The “Mandate for Palestine” is Valid to This Day

The “Mandate for Palestine” is Valid to This Day

The Mandate survived the demise of the League of Nations. Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the “Mandate for Palestine” of the League of Nations.

This Mandate granted Jews the irrevocable right to settle anywhere in Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a right unaltered in international law and valid to this day. Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (i.e. the West Bank), Gaza and the whole of Jerusalem are legal.

The International Court of Justice reaffirmed the meaning and validity of Article 80 in three separate cases:

  • ICJ Advisory Opinion of July 11, 1950: in the “question concerning the International States of South West Africa.”33
  • ICJ Advisory Opinion of June 21, 1971: “When the League of Nations was dissolved, the raison d’etre [French: “reason for being”] and original object of these obligations remained. Since their fulfillment did not depend on the existence of the League, they could not be brought to an end merely because the supervisory organ had ceased to exist. … The International Court of Justice has consistently recognized that the Mandate survived the demise of the League [of Nations].”34
  • ICJ Advisory Opinion of July 9, 2004: regarding the “legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.”35

In other words, neither the ICJ nor the UN General Assembly can arbitrarily change the status of Jewish settlement as set forth in the “Mandate for Palestine,” an international accord that has never been amended.

All of western Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the West Bank and Gaza, remains open to Jewish settlement under international law.

Professor Eugene Rostow concurred with the ICJ’s opinion as to the “sacredness” of trusts such as the “Mandate for Palestine”:

“‘A trust’—as in Article 80 of the UN Charter—does not end because the trustee dies … the Jewish right of settlement in the whole of western Palestine—the area west of the Jordan—survived the British withdrawal in 1948. … They are parts of the mandate territory, now legally occupied by Israel with the consent of the Security Council.”36

The British Mandate left intact the Jewish right to settle in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Explains Professor Rostow:

“This right is protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter, which provides that unless a trusteeship agreement is agreed upon (which was not done for the Palestine Mandate), nothing in the chapter shall be construed in and of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.

“The Mandates of the League of Nations have a special status in international law. They are considered to be trusts, indeed ‘sacred trusts.’

“Under international law, neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Arab ‘people’ of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a substantial claim to the sovereign possession of the occupied territories.”

It is interesting to learn how Article 80 made its way into the UN Charter.

Professor Rostow recalls:

“I am indebted to my learned friend Dr. Paul Riebenfeld, who has for many years been my mentor on the history of Zionism, for reminding me of some of the circumstances which led to the adoption of Article 80 of the Charter. Strong Jewish delegations representing differing political tendencies within Jewry attended the San Francisco Conference in 1945.

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Peter Bergson, Eliahu Elath, Professors Ben-Zion Netanayu and A. S. Yehuda, and Harry Selden were among the Jewish representatives. Their mission was to protect the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine under the mandate against erosion in a world of ambitious states. Article 80 was the result of their efforts.”37

The phrase “in Palestine”, another expression found in the Balfour Declaration that generated much controversy, referred to the whole country, including both Cisjordan and Transjordan. It was absurd to imagine that this phrase could be used to indicate that only a part of Palestine was reserved for the future Jewish National Home, since both were created simultaneously and used interchangeably, with the term “Palestine” pointing out the geographical location of the future independent Jewish state. Had “Palestine” meant a partitioned country with certain areas of it set aside for Jews and others for Arabs, that intention would have been stated explicitly at the time the Balfour Declaration was drafted and approved and later adopted by the Principal Allied Powers. No such allusion was ever made in the prolonged discussions that took place in fashioning the Declaration and ensuring it international approval.

There is therefore no juridical or factual basis for asserting that the phrase “in Palestine” limited the establishment of the Jewish National Home to only a part of the country. On the contrary, Palestine and the Jewish National Home were synonymous terms, as is evidenced by the use of the same phrase in the second half of the Balfour Declaration which refers to the existing non-Jewish communities “in Palestine”, clearly indicating the whole country. Similar evidence exists in the preamble and terms of the Mandate Charter.

