What is Israel celebrating today?
As Israel struggles with how to celebrate a national Independence Day during the COVID-19 pandemic – how many people can attend the barbeque, should cities hold their typical fireworks displays, etc, a more basic question needs to be addressed:
Is Israel celebrating 72 years of Israeli independence or 100?
The answer is both.
Israel is celebrating its 72nd birthday today, the 5th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, the day that David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s Independence, which was famously recognized by US President Harry Truman just 11 minutes later.
But as momentous an occasion as that was, an argument can be made, that it was on the 5th of Iyar, 28 years prior that the ‘pro-Israel’ movement marked its original “Independence Day,” as it coincided with the San Remo Conference where the victorious Allied Powers of World War I convened in San Remo, Italy to discuss how to keep the peace while dividing up the Middle East. Britain received a ‘Mandate for Palestine’,which instructed Britain to implement the Balfour Declaration – its commitment to establishing a Jewish State in the region known as Palestine (which included both modern day Israel and Jordan).
The exact text includes: “The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th November, 1917 [Balfour Declaration], by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine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”
With all due respect to David Ben Gurion and President Truman, the San Remo conference guaranteed a Jewish state with the force of international law and with the recognition of political superpowers.
And as we mark that centennial anniversary, which calls for the recognition of the Jewish right to Israel while protecting minorities, we see the same spirit in President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”. Historically, it is important for us to recognize both events as foundational moments in the Zionist enterprise.
The San Remo Conference ratified and summarized the details of the “bounty” that would be divided between the victors of World War I, the most prominent of which were Britain and France. After the conference, Dr. Haim Weizman (who would become Israel’s first President) remarked “the resolution in San Remo, which recognizes our rights in Palestine, which was included in a treaty with Turkey and has become part of international law is the largest political event in the history of our movement.”
Following the Balfour Declaration, we placed our hope in the decisions of the Powers of San Remo; in the pronouncements of Winston Churchill; and eventually the United Nations partition plan of November 29, 1947. Each of these made a significant contribution to the strengthening of the Jewish people and our right to what was then known as Palestine.
From a historical perspective, President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is the natural outgrowth of these zionist precedents.
We Israelis must understand and internalize the magnitude of this moment in history. The Trump Administration is facilitating the implementation of the decisions of the international community via the San Remo Conference which confer legal rights to the Jews to the Land currently known as Israel.
The unity government which is being established in Israel and which is determined to enact Israeli sovereignty and implement the Deal of the Century has the ability to fulfill the 100 year old promise made in San Remo to the Jewish people.
By understanding the significance of the original Deal of the Century (San Remo Accords), we can better appreciate Trump’s Deal of the Century and be encouraged to act more vigorously to bring it to fruition.
Chag HaAtzmaut Sameach