Jewish leaders have welcomed the Government’s confirmation that it will not use the upcoming centenary of the Balfour Declaration to issue an apology for it.
In a statement, a Government spokesman said: “The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG does not intend to apologise. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”
He added: “Establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.”
Board of Deputies’ President Jonathan Arkush said the Government was taking a “strong, principled stance” and praised the “clear message to any would-be party-poopers”.
The Balfour Declaration, a short letter written to Lord Rothschild from then Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour, was drawn up in 1917 by the British Government to declare its support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Supporters of Palestinian rights in the UK, including Baroness Jenny Tonge and former Lib Dem MP David Ward, have recently sought to pressure the Government to use the November centenary to issue an apology.
In September last year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on the British Government to do likewise in his annual address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. A subsequent petition said: “The colonial policy of Britain between 1917 and 1948 led to mass displacement of the Palestinian nation.”
However, Arkush said strong UK-Israel relations in 2017 meant that this was nonsensical, saying: “Israel is the UK’s most dependable ally in the Middle East and the roots of this vital, strategic partnership are a clear cause for celebration.”