Celebrating San Remo and Jewish Sovereignty
Last week, we celebrated the momentous occasion of the 100-year anniversary of the San Remo Conference (April 19-26, 1920), convened in San Remo, Italy by the Supreme War Council of the allied powers (the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan) at the conclusion of World War I.
There is a widespread misconception that the State of Israel derives its legal existence from United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) of November 29, 1947 — popularly known as the “Partition Plan.” In fact, Israel’s legal foundation under international law derives not from Resolution 181 (II), which was merely a non-binding recommendation without any force of law, but rather from the San Remo Resolution (April 24–25, 1920), signed, ratified, and proclaimed by the Supreme Council at the San Remo Conference.
The purpose of the San Remo Conference was to formulate the terms of a peace treaty with the former Turkish Ottoman Empire. As a consequence of the military victory by the allied forces, the Supreme Council possessed the legal right of disposition due to the “Right of Conquest,” the prevailing international law, and decided to dispose of the former Ottoman territories by putting into effect the recently established Mandate System, which was in accord with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations (April 28, 1919).
The San Remo Resolution created three separate mandates: (1) Palestine, (2) Mesopotamia, and (3) Syria and the Lebanon. Each Mandate vested de jure sovereignty and transferred legal title specifically to the peoples who were the beneficiaries as they were the geographic inhabitants living in each of the respective newly mandated territories, and/or the people indigenous to the land (both were the case for the Jewish people and Palestine).
The Supreme Council chose the British government to be the Mandatory (i.e., the “Trustee”) for Palestine (i.e., Israel) and Mesopotamia (i.e., Iraq). The British government was thereby legally obligated to administer the allocated Mandates as a sacred trust until such time as the beneficiary peoples could govern the land themselves. France was chosen to be the Mandatory in Syria and the Lebanon under the same terms and conditions.
The terms of the San Remo Resolution were incorporated into the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920), the Franco-British Boundary Convention (December 23, 1920), and then in the Preamble of the Mandate Charter (July 24, 1922), the latter of which was approved by 52 members of the League of Nations (and, in time, 63 nations, including Iraq and Egypt), as well is in the Treaty of Lausanne (July 24, 1923). The terms were then also incorporated in a separate treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom, known as the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine.
Significantly, the Anglo-American Convention was ratified on March 2, 1925 and proclaimed by President Calvin Coolidge on December 5, 1925. The Anglo-American Convention also incorporated by reference the Balfour Declaration (November 2, 1917), and contained verbatim the full text of the Mandate for Palestine, including the following:
Preamble: “Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 2nd November, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Article 5 states: “The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power.”
Article 6 states, in part: “The Administration of Palestine … shall facilitate Jewish immigration and shall encourage … close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”
Article 6 of the US Constitution states, in part: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby.”
Thus, the American ratification of the Anglo-American Convention rendered the treaty part of the supreme law of the United States. The United States is therefore legally bound to the principles contained in both the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine, as both were incorporated into the Anglo-American Convention.
Suggesting that a Jewish presence anywhere within Mandated Palestine is illegal or must be stopped is a violation of the treaty. Enforcing a “two-state solution” within the mandated borders of Palestine is akin to ceding land and would constitute a violation of the treaty.
By way of example, in 1783, the Treaty of Paris marked the end of the American Revolutionary War, and the rights we enjoy as Americans today stand on this document. What keeps the English from canceling this treaty and giving the land to someone else is the principle of estoppel. Once the rights are given, they simply cannot be taken back. Such is the case with the Mandate for Palestine, and the rights that the United States accepted and committed itself to uphold as enshrined in the Anglo-American Convention.
During the Mandate Period (1920–1948), while acting as the Mandatory, Britain illegally signed the Treaty of London with Transjordan on March 22, 1946, giving it the appearance of being officially severed from Palestine and illegally acknowledging the sovereignty and independence of Transjordan contrary to Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations (April 28, 1919); the San Remo Resolution (April 24–25, 1920); Articles 2, 5, and 25 of the Mandate for Palestine (July 24, 1922); the Franco-British Boundary Convention (December 23, 1920); the Anglo-American Convention (December 3, 1924); and Article 80 of the UN Charter (October 24, 1945).
Following these actions of the British government, all land east of the Jordan River, constituting approximately 77% of Palestine’s territory, was illegally transferred to the administrative control of the Hashemites, who unlawfully asserted de facto sovereignty over the eastern part of Palestine, which was known as Transjordan. This wrongful directive by Britain as the Mandatory was in violation of the second and third recitals of the Mandate, as well as Articles 2, 4, 5, 6, and 16 of the Mandate.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continually and consistently resisted all calls to re-divide the city of Jerusalem, the 3,000-year-old eternal capital of the Jewish people and the modern State of Israel, and has recently and publicly confirmed his dedication to assert de facto sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, an intrinsic part of the land of Israel as defined in the Mandate for Palestine. By doing so, the State of Israel would thereby be fulfilling its legal role and capacity as agent and assignee of the Jewish people, to whom the sovereign legal rights belong.
Brooke Goldstein is a New-York based human rights attorney and award-winning filmmaker, as well as the founder and director of The Lawfare Project and director of the Children’s Rights Institute.