Muslim Holy Places were to be under Muslim control.
- The Zionist movement undertook to assist the Arab residents of Palestine and the future Arab state to develop their natural resources and establish a growing economy.
- The boundaries between an Arab State and Palestine should be determined by a Commission after the Paris Peace Conference.
- The parties committed to carrying into effect the Balfour Declaration of 1917, calling for a Jewish national home in Palestine.
- Disputes were to be submitted to the British Government for arbitration.
Weizmann signed the agreement on behalf of the Zionist Organization, while Faisal signed on behalf of the short-lived Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz.
Two weeks prior to signing the agreement, Faisal stated:
The two main branches of the Semitic family, Arabs and Jews, understand one another, and I hope that as a result of interchange of ideas at the Peace Conference, which will be guided by ideals of self-determination and nationality, each nation will make definite progress towards the realization of its aspirations. Arabs are not jealous of Zionist Jews, and intend to give them fair play and the Zionist Jews have assured the Nationalist Arabs of their intention to see that they too have fair play in their respective areas. Turkish intrigue in Palestine has raised jealousy between the Jewish colonists and the local peasants, but the mutual understanding of the aims of Arabs and Jews will at once clear away the last trace of this former bitterness, which, indeed, had already practically disappeared before the war by the work of the Arab Secret Revolutionary Committee, which in Syria and elsewhere laid the foundation of the Arab military successes of the past two years.
The areas discussed were detailed in a letter to Felix Frankfurter, President of the Zionist Organisation of America, on 3 March 1919, when Faisal wrote :
"The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper."
The proposals submitted by the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference were:
"The boundaries of Palestine shall follow the general lines set out below: Starting on the North at a point on the Mediterranean Sea in the vicinity South of Sidon and following the watersheds of the foothills of the Lebanon as far as Jisr el Karaon, thence to El Bire following the dividing line between the two basins of the Wadi El Korn and the Wadi Et Teim thence in a southerly direction following the dividing line between the Eastern and Western slopes of the Hermon, to the vicinity West of Beit Jenn, thence Eastward following the northern watersheds of the Nahr Mughaniye close to and west of the Hedjaz Railway. In the East a line close to and West of the Hedjaz Railway terminating in the Gulf of Akaba. In the South a frontier to be agreed upon with the Egyptian Government. In the West the Mediterranean Sea.The details of the delimitations, or any necessary adjustments of detail, shall be settled by a Special Commission on which there shall be Jewish representation."
Text of the Agreement
Agreement Between Emir Feisal and Dr. Weizmann
3 January 1919
His Royal Highness the Emir Feisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organization, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their natural aspirations is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab State and Palestine, and being desirous further of confirming the good understanding which exists between them, have agreed upon the following:
- Article I
The Arab State and Palestine in all their relations and undertakings shall be controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding, and to this end Arab and Jewish duly accredited agents shall be established and maintained in the respective territories.
- Article II
Immediately following the completion of the deliberations of the Peace Conference, the definite boundaries between the Arab State and Palestine shall be determined by a Commission to be agreed upon by the parties hereto.
- Article III
In the establishment of the Constitution and Administration of Palestine, all such measures shall be adopted as will afford the fullest guarantees for carrying into effect the British Government's Declaration of the 2nd of November, 1917.
- Article IV
All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil. In taking such measures the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development.
- Article V
No regulation or law shall be made prohibiting or interfering in any way with the free exercise of religion; and further, the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall ever be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
- Article VI
The Mohammedan Holy Places shall be under Mohammedan control.
- Article VII
The Zionist Organization proposes to send to Palestine a Commission of experts to make a survey of the economic possibilities of the country, and to report upon the best means for its development. The Zionist Organization will place the aforementioned Commission at the disposal of the Arab State for the purpose of a survey of the economic possibilities of the Arab State and to report upon the best means for its development. The Zionist Organization will use its best efforts to assist the Arab State in providing the means for developing the natural resources and economic possibilities thereof.
- Article VIII
The parties hereto agree to act in complete accord and harmony on all matters embraced herein before the Peace Congress.
- Article IX
Any matters of dispute which may arise between the contracting parties hall be referred to the British Government for arbitration.
Given under our hand at London, England, the third day of January, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen
Chaim Weizmann Feisal Ibn-Hussein
Reservation by the Emir Feisal
If the Arabs are established as I have asked in my manifesto of 4 January, addressed to the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I will carry out what is written in this agreement. If changes are made, I cannot be answerable for failing to carry out this agreement.
Faisal conditioned his acceptance on the fulfillment of British wartime promises to the Arabs, who had hoped for independence in a vast part of the Ottoman Empire. He appended to the typed document a hand-written statement:
"Provided the Arabs obtain their independence as demanded in my [forthcoming] Memorandum dated the 4th of January, 1919, to the Foreign Office of the Government of Great Britain, I shall concur in the above articles. But if the slightest modification or departure were to be made [regarding our demands], I shall not be then bound by a single word of the present Agreement which shall be deemed void and of no account or validity, and I shall not be answerable in any way whatsoever."
