Pre-State Israel: The San Remo Conference
(April 19-26, 1920)
The San Remo Conference was an international meeting held following the conclusion of World War I that determined the precise boundaries for territories captured by the Allies.
The conference, attended by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan – with the United States as a neutral observer, was held in San Remo, Italy, in April 1920. The conference was a continuation of a previous meeting between these Allied powers that had been held in London in February 1920, where it was decided, among other things, to put Palestine under British Mandatory rule. At San Remo, the Allies confirmed the pledge contained in the Balfour Declaration concerning the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
The British delegation to San Remo was headed by Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Lord Curzon, who had replaced Lord Balfour as foreign minister in 1919. Balfour, however, was also present at the conference as a consultant for final settlement issues. At both meetings the French expressed many reservations about the inclusion of the Balfour Declaration in the peace treaty, and it was only after the exertion of British pressure that they were gradually persuaded to agree to it.
The Conference was also attended by Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow, and Herbert Samuel, who presented a memorandum to the British delegation on the final settlement in the Eastern Mediterranean region. The article concerning Palestine was discussed on April 23-24 and the following day it was finally resolved to incorporate the Balfour Declaration in Britain’s mandate in Palestine. Thus Britain was made responsible “for putting into effect the declaration made on the 8th [sic.] November 1917 by the British Government and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people; it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
On April 25, 1920:
(b) that the terms of the Mandates Article should be as follows:
The High Contracting Parties agree that Syria and Mesopotamia shall, in accordance with the fourth paragraph of Article 22, Part I (Covenant of the League of Nations), be provisionally recognized as independent States, subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The boundaries of the said States will be determined, and the selection of the Mandatories made, by the Principal Allied Powers.
The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory, to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
La Puissance mandataire s’engage a nommer dans le plus bref delai une Commission speciale pour etudier toute question et toute reclamation concernant les differentes communautes religieuses et en etablir le reglement. Il sera tenu compte dans la composition de cette Commission des interets religieux en jeu. Le President de la Commission sera nomme par le Conseil de la Societe des Nations.
The terms of the mandates in respect of the above territories will be formulated by the Principal Allied Powers and submitted to the Council of the League of Nations for approval.
Turkey hereby undertakes, in accordance with the provisions of Article [132 of the Treaty of Sevres] to accept any decisions which may be taken in this connection.
(c) Les mandataires choisis par les principales Puissances allies sont: la France pour la Syrie, et la Grand Bretagne pour la Mesopotamie, et la Palestine.
In reference to the above decision the Supreme Council took note of the following reservation of the Italian Delegation:
La Delegation Italienne en consideration des grands interets economiques que l’Italie en tant que puissance exclusivement mediterraneenne possede en Asie Mineure, reserve son approbation a la presente resolution, jusqu’au reglement des interets italiens en Turquie d’Asia.
The resolution at San Remo was celebrated by mass rallies throughout the Jewish world.
As shown by the map, the original mandate was for all of Palestine; however, in 1921, Winston Churchill severed roughly 78 percent of Palestine to establish the Emirate of Transjordan where Britain’s ally, Abd Allah ibn al-Husayn, was installed as king. Julie Murray explained, “The division between the British and French territories was clarified in the Franco-British Convention on Certain Points Connected with the Mandates for Syria and the Lebanon, Palestine and Mesopotamia, signed in December of 1920, in which there is no mention of Transjordan, as it is presumed to be part of the British mandate of Palestine.”
L. Stein, The Balfour Declaration (1961), 652–63; C. Weizmann, Trial and Error (1949), 321–5; D. Lloyd George, The Truth About the Peace Conference, 2 (1938), 1167–75, 1182–90; J. Nevakivi, Britain, France and the Arab Middle East (1969), 240–54 and index.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved;
Julie Murray, “Legacies of the Anglo-Hashemite Relationship in Jordan: How this symbiotic alliance established the legitimacy and political longevity of the regime in the process of state-formation, 1914-1946,” Tufts University, 2018;
“San Remo conference,” Wikipedia;
Maurice Ostroff, “The 1967 map is less relevant to Israel's future borders than the 1920 map,” Jerusalem Post, (March 31, 2014).