Legislative Council (Palestine)

views updated May 11 2018


a 19221923 british proposal, never implemented, for a limited form of self-government in palestine.

The League of Nations entrusted Palestine to Great Britainwhich conquered the territory in December 1917as a mandate, one of whose terms called for the "development of self-governing institutions." As a first step in that direction, the high commissioner of Palestine, Sir Herbert Louis Samuel, formally proposed in August 1922 to the country's Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities the establishment of a legislative council. The council was to be composed of twenty-three members: the high commissioner, ten appointed British members; and twelve elected membersten Palestinians (eight Muslims and two Christians) and two Jews. However, the British denied the council legislative authority over such central issues as Jewish immigration and land purchases in order to safeguard its Balfour policy of support for the Jewish national home. To allay Palestinian concerns regarding Jewish immigration, the elected members were to form a standing committee to advise the Palestine government on immigration issues.

Palestinian leaders argued that participation in the council would be tantamount to acceptance of the British mandate and Balfour policy, which they opposed. They considered unfair the allocation of only 43 percent of the seats to Palestinians, who constituted 88 percent of the population. And they objected to the limitations placed on the power of the council. A campaign against the proposed council by the Palestine Arab Executive and the Supreme Muslim Council was a potent factor in the Palestinian boycott of the council elections in February 1923. The Jews accepted the proposal despite their objections to the allocation of only two seats to Jews, which, they argued, would have reduced them to a minority role and would have meant that the concerns of the Jewish people as a whole would have been ignored. The poor election turnout caused the high commissioner to shelve the proposal.

The idea was revived repeatedly from 1923 until 1936. It was discussed, for example, in 1928 when a new high commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, took over, but it was derailed by the Western (or Wailing) Wall disturbances of 1929, only to reemerge as a proposal in the Passfield White Papers of 1930. Although the new proposal was similar to the 1922 proposal, the Palestinians this time did not oppose it, but the Jews rejected their minority role in the council and sought a parity formula that would recognize the numbers and the economic role of world Jewry. Intermittent discussions continued until 1935. By then the proposed composition of the council had expanded to twenty-eight, of whom fourteen were to be Muslims and Christians (five nominated), eight Jews (five nominated), five British officials, and one a nominee representing commercial interests. The Palestinians were divided over the proposal, and the Jews were strongly opposed to it. This opposition prompted the British government to once again suspend its implementation, and the concept finally died with the start of the Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939.

The Legislative Council was probably a missed opportunity for the Palestinians because it could have improved their political and socioeconomic conditions. It could have given them an opportunity to help draft legislation and to participate in formulating expenditure allocations and Jewish immigration quotas. It could have also provided them with a platform to criticize British policy and to appeal for the support of the British public and the League of Nations. Most of all, it could have put them in a position to ask for more.

see also balfour declaration (1917); mandate system; samuel, herbert louis; western wall disturbances; white papers on palestine.


Caplan, Neil. Futile Diplomacy: Early Arab-Zionist Negotiation Attempts, 19131931, vol. 1. London: Frank Cass, 1983.

Lesch, Ann M. Arab Politics in Palestine, 19171939: The Frustrations of a Nationalist Movement. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979.

Porath, Y. The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab Nationalist Movement, 19181929. London: Frank Cass, 1974.

Porath, Y. The Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion, 19291939, vol. 2. London: Frank Cass, 1977.

Wasserstein, Bernard. The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict, 19171929. London: Royal Historical Society, 1978.

philip mattar

Legislative Council

views updated Jun 08 2018


Research and support arm of state legislatures and assemblies. Council members research legislative issues, draft legislative proposals, prepare legal opinions, and provide general support services. Also called legislative counsel.

State legislatures depend on research staff to investigate and craft legislative proposals. These staff members are generally grouped into one body called a legislative council, but the terminology varies from state to state. They usually are nonpartisan bodies composed of lawyers and other professionals who work year-round with legislators. Staff members are expected to be politically neutral and impartial on all issues. Individuals may be assigned to general topical research areas or to specific legislative committees.

Legislative council staff members serve on standing committees, create research documents, prepare implementing legislation, draft amendments, prepare reports on proposed administrative rules, and respond to research requests from legislators and legislative staff as well as other governmental agencies and the public. When the legislature is not in session the legislative council focuses on research projects that are of interest to legislators. Councils often publish reports on major issues that are of topical concern. Because federal laws mandate state compliance on a host of topics, legislative councils also must continually review federal regulations to determine their effect on current state laws and pending legislation.

In addition, legislative councils serve as the institutional memories of state legislatures. Long-time staff members with particular expertise in a field are valuable as turnover occurs in legislative bodies. The often arcane procedures involved in drafting bills are usually left to legislative council members, who take legislative ideas and directions and craft them into statutory language. In many states the legislative council is responsible for the publication of the legislative session laws as well as the codified statutes and administrative regulations.

During legislative sessions, council members sit with legislators in committee meetings and give both private and public advice. As legislation is proposed, these staff members provide analysis as to the policy and budgetary effects these proposals would have on state government. The production of fiscal notes is a major task for council staff, as legislators need to know what impact a new program would have on the state budget in terms of both spending and revenue.

In some states the legislative council is a two-tiered organization. The first tier is composed of a group of legislative leaders (e.g., senators); the second tier consists of the staff. The legislative members of the council set policy and research directions for the staff to follow. The form and function of a legislative council is mandated by individual state statutes.

further readings

Dye, Thomas R. 2000. Politics in States and Communities. 10th ed. New York: Prentice Hall.

Moncrief, Gary F., Peverill Squire, and Malcolm E. Jewell. 2000. Who Runs for the Legislature? New York: Prentice Hall.

Rosenthal, Alan. 1998. The Decline of Representative Democracy: Process, Participation, and Power in State Legislatures. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

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Legislative Council