JERUSALEM, Israel – A major sticking point to Middle East peace talks is whether Israel is an occupying power or if it has the right to claim the land. But a closer look at history suggests that question was settled in international law 100-years-ago.
It happened on April 25th, 1920. Representatives of the Great Powers who triumphed in World War I met in the Italian town of San Remo to divide the Middle Eastern lands they had conquered. One hundred years later, the leaders of the Great Powers who came to San Remo are long gone. But their decisions made history and transformed the Middle East. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, they called for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in an area called Palestine.
Before its defeat in World War I, the 400-year-old Ottoman Empire spread throughout the Middle East. In San Remo – England, France, Italy, and Japan along with the United States as an observer – divided the empire into three mandates: Iraq, Syria, and Palestine.
France would oversee Syria while Iraq and Palestine fell under Great Britain. The resolution also included the Balfour Declaration written by England's Lord Arthur Balfour in 1917 which called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." One English diplomat – Lord Geoge Curzon – called it Israel's "Magna Carta."
Click below to see Australian historian Kelvin Crombie of Heritage Resources explain the significance of the San Remo Conference:
Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann considered it so important, he said the modern State of Israel was born on the 25th of April 1920 in San Remo.
It was adopted by the League of Nations and signed by 51 countries.
Exclusive legal and political rights in Palestine went to the Jews while those rights in the rest of the Middle East went to the Arabs.
Ambassador Dore Gold, an Israeli Diplomat and President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs told CBN News the San Remo Conference "shows, in fact, the creation of a Jewish national home was widely backed by the international community way back then."
Gold believes the history of San Remo 100 years ago has been forgotten.
"That's part of Israel's problem. Why is it that it's fighting for its legitimacy all the time? It's because the international treaties and agreements on which the state of Israel is based have been forgotten," he explained. "Our role is to remind the international community what are Israel's legal rights. What is the basis for the legitimacy of the modern Jewish State and for that San Remo is pivotal."
Gold believes Israel's adversaries are trying to rob Israel of its right to exist by re-writing history.
"I think now people will have to learn this history properly and not allow some professor or some media figure to distort what went on 100 years ago. 100 hundred years ago it was clear as day that the restoration of a Jewish national home was supported by the majority of countries in the world,” he said.