Chaim Weizmann was the first president of the State of Israel, a scientist, a leader of the Zionist movement and part of the Synthetic Zionism movement. He was the fourth president of the Zionist Organization. In addition to working as a chemist, Weizmann was an active Zionist from the days of his youth. At the start of the 6th Zionist Congress (1903), Weizmann supported the Uganda Proposal that was suggested by Herzl. However, in the midst of the Congress, he changed his mind and became a bitter opponent of the proposal. Nevertheless, he served on the steering committee of the delegation that was sent to East Africa to examine the feasibility of the plan. In 1906, he met with Harold Arthur James Balfour for the first time. Weizmann lectured him on the principles of Zionism. Over the year, he worked for the good of the Jewish people with important figures in Britain, including statesmen and journalists. At the 8th Congress in Hague, held in 1907, he called for “Synthetic Zionism”, which would combine political activity with the actual settlement of the Land of Israel. That same year, he visited the Land of Israel for the first time. In 1917, he was elected president of the Jewish Federation in England. In that year, he, together with other leaders of the British Zionist movement, submitted a proposal to the British government. It included demands to recognize the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, the right of Jews to go on “Aliyah” and officially recognizing the Zionist institutions in the Land of Israel.
Weizmann was influential in the discussions that led to the Balfour Declaration at the end of 1917. When Britain conquered the Land of Israel in 1918, Weizmann returned to Zion as the head of a delegation of Zionist leaders that was called the Zionist Commission. Their aim was to assist the settlements in matters of health, education, welfare and settlement, to be a liaison between them and the British and to establish the infrastructure for the national Homeland, in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration.
Weizmann was elected president of the World Zionist Organization of the 12th Zionist Congress at Carlsbad. In this capacity, he represented the Zionist movement throughout the world and represented the “Yishuv” in dealings with the British mandatory government. After the publishing of Passfield’s White Paper in 1930, Weizmann endeavoured to change the British policy, which limited the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel and to settle the land. In protest, he relinquished his position. However, he went back on his decision and resumed the job when British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, sent him a letter in support of Zionism.
In 1931, Weizmann was not elected president of the Zionist Congress because of his positions, which were considered pro-British. He then proceeded to act on behalf of German Jewry and Youth Aliyah until he was re-elected in 1935. Weizmann demanded that members of the Peel Commission, which had been sent to the Land of Israel by the British Mandate, provide a refuge for the millions of persecuted Jews in the world. He suggested, for the first time, dividing the land between the Jews and the Arabs.
During the Arab Revolt in 1936, Weizmann served as an envoy in the negotiations between the different parties, including Nuri al-Said, who mediated between the sides during the Revolt.
During these years, in addition to his work for the Zionist enterprise, he also dedicated himself to scientific work at the “Ziv Institute” in Rehovot, which was named after him – The Weizmann Institute. Weizmann was chosen president of the Provisional State Council on May 16, 1948, two days after Israel’s declaration of independence. In 1949, he was chosen president of the State of Israel and was sworn in on February 17th.