The saga of Israel’s standing under international law began long before the United Nations was a player on the global scene. As early as the turn of the 20th century, a number of Bible-believing statesmen and politicians, many of them British, were adamant in their support of the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
David Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson amongst other dignitaries at the Paris Peace ConferenceDavid Lloyd George, an avid Bible-believer and supporter of Zionism, played a critical role in laying the groundwork for the eventual establishment of the modern state of Israel. During his tenure as a British cabinet minister during World War I, he formed the beginnings of a life-long friendship with Chaim Weizmann, who would later become the first president of Israel. The relationship enhanced his biblically based belief in the return of the Jewish people to what was then called “Palestine.” As newly-elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1917, Lloyd George worked closely with his foreign secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The Balfour Declaration Formulated
Lord Arthur BalfourLord Balfour was himself a Bible-believing Christian and had supported the Zionist cause since his own tenure as British prime minister from 1902 to 1905. As foreign secretary under Lloyd George, however, his most notable act would be the authoring of the Balfour Declaration. On November 2, 1917, a letter of declaration was delivered to Lord Walter Rothschild, a member of the British parliament and president of the British Zionist Federation. An active Zionist and also a friend of Chaim Weizmann, Rothschild would help to formulate the draft declaration for a Jewish homeland in Palestine that would be presented at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The declaration Rothschild received from Lord Balfour read as follows:
Dear Lord Rothschild:
I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, which has been submitted to and approved by the Cabinet:
His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, 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.
I should be grateful if you would bring this Declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Yours Sincerely Arthur James Balfour
Lord Walter RothschildThe Balfour Declaration was an historic document, although it was strictly political in nature and had no legal authority. Neither was it international, although it was endorsed by Britain’s allies, France, and Italy, and marginally endorsed by US President Woodrow Wilson. Its primary impact was to bring to international attention the need of a stateless people to have a homeland of their own, bringing a new sense of hope to the Jewish people who had suffered under the yoke of dispersion for millennia.
The declaration marked a major turning point in Jewish history with the British government’s official recognition of the historical, political, moral, and religious connections that exist between the Jewish people and the tiny nation promised them by eternal covenant with the God of the Universe.
The British Mandate Legalized
Once Lord Balfour had drafted the declaration, the next step was to elevate the content to the level of international law. A draft was presented at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and taken up by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers (United States, France, Britain, Italy, and Japan).
Palace of Nations, Geneva, League of Nations HQs, 1929-46It was out of this conference that the League of Nations was born, its Covenant drafted and ratified by 44 nations. Article 22 of that Covenant provided for the setting up of a mandate system to deal with the territories previously held by the Ottoman Empire. In April of 1920, the San Remo Conference dealt with the issues left outstanding from the Paris Peace Conference. The outcome, relying on Article 22 of the Covenant, was the setting up of three mandates,: one over Syria and Lebanon, one over Mesopotamia (Iraq), and one over Palestine. The Mandate for Palestine was entrusted to Great Britain, as a “sacred trust of civilization” in respect of the “establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People.”
Negotiations between Great Britain and the United States with regard to the Palestine mandate were successfully concluded in May 1922 and approved by the Council of the League of Nations in July 1922. This document specifically recognized the "historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" and the "grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country." This Mandate was, in fact, an international treaty and as such was legally binding on all 51 member nations with all the force of international law.
The United Nations was formed in 1945 and the League of Nations held its final meeting in 1946. Though the UN General Assembly does not have the power to create legally binding decisions, Article 80 of the UN Charter recognizes the “Mandate for Palestine” of the League of Nations.
In other words, Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel is not based on the 1947 UN partition plan, but on international law that granted legal title 25 years earlier. The right granted to the Jewish people by the League of Nations, later ratified by the UN, to establish a national home throughout Palestine has never been rescinded and continues to this day to form the legal basis for the ongoing presence of the nation of Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East.
The author wishes to acknowledge “The Foundations of the International Legal Rights of the Jewish People and the State of Israel” by C. D. Wallace, PhD, from which she drew heavily for this article.
Source: By Cheryl Hauer, International Development Director