The British Mandate

Palestine and Transjordan, 1920-1948

The League of Nations, formed in the wake of World War One, established a mandate system to govern places where the previous government no longer existed, but where the League felt those people weren’t able to establish their own independent nation yet. The idea was for the League to turn over these territories, or mandates, to more established countries, like Great Britain, to govern the area on the League’s behalf. These countries, like Britain, were not allowed to annex this new territory for their own, and they had to agree to help the native people build up enough institutions and capabilities until they became independent. 

In the Middle East, where the Ottoman Empire had folded and its territories were left ungoverned, the League of Nations gave Palestine over to the British as part of this mandate system. Palestine was roughly defined as the area west of the Jordan River, so today’s Israel and the West Bank. The British Mandate also included the territory east of the Jordan River, then called Transjordan (today it’s the Kingdom of Jordan).

The British, now in charge of Palestine, were about to spend the next thirty years trying to please everyone, and therefore pleasing no one, and making decisions that were going to have all three of the main parties — Jews, Arabs, and the British — fighting each other at various times.