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British Government refuses to apologise for Balfour Declaration

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The British Government has reiterated its pride in its role in the creation of the State of Israel, in response to a sustained campaign asking the government to apologise for the Balfour Declaration.

A statement from the government read: “The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG does not intend to apologise. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”

The statement also reaffirmed the government’s belief that “establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution”.

A high-profile Balfour Apology Campaign had launched a petition on the British Parliament website calling on Britain to “openly apologise to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration,” ahead of its centenary in November. In an address to the Arab League in March, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas demanded the United Kingdom apologise for granting the Balfour Declaration.

However, in December Prime Minister Theresa May eschewed the notion that Britain would apologise, referring to the centenary as “an anniversary we will be marking with pride” at a Conservative Friends of Israel event.

In July 2016, the PA foreign minister Riyad al-Malki asked the Arab League for support in filing a law suit against the UK Government for publishing the Declaration. PA Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian yesterday confirmed that unless the UK Government apologised, cancelled planned celebrations and recognised the State of Palestine, the PA would go ahead with the planned lawsuit. He said: “This is the only condition upon which we can close this file permanently.”

The Balfour Declaration was signed by then Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour in 1917, declaring the support of the British government for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people. It is widely considered to be a seminal document in the process creating the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited by Theresa May to attend events in the UK that will mark the centenary of the declaration in November.