The San Remo Resolution of 1920 on Palestine combined the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as international treaty with Article 22 of the League Covenant. This meant that the general provisions of Article 22 applied to the Jewish people exclusively, who would set up their home and state in all of Palestine. There was no intention to apply Article 22 to the Arabs of the country, as was mistakenly concluded by the Palestine Royal Commission which relied on that article of the Covenant as the legal basis to justify the partition of Palestine, apart from the other reasons it gave. The proof of the applicability of Article 22 to the Jewish people, including not only those in Palestine at the time, but those who were expected to arrive in large numbers in the future, is found in the Smuts Resolution, which became Article 22 of the Covenant. It specifically names Palestine as one of the countries to which this article would apply. There was no doubt that when Palestine was named in the context of Article 22, it was linked exclusively to the Jewish National Home, as set down in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a fact everyone was aware of at the time, including the representatives of the Arab national movement, as evidenced by the agreement between Emir Feisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann dated January 3, 1919 as well as an important letter sent by the Emir to future US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter dated March 3, 1919. In that letter, Feisal characterized as “moderate and proper” the Zionist proposals presented by Nahum Sokolow and Weizmann to the Council of Ten at the Paris Peace Conference on February 27, 1919, which called for the development of all of Palestine into a Jewish commonwealth with extensive boundaries. The argument later made by Arab leaders that the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine were incompatible with Article 22 of the Covenant is totally undermined by the fact that the Smuts Resolution – the precursor of Article 22 – specifically included Palestine within its legal framework.

The San Remo Resolution of 1920 on Palestine became Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 which was intended to end the war with Turkey, but though this treaty was never ratified by the Turkish National Government of Kemal Ataturk, the Resolution retained its validity as an independent act of international law when it was inserted into the Preamble of the Mandate for Palestine and confirmed by 52 states. The San Remo Resolution of 1920 is the base document upon which the Mandate was constructed and to which it had to conform. It is therefore the pre-eminent foundation document of the State of Israel and the crowning achievement of pre-state Zionism. It has been accurately described as the Magna Carta of the Jewish people. It is the best proof that the whole country of Palestine and the Land of Israel belong exclusively to the Jewish people under international law.

The Mandate for Palestine implemented both the 1917 Balfour Declaration and Article 22 of the League Covenant, i.e. the San Remo Resolution of 1920. All four of these acts were building blocks in the legal structure that was created for the purpose of bringing about the establishment of an independent sovereign Jewish state. The Balfour Declaration of 1917; in essence stated the principle or object of a Jewish state. The San Remo Resolution of 1920 gave it the stamp of international law. The Mandate furnished all the details and means for the realization of the sovereign Jewish state. As noted, Britain’s chief obligation as Mandatory, Trustee and Tutor was the creation of the appropriate political, administrative and economic conditions to secure the sovereign Jewish state. All 28 articles of the Mandate were directed to this objective, including those articles that did not specifically mention the Jewish National Home. The Mandate for Palestine created a right of return for the Jewish people to Palestine and the right to establish settlements and communities on the land throughout the country of Palestine in order to create the envisaged Jewish state.

2 thoughts on “The “Mandate for Palestine” is Valid to This Day

  1. “The argument that the Jews have no legal right to settle in Samaria and Judea undermine their right to sovereignty in pre-1967 Israel, for all such rights flow from the same source —
    the Palestine Mandate recognizing the Jewish people’s historical connection with Palestine.”
    — Prof. Eugene Rostow, Israel’s Legitimacy in Law and History, Douglass J. Feith and Edward M. Siegel, ed., N.Y., 1993

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  2. All the rights of the Jewish people that derive from the Mandate remain in full force. This is the consequence of the principle of acquired legal rights which, as applied to the Jewish people, means that the rights they acquired or were recognized as belonging to them when Palestine was legally created as the Jewish National Home are not affected by the termination of the treaty or the acts of international law which were the source of those rights. This principle already existed when the Anglo-American Convention came to an end simultaneously with the termination of the Mandate for Palestine on May 14-15, 1948. It has since been codified in Article 70(1)(b) of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. This principle of international law would apply even if one of the parties to the treaty failed to perform the obligations imposed on it, as was the case with the British government in regard to the Mandate for Palestine.

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