US senators propose commemoration of Balfour centennial

100 years since Britain expressed support for Jewish state, Congress to vote on motion honoring pivotal moment for Zionist movement

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

WASHINGTON — Two US senators will introduce a resolution this week commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 that expressed support for the creation of a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine.

Authored by Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, the text affirms Congress’s “commitment to maintaining the strongest of bilateral ties with the State of Israel” and “recognizes the importance of the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”

It notes that “the Jewish people have had a homeland in modern-day Israel for more than 3,000 years” and that the Balfour Declaration “clearly recognized and sought to uphold the ‘civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,’ and the ‘rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.'”

Only 67 words long, the Declaration called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Palestine, at the time, referred to an Ottoman region that had a Jewish minority. Scholars have long considered the letter — dated on November 2, 1917 – to have been crucial to Israel’s eventual founding in 1948.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, left and Oklahoma Senator James Lankford visit Jerusalem’s City of David archaeological site, March 19, 2017 (Koby Harati/City of David)

Sen. Manchin told The Times of Israel in a statement that the Balfour Declaration “represents a pivotal moment in Jewish history and the creation of the modern State of Israel.”

He went on to say, “This resolution reaffirms our support for one of our strongest allies and most steadfast friends in the region as we remember an important moment in their history.”

Ahead of the anniversary, the Palestinian Authority has been waging a public relations assault on the document for the last several months.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League summit in March that the British government should apologize for the Balfour Declaration, and called on Arab states to take the same position.

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