Even as a nonstate legal entity, “Palestine” ceased to exist in 1948, when Great Britain relinquished its League of Nations mandate. During the 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence, West Bank and Gaza came under unauthorized control of Jordan and Egypt. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, these Arab conquests did not put an end to an already-existing state, or to an ongoing trust territory. What these Arab aggressions did manage to accomplish was the intentional prevention, by the Arab states, of a new Arab state of “Palestine.”

From the biblical Period (ca. 1350 BCE to 586 BCE) to the British Mandate (1922 – 1948), the land named vengefully by the Romans after the ancient Philistines was controlled only by non-Palestinian elements. However, a continuous chain of Jewish possession of the land was legally recognized after World War I. At the San Remo Peace Conference in April 1920, a binding treaty was signed in which Great Britain was given mandatory authority over “Palestine.” This authority was based on the expectation that Britain would prepare the area to become the “national home for the Jewish People.” Previously, since 1516, the Ottoman Turks had ruled the area cruelly, and as an undesirable provincial backwater.

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Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue and the author of twelve books and several hundred articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war. He was Chair of Project Daniel, which submitted its special report on Israel’s Strategic Future to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, on January 16, 2003.
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