San Remo Conference of 1920

More than any other document, conference, or plan, the events which took place at the seven-day meeting in San Remo, Italy in 1920, set the most legal and clear direction for a re-establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. 

After WWI and the Paris Peace Conference of 1918, the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers (France, Italy, Japan, and Great Britain) wished to reassign sovereignty over the former Ottoman Empire lands. This was a reversal of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 that aimed to annex former Ottoman territory and disperse among the Allied Powers. 

The San Remo goal was to establish new states based on claims by both the Zionist Organization and the Arab delegation. Both entities made their case for statehood at the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations). Other peoples who brought forth claims for statehood were the Kurds, Assyrians, and the Armenians.

  • The Paris (1918) and San Remo (1920) Conferences were part of the League of Nations hearings.

Empires around the world were crumbling in the aftermath of WWI; one of which was the Ottoman Empire. There were no independent Arab states prior to WWI, just as there was no independent Jewish state in modern history (there was Jewish sovereignty in ancient times). Of the vast Ottoman Empire, the Arabs were about to carve out 22 states for themselves, the Arab League states.


During this time, Arabs in Palestine considered themselves part of the Arab world and more specifically, part of Syria. What is now Israel, was considered the southern region of Syria administratively during the 400-year Ottoman reign. 

Weizmann-Faisal Meeting 1918
Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Emir Faisal meet in Aqaba in 1918

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Weizmann at Rishon LeZion WWI
Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Emir Faisal meet in Aqaba in 1918

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The San Remo Conference outcomes included:
  • The Balfour Declaration fully integrated into the San Remo resolution, and also formed the original blueprint for the legal British Mandate for Palestine. 

  • Converted the Balfour Declaration, which was a promise by the British to the Jews, to an internationally legal binding document.

The Weizmann-Faisal Agreement

  • Emir Faisal was the sole representative of the Arabs (was recognized as such in 1918 and at that date even fully supported the Jewish homeland) at the Conference, acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hejez (Saudi Arabia). Dr. Chaim Weizmann represented and acted on behalf of the Zionist Organization.

  • Emir Faisal not only fully accepted that Palestine, as the indigenous Jewish homeland, would be a Jewish state, he also helped convince a few British attendees of the fact. The agreement stipulated that both the Arab and the Jewish states would be established and consequently maintain their respective territories.
  • The Constitution and Administration of Palestine would include all the guarantees of the Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2nd, 1917.
  • Encouraged and facilitated immigration of Jews into Palestine on a ‘large scale’ and quickly. This also included land acquisition for Jews, so long as Arab farmers and peasants would be protected and economically assisted (by the British) if remaining.
  • In the agreement, Emir Faisal clearly distinguished between “The Arab State” and “Palestine” – Palestine meant the Jewish state.
  • Emir Faisal’s goal for the Arabs was: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, and Lebanon. These states represent the overwhelming majority of the previous Ottoman Empire lands. Israel (Palestine) represented about 1% of the land.
  • Religious freedoms were to be granted in Palestine
  • All Islamic sites would be under Muslim oversight
  • There would be outright cooperation between the ‘two states’ – meaning the Jewish state and the Arab state conglomerate; the British would send economists to survey Palestine for the Jews, the economists would travel to ‘the Arab state’ to conduct the same such survey.
  • Mandate for Palestine – granted the British government the right to establish a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel (Palestine).
  • Authorized the British to act only as Trustee for a Jewish homeland while Jews in Palestine were geared towards political, economic, and cultural independence. This also included the returning of Jews back to their homeland, and is why ‘large scale immigration’ was included. When that outlined objective would be achieved, the British would turn the sovereignty of Palestine over to the Jews.

The Allied Powers legally charged Britain with implementing the Balfour Declaration.

  • San Remo Conference resolutions were adopted later that summer (August) of 1920 at the Treaty of Sèvres, which reconstituted non-Turkish inhabited lands of the then defeated Ottoman Empire.
Signed Weizmann-Feisal Agreement
Signed Weizmann-Feisal Agreement at San Remo; 1920

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Jewish Homeland San Remo 1920
Area allocated for Jewish Homeland at the San Remo Conference; 1920

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Zionists Rejoicing Article
Zionists rejoicing post San Remo Conference

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