Netanyahu in London meets with UK Jewish leaders to mark Balfour centenary

Prime minister sits down with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Sunday with British Jewish leaders in London at the tail end of his visit to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, telling them the histories of  Britain and Israel were intertwined.

Accompanied by his wife, Sara Netanyahu, Culture Minister Miri Regev, and Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev, the prime minister met with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Jonathan Arkush, among others.

Netanyahu praised the British prime minister’s speech on Thursday night, during which Theresa May said she would “absolutely not” apologize for the landmark 1917 document seen as a key milestone in the establishment of the State of Israel.

“As I said at this extraordinary dinner, in which I thought Theresa May gave a tremendous speech, I think that our histories are intertwined, the history of Britain and Israel, and the Jewish community, from Chaim Weizmann and others, has been intertwined in the history of Zionism,” Netanyahu said. “I thank you for that continuous bridge between Britain and Israel, between Zionism and Britain.”

Arkush, the Board of Deputies president, welcomed Netanyahu.

“Our community is a strong community, only one-half of one percent of the British population, but we carry a degree of confidence in ourselves and in Israel,” Arkush said. “And every single one of us round this table is working totally for the good of the Jewish community and for the State of Israel.”

On November 2, 1917, Lord Arthur Balfour, the UK foreign secretary at the time, sent a letter to the leader of the British Jewish community, Lord Walter Rothschild, in which he declared his government’s support for a Jewish state in the area then known as Palestine.

The short document stated that “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

It helped pave the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Palestinians, though, have roundly condemned the document as a major milestone in their eventual dispossession with the creation of the Jewish state.

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