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As his terms were rejected by Istanbul, Faisal tried to gain great-power endorsement for his imperial dream, and it was here that his interests seemed to converge with that of the Zionist movement.
When his efforts to gain international recognition for his imperial dream came to naught, the emir quickly changed tack and reneged on his historic agreement with the Zionist movement.
He did not think for a moment that there was any scarcity of land in Palestine.
The population would always have enough, especially if the country were developed." Faisal reiterated this benevolent observation at a dinner held on his behalf by Lord Rothschild, to whom Balfour sent the letter containing his famous declaration.
The leaders of the nascent pan-Arab movement were perfectly amenable to endorsing the Balfour Declaration so long as this seemed to be conducive to their ambitions.
And none more so than the Hashemite emirs Faisal and Abdullah who, together with their father, the Sharif of Mecca Hussein ibn Ali, perpetrated the "Great Arab War" against the Ottoman Empire.
The end of World War I saw the ideal of national self-determination becoming the organizing principle of the international system as the victorious powers carved territorial states from the collapsed Ottoman, German, Habsburg, and Russian empires.
This was done through a newly devised mandates system that placed the Afro-Asiatic territories of the defunct empires (the European lands were given immediate independence) under the control of respective mandatory powers, beholden to a new world organization—the League of Nations—which were charged with steering them from tutelage to independence. This sea change is commonly associated with Woodrow Wilson's famous fourteen points, announced in an address to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918.
So much so that in April 1919, Weizmann maintained that "between the Arab leaders, as represented by Faisal, and ourselves, there is complete understanding, and therefore complete accord" and that Faisal "has undertaken to exercise all his influence towards having his estimate of the Zionist cause and the Zionist proposals as 'moderate and proper' shared by his following." Nearly six months later, Weizmann still considered Faisal a staunch ally who fully understood the immense potential of Arab-Zionist cooperation.
"He is ready to take Jewish advisers and is willing, even anxious, to have Zionist support in the development and even administration of the Damascus region," he wrote to Balfour in September 1919.
Yet its issuance was nothing short of extraordinary given the violent Ottoman reaction to anything that smacked of national self-determination, from the Greek war of independence in the 1820s, to the Balkan wars of the 1870s, to the Armenian genocide of World War I.
Indeed, only a year before the declaration, the Jewish community in Palestine (or the Yishuv) faced a real risk of extinction from the Ottomans for the very same reason, only to be saved through intervention by Germany, Istanbul's senior war ally. Talaat was hardly the only regional potentate to accept the Jewish right to national revival.
The two struck up an immediate rapport, and the emir readily acknowledged "the necessity for cooperation between Jews and Arabs" and "the possibility of Jewish claims to territory in Palestine." Yet he refused to discuss Palestine's future until such a time "when Arab affairs were more consolidated." When they met again six months later, Faisal was prepared to take his general affinity a major step further.