In the 1880s, the Zionist movement was initiated in Europe. This movement held that the Jewish people had a right to a state of their own; most Zionists specifically held that the state should be in a part of their historic homeland, the area then known as Palestine. At that time Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Under Ottoman rule, Palestine had substantial regional independence, and the area was inhabited predominantly by Palestinian Arabs (about 95%, mostly Muslims, some Christians), and Jews (about 5%).
In 1917 the British army took control of Palestine and Transjordan from the Ottomans. In that year, its government issued the Balfour Declaration. In the same period, the British were giving contradictory assurances to the Palestinian Arabs. The Zionists interpreted that as a promise from the British that they would help them build a state in Palestine, in part because of divided opinions in British government, with some endorsing that view and some not.
Signed in January 1919, the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement promoted Arab-Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East. In 1920, the San Remo conference largely endorsed the 1916 Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement, allocating to Britain the area of present day Jordan, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and Iraq, while France received Syria and Lebanon. In 1922, the League of Nations formally established the British mandate for Palestine and Transjordan, at least partially fulfilling Britain's commitments from the 1915-1916 Hussein-McMahon Correspondence by assigning all of the land east of the Jordan River to the Emirate of Jordan, ruled by Hashemite King Abdullah but closely dependent on Britain, leaving the remainder west of the Jordan as the League of Nations British mandate of Palestine.