Saturday, August 21, 2021

"The Palestinian Side of the Suez Canal"

I found the following in Hansard, the record of Bitish Parliamentary debates. The referred to Milner Mission was to make recommendations for the future relationship between Egypt and England after World War One when Egypt came under British martial law when a temporary Protectorate was declared. Its recommendations were to end that status and the negotiation of a treaty. It was published in February 1921.

The debate was held on March 14, 1922.

The following extract is from the words of John Mills. In 1923, he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the pro-Zionist Josiah Wedgwood.

Mills make the point that Egypt really never was any part of the British Empire and in doing so, makes reference to the concept that Palestine should extend well into Sinai, right up to the Suez Canal:
This point is specifically alluded to on page 6 of the Milner Report. I am quoting from the Report of the Special Mission, and it says: It appears to be frequently assumed in current talk and writing in this country that Egypt is part of the British Empire. That is not, and never has been, the case. That is most explicit, and to gentlemen of military experience who talk to us about the tactical value of this or that part of a country, I would suggest that on the Palestinian side of the Suez Canal you have a population who at the moment are welcoming British occupation, and, under the pledge given to the Zionists, it makes it a desirable circumstance for the transfer of the garrison; that in itself is an alternative place where troops can be kept if the Suez Canal is deemed to be such a dangerous part of our communication. Personally I think that the international pact which guaranteed the international character of the Suez Canal makes a very large number of these assertions valueless even if they ever contained some, amount of value. Having regard to the changed circumstances in the East, having regard to the changed circumstances on the Palestinian side of the Canal, we are justified in asking this Government and its military advisers to consider the alternative garrison for the troops, if they are necessary, in order that we may in fact as well as in word carry out this generation-long pledge to the Egyptian people.

Later in the debate Colonel Wedgewood notes:

Indeed, I think it is worth considering whether it would not be possible even to have the troops on the Eastern bank of the Canal instead of on the Western bank, provided that the Palestine-Egyptian frontier were shifted from the Akaba line up to the Suez Canal. That shift in the frontier would put us on the Suez Canal, in a position where we could adequately protect that Canal, with a base in the mandated country of Palestine, where we should be permanently on the spot to protect the Canal and look after our interests.

He is referring to the October 1, 1906, Separating Administrative Line between the Ottoman province of the Hejaz, the governorate of Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula which was agreed upon, following nine months of military action and diplomatic activity which nearly brought the British and the Ottoman empires to the verge of war. See here

It began in January that year when British forces from Egypt 
to build up a small post for the Egyptian border police at Umm Rashrash (now Eilat) in Naqb al-Aqaba. Their presumption was that "Naqb el-Akaba... is well within the frontier line settled upon between Turkey and Egypt" after the Wedj incident. 

Taba was then occupied by Turkish troops.

Oddly enough, one of the elements involved in the background to all this dispute was an

"1892 incident [that] was caused, according to Cromer, by the suspicions of the Sultan with regard to planned Jewish settlement on the shores of Aqaba: ‘...The result was that the Firman laid down the Egyptian frontier as drawn from Suez to El-Arish. The peninsula of Sinai, which had been administered by the Khedives of Egypt for the last forty years, would thus have reverted to Turkey... ’

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