The Arabs did not obtain their independence and the Faisal-Weizmann agreement survived only a few months. The decision of the peace conference itself refused independence for the vast Arab-inhabited lands that Faisal desired, mainly because the British and French had struck their own secret Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1916 dividing the Middle East between their own spheres of influence. With the conference deciding on the mandate system for all areas of the former Ottoman Empire, prior to statements from either the Zionist or Arab sides, Faisal soon began to express doubts about cooperation with the Zionist movement. After Faisal was expelled from Syria and given the Kingdom of Iraq, he contended that the conditions he appended were not fulfilled and the treaty therefore moot. St. John Philby, a British representative in Palestine, later stated that Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca and King of Hejaz, on whose behalf Faisal was acting, had refused to recognize the agreement as soon as it was brought to his notice. However, Sharif Hussein formally endorsed the Balfour Declaration in the Treaty of Sèvres of 10 August 1920, along with the other Allied Powers, as King of Hedjaz.
The United Nations Special Committee On Palestine did not regard the agreement as ever being valid, while Weizmann continued to maintain that the treaty was still binding. In 1947 Weizmann explained :
"A postscript was also included in this treaty. This postscript relates to a reservation by King Feisal that he would carry out all the promises in this treaty if and when he would obtain his demands, namely, independence for the Arab countries. I submit that these requirements of King Feisal have at present been realized. The Arab countries are all independent, and therefore the condition on which depended the fulfillment of this treaty, has come into effect. Therefore, this treaty, to all intents and purposes, should today be a valid document".
According to C.D. Smith, the Syrian National Congress had forced Faisal to back away from his tentative support of Zionist goals. According to contemporaries, including Gertrude Bell and T. E. Lawrence, the French, with British support, betrayed Faisal and the Arab cause rendering the treaty invalid. Georgina Howell, 2006, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations
Arab–Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties
- Paris Peace Conference, 1919
- 1949 Armistice Agreements
- Camp David Accords (1978)
- Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty (1979)
- Madrid Conference of 1991
- Oslo Accords (1993)
- Israel–Jordan peace treaty (1994)
- Camp David 2000 Summit
- Peace process in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
- Projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs
- List of Middle East peace proposals
- International law and the Arab–Israeli conflict
- The Sykes-Picot Agreement
- 'The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann', Weisgal M.W. (ed.), Israel University Press, 1977, pp. 197–206.
- Chaim Weizmann to Vera Weizmann, ibid, p. 210.
- Tom Segev, 2000, One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2000, p. 110–111
- C.D. Smith, 2001, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 4th ed., ISBN 0-312-20828-6, p. 80
- Book Excerpt from A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today, David A. Andelman (Wiley)
- Khouri, Fred John (1985). The Arab-Israeli Dilemma. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-2340-3, pp. 8–10.
- Palestine, a Twice-promised Land?: The British, the Arabs & Zionism, 1915–1920 By Isaiah Friedman, page 171
- Huneidi, Sahar (2000). A Broken Trust: Herbert Samuel, Zionism and the Palestinians, 1920–1925. IB Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-172-5, p. 66.
- Report of a Committee Set up to Consider Certain Correspondence Between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sharif of Mecca in 1915 and 1916, UNISPAL, Annex A, paragraph 19.
- cited in Palestine Papers, 1917–1922, Doreen Ingrams, page 48 from the UK Archive files PRO CAB 27/24.
- 'Jews And Arabs In Syria: The Emir Feisul Looks To A Bright Future', The Times, Thursday, 12 December 1918; pg. 7; Issue 41971; col B.
- Letter by Emir Feisal to Felix Frankfurter, published in full at amislam.com (collection of correspondence).
- Statement of the Zionist Organization regarding Palestine at the Wayback Machine (archived February 12, 2007), retrieved 14 November 2011
- Statement of the Zionist Organization Regarding Palestine, MidEast Web, accessed 17 August 2006.
- "Agreement Between Emir Feisal and Dr. Weizmann". MidEast Web.
- News Chronicle, 9 July 1937, quoted by 'Palestine, star or crescent?', Neville Barbour, Odyssey Press, New York, 1947, p. 100
- Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly (A/364), United Nations, 3 September 1947
- Official records of the Second Session of the General Assembly (A/364/Add.2 PV.21), United Nations, 8 July 1947
- C.D. Smith, 2001, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 4th ed., ISBN 0-312-20828-6, p. 111
- Weisgal (Ed.). (1977). Chaim Weizmann to Arthur Balfour, The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann. Series A, Volume VIII. Israel University Press.
- Text of the Faisal-Weizmann agreement, full text, reference document, United Nations
- Text of the agreement and accompanying letters, agreement and collection of selected correspondence, archived at archive.org.
- The story behind the forgotten agreement (Arabic)