Paris peace conference

On February 3, 1919, a delegation of the Zionist Organization presented the case for a Jewish homeland in Palestine to the Paris Peace Conference.  

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Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first president of the State of Israel, led a delegation that presented the case for a Jewish homeland in Palestine – the Land of Israel – to the Paris Peace Conference, which was established following World War I.

The statement, which included suggested boundaries, proposed that the newly established British Mandate promote Jewish immigration and settlement, encourage self-government and ensure religious freedoms.

Earlier at the Conference, on January 3rd, Weizmann and Emir Faisal, son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, signed an agreement of mutual respect and cooperation. The agreement, which had been negotiated over two meetings in 1918, proposed Jewish support for an Arab nation and  Arab support for Jewish settlement in Palestine.

Chaim Weizmann

Zionist leader and first president of Israel Chaim Weizmann (weizmann-usa.org)

On January 18th, the Conference approved the creation of the League of Nations under which the mandatory system was to be established.  The mandatory system of the League of Nations placed European powers, namely Britain and France, in charge of Arab provinces that were previously administered by the Ottoman Empire. These League of Nations trusteeships or mandates gave London and Paris political control over vast areas of the Middle East that later became the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan – and Palestine, which later became Israel.

Over the course of the Paris Peace Conference, matters pertaining to Europe took center stage, while the issue of control and mandates for the Middle East were continuously postponed, mostly due to the rivalry between Britain and France pertaining to the region. Not until the British backed off from their support for an independent Syria under Emir Faisal was the issue of the Middle East discussed and an agreement reached.

The early drafts prepared by Weizmann and other Zionist leaders for the conference sought majority rights for Jews in Palestine.  Eventually those demands were softened, and the statement presented on February 3rd accepted the proposed British Mandate, saying that, “Palestine shall be placed under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment there of the Jewish National Home and ultimately render possible the creation of an autonomous Commonwealth, 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.”

Source: Center for Israel Education (CIE)

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