PM: Invite to Balfour centenary ‘speaks volumes’ about Israel-UK ties
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PM: Invite to Balfour centenary ‘speaks volumes’ about Israel-UK ties

Netanyahu contrasts May's warm outreach to Israel with Palestinian Authority plan to sue UK over landmark 1917 Declaration

An image posted by Benjamin Netanyahu on Facebook shows him standing with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in the room in London's Foreign Office where Arthur Balfour signed his famous 1917 declaration. February 6, 2017 (Facebook)
An image posted by Benjamin Netanyahu on Facebook shows him standing with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in the room in London's Foreign Office where Arthur Balfour signed his famous 1917 declaration. February 6, 2017 (Facebook)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday during an official visit to the UK that an invitation he received from British Prime Minister Theresa May to attend November’s centenary celebrations of the Balfour Declaration in London “speaks volumes” about Jerusalem’s relationship with Downing Street.

“While the Palestinians want to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration, the British prime minister is inviting the Israeli prime minister to an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the declaration. That speaks volumes,” Netanyahu said.

In July, the Palestinian Authority announced its plan to file a lawsuit against the British government over the 1917 document that paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said at the time that London was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” committed since the end of the British mandate in 1948.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The decision, al-Malki said, “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.”

Signed on November 2, 1917 by the UK’s then Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, the declaration announced his government’s intention to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in the Land of Israel.

It was seen as giving the Zionist movement official recognition and backing on the part of a major power, on the eve of the British conquest of the then-Ottoman territory of Palestine.

Lord Arthur Balfour and the Balfour Declaration (Wikimedia commons)
Lord Arthur Balfour and the Balfour Declaration (Wikimedia commons)

In October, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported the start of a year-long campaign to commemorate 100 years since the “crime” of the Balfour Declaration.

Calling the declaration a “colonialist project,” Taysir Khalid, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the new Palestinian effort was intended “to remind the world and particularly Britain that they should face their historic responsibility and to atone for the big crime Britain had committed against the Palestinian people.”

Addressing the United Nations in September, Netanyahu attacked the PA over the plan, characterizing it as another example of Palestinians refusing to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 71st session of United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 22, 2016. (AFP/Jewel Samad)
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 71st session of United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 22, 2016. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

“That’s almost 100 years ago,” said Netanyahu. “Talk about being stuck in the past! The Palestinians might as well sue Iran for the Cyrus declarations, or file a class action suit against Abraham, for buying land in Hebron,” he added, referencing a Persian edict allowing Jews to return to Judea in 539 BCE and the Biblical patriarch.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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