Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday said Britain would celebrate with pride the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and its role in the creation of the State of Israel.
Speaking in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions she said: “We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of the State of Israel, and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride.”
May also said: “We also must be conscious of the sensitivities that some people do have about the Balfour Declaration. We recognise that there is more work to be done.”
Reinforcing her support for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, May reminded the House that it is “important that we all recommit to ensuring that we can provide security, stability and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians through such a lasting peace”.
The Prime Minister’s comments were followed by an MP’s debate in Westminster Hall about the Balfour Declaration – organised by the Conservative MP Dr Matthew Offord. Speaking the debate, Foreign Office and International Development Minister Alistair Burt said Israel is a partner to the UK, adding that the UK has “unfinished business” until a lasting peace is achieved. He emphasised that the goal of the UK Government is a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, and Jerusalem as a shared capital.
On Tuesday at an event in Israel at the British Embassy, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said of the Balfour Declaration: “It is a history that places upon us all a duty to work together, to continue to strengthen the friendship between Britain and Israel. And also to continue to build the State of Israel, as a proud Jewish and democratic state. This is the legacy of the Balfour Declaration, and it is a great and proud legacy indeed.”
In July, the Palestinian Authority announced its plan to sue the UK because of the Declaration. Palestine Liberation Organisation Secretary-General Saeb Erekat wrote in Newsweek last week that Britain must “first and foremost recognise its historic responsibility and apologise”.
May will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in London next week. As well as a bilateral meeting in Downing street they are expected to attend a special event together to mark the Balfour Declaration centenary.