Are we celebrating 72 years of Israeli independence or 100?
The answer is both.
On Wednesday, the 5th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, Israel celebrated its 72nd birthday, the day 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 the 5th of Iyar 28 years earlier in 1920 that the Zionist movement marked its original “Independence Day.”
In that year, the 5th of Iyar coincided with April 25th, the date in which 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” that instructed the UK 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 states in part, “... the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national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, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might 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.
As we mark that centennial, an anniversary that calls for the recognition of the Jewish right to Israel while protecting minorities, we see the same spirit as President Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” The time has come for us to recognize both plans 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. Chaim Weizmann said, “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.”
TO FURTHER understand the magnitude of that event, it is appropriate to mention the “San Remo Medal” that was issued immediately after the conference, with the caption “If I forget thee, Jerusalem,” and the Hebrew date on which the conference ended. It seems that exactly 28 years after that day the dream came true.
So in reality, Independence Day 1948 didn’t merely celebrate Israel’s formal Declaration of Independence but also the 28th anniversary of the San Remo Accords.
Following the Balfour Declaration, we placed our hope in the decisions of the Powers of San Remo, later in the pronouncements of Winston Churchill; and then we celebrated on November 29, 1947, with the proclamation of the League of Nations.
Each of these made a significant contribution to the strengthening of the Jewish people and our right to Palestine.
We must view President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”in this same light. The world’s largest and most influential power has recognized the Jewish people’s right to the Land of Israel. The San Remo Accords referred to the preservation of religious and civil rights of Arabs living in Palestine, but there was no reference to national rights.
Similarly, President Trump understands the reality that has been imposed upon us and the many years of delegitimization, violence and hostility toward us, and therefore has added a recognition of Israeli national rights as well.
We Israelis must understand and internalize the magnitude of this moment. 100 years later we have the right to set our own boundaries. Trump is facilitating the implementation of the decisions of the San Remo conference and is recognizing the implications of that conference on international law and on rights to our land.
The unity government that is being established in Israel and that is determined to enact Israeli sovereignty and implement the “Deal of the Century” is a 100-year-old dream come true.
Perhaps if we better understood the significance of the San Remo conference, we would better appreciate Trump’s “Deal of the Century” and work more vigorously to bring it to fruition.
Happy Independence Day, Israel, 100 years since San Remo and 72 years since Ben-Gurion’s Declaration of Independence.
The writer is mayor of Efrat.