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Balfour Declaration, 1917

Written on November 2, 1917, the Balfour Declaration was an official endorsement by the British Government, via letter from Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, of the establishment of a Jewish home in the territory then known as Palestine.

As the text states, King George V “views with favor” a national home for the Jewish people in “Palestine.” Further, the UK government will “use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

It is said that this public declaration was voiced in order to curry favor with Jewish supporters and benefit the war effort. Specifically, the declaration would keep Russia’s efforts focused against Germany on the Eastern Front, as Jews were a significant part of the Russian Revolution. It would also cause American Jews to dedicate more funding to the American war effort. Finally, Jewish support for Kaiser Wilhelm would decrease if German Jews believed the UK supported Zionism.

Unrelated to the war, the British government anticipated that Jewish control of the Suez Canal would be beneficial to their keeping imperial dominion over India.

San Remo Conference, 1920

The San Remo Conference was a meeting among the Allied Supreme Council held in Sanremo, Italy, between April 16 and April 26 in 1920. Its primary goal was to decide how to partition the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. Each of the four major allied powers were represented there: Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. The United States attended as a neutral observer.

The main issues discussed were a peace treaty with Turkey (later signed at Sevres on August 10, 1920, effectively dissolving the Ottoman Empire); relations with Russia; Germany’s obligations as part of the Treaty of Versailles; and mandates for the Middle East. The decisions reached at the San Remo Conference included splitting the northern half of the Ottoman province of Syria (Lebanon and Syria) and the southern half (Palestine). The northern territory would be mandated to France while Palestine would go to Great Britain. Mesopotamia (Iraq) would also be mandated to Great Britain.

With Great Britain having a mandate over Palestine, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 came closer to reality. That declaration played a major role in how decisions were made in the San Remo Conference with regard to partitioning territories. The decisions made there would greatly impact resolutions of the League of Nations, including the Mandate for Palestine (1922), which specifically acknowledged Palestine as the site for a “national homeland for the Jewish people.”

In fact, the resolution drafted at San Remo in regard to the Palestinian mandate parroted the language of The Balfour Declaration. It could be argued, then, that San Remo Conference is where the State of Israel was born.

One of the most lasting products of the San Remo
Conference was the concept of Jewish National
Self-Determination. The language of the resolution adopted
at San Remo called for a national solution for Jews. After all, Jews were a people – not just a religion – deserving of a nation.

The British Mandate for Palestine,
League of Nations, 1923

The British Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations in July 1922 reiterated the Balfour Doctrine in regard to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Confirmed on July 24, 1922 and officially in effect on September 29, 1923, the Mandate for Palestine was the official League of Nations terms and conditions for how the land was to be parceled out.

Where, before, The Balfour Declaration outlined the British position on a homeland for the Jews, and San Remo solidified that vision into a coherent resolution of action, The British Mandate for Palestine was the first actual step toward Jewish national self-determination and, eventually, a Jewish State.

The Mandate for Palestine goes a step farther. Not only does it include the exact text of the Balfour Declaration as presented in the San Remo Resolution, it also states that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” This is a key inclusion in The Mandate. From this point, it is documented international record that Jews have a historical connection to the land that would become Israel.