The opening date for this collection is 1917. During the First World War great changes were wrought within the old world power structures and new opinions and influences came to the fore. The Allied powers in effect carved the Middle East into their potential spheres of influence pending its release from the Ottoman Empire and created Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and TransJordan. In due course the British Government obtained a Mandate to administer the newly-created Palestine and upheld a key proposal, made by Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, on behalf of the British Government, and dated 2 November 1917, approving the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. Once formulated the impossibility of trying to balance with that principle the rights of the existing communities became apparent. The sentiments of this letter were to encourage Chaim Weizmann and the Zionists and to sanction an increasing rate of Jewish settlement and land purchase in Palestine, and the position of Jerusalem as a centre of contention was intensified through the declared policy of the Zionist movement to take Jerusalem and make of it the capital of the state to be. For its part, the Arab population felt deceived by the British position, and unrest culminated in the Jerusalem riots of 1920.
The documents continue to reflect seething discontent in Jerusalem, until in April 1936 the Arab Higher Committee is formed by the Grand Mufti, Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, and promptly disturbances erupt, developing into the three-year long Arab Rebellion. In 1937 the Peel Committee proposed that the city of Jerusalem should be separately and permanently administered under the British Mandate while Palestine be divided between Arabs and Jews. The proposals were accepted by the Zionists with the proviso of controlling west Jerusalem, but rejected by the Arabs, and, in 1939, abandoned by the British.
The papers for the Second World War and post-war period indicate, on one hand, the continuing, sometimes despairing, efforts of the British to find a twin-state solution; and on the other hand, the continuing and effective campaign of violence by extremist Zionist organisations, and correspondingly a violent insurgency by Arab militia. When the British Mandate ended in May 1948, despite United Nations negotiations for a ceasefire particularly in Jerusalem, swift developments followed to establish a de facto Jewish state. The documentary record in later volumes brings the historical picture within living memory, covering the establishment of the Knesset and Israeli administration from Jerusalem, relations with Egypt and subsequently the consequences for the city of the Six Day War. The significant post-war influence on events of the United States is amply reflected, as is the role, not always effective, of the United Nations.