Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry urges formal UK recognition 100 years after declaration that paved way for creation of Israel.
“I don’t think we celebrate the Balfour declaration. But I think we have to mark it because it was a turning point in the history of that area and the most important way of marking it is to recognize Palestine.”
— Emily Thornberry, UK shadow foreign secretary
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, is calling on the UK to mark the centenary of the Balfour declaration — which called for the creation of a Jewish national homeland — with a formal British recognition of the state of Palestine.
The Balfour declaration was issued on Nov 2, 1917, and took its name from a letter written by Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary, expressing support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” to Lord Rothschild.
Although Israel was not established until three decades later, the declaration is still seen, not least by Israel, as a founding diplomatic initiative for a Jewish state. It is deeply resented by Palestinians.
Speaking in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, the Palestinian prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, described the Balfour declaration as a “historical injustice” against the Palestinian people.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is attending a commemorative dinner in London on Thursday hosted by the current Lords Balfour and Rothschild, where Thornberry will also be a guest.
Thornberry also questioned Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution — a Palestinian state alongside Israel — suggesting that the emergence of single binational state, with fewer rights for Palestinians, would pose a risk to Israel’s democracy.
In pointed comments that underlined the heated debate over how the anniversary of the Balfour declaration should be publicly noted, Thornberry added that it should be marked but not necessarily celebrated.