The High Commissioner for Palestine was the head of the British Mandatory administration in Palestine. On July 3, 1922, in an Order-in-Council, the high commissioner was empowered to promulgate ordinances for the peace, order, and good government of Palestine, including the power of pardon or reprieve. His powers were not limited by any representative body in Palestine, but he was assisted by an advisory council appointed by himself.
The first – and only Jewish – high commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, who was appointed in 1920, two years before the mandate of the League of Nations was officially confirmed, laid the foundations of the British civil administration in the country, including Transjordan. He was succeeded in 1925 by Field Marshal Herbert Onslow Plumer (1857–1932) who served until 1928. His term was characterized by tranquility in the country and the development of local government, the promulgation of the religious ordinance, and the Palestinian Citizenship Order.
Sir John Herbert Chancellor (1870–1952) served as third high commissioner in the years 1928–31. In his time the Arab massacres of August 1929 took place. He was said to have had a part in the framing of the new anti-Zionist policy as defined in the Passfield White Paper (1930).
Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope (1874–1947) served as the fourth high commissioner for the years 1931–38. He showed understanding for the Jewish work in Palestine and maintained friendly contact with Chaim Arlosoroff. His plan to establish a legislative council proved abortive because of Jewish and Arab opposition. During his term momentous events occurred: Hitler's rise to power in Germany, which brought in its wake a large Jewish immigration to Palestine; and the outbreak of the Arab revolt (1936–39), leading to the appointment of the Royal (Peel) Commission; and the publication of the first partition plan for Palestine (1937).
Sir Harold MacMichael (1882–1968) was the fifth high commissioner, from 1938–44. He implemented rigidly the anti-Zionist policy of the 1939 White Paper, refusing to admit Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe (see Holocaust). In August 1944, an attempt was made on his life by Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel.
Field MarshalJohn Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, Viscount Gort (1886–1946) served as the sixth high commissioner only for one year, 1944 to 1945, and retired because of ill health.
Sir Alan G. Cunningham (1887–1983) served as the seventh and last high commissioner in the years 1945–48, while the future of Palestine was studied by the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry in 1946 and by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) in 1947. Cunningham left Israel on May 14, 1948, the day the State of Israel was proclaimed.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.