Britain’s Minister for the Middle East has said the country is “very proud” of the role it played in the establishment of a “Jewish homeland”.
The comments, made by Tobias Ellwood MP, are a perceived shift from his statements earlier this year, in which he said he would not “celebrate” next year’s centenary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
At a Conservative Friends of Israel event on Tuesday, Ellwood said: “Britain is very proud of our role, in the part we played, in establishing a Jewish homeland”.
Asked about the government’s preparations to mark the date, at an event featuring 15 MPs and 50 diplomats, Ellwood said: “Number 10 is making those arrangements and I think that’s very, very important”.
He also spoke about the security threats facing Israel, adding: “We shouldn’t forget what Israel is living and breathing every day.”
In parliament earlier this month, Ellwood addressed the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, when then foreign secretary Lord Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild expressing the government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
During a debate to mark the centenary, Ellwood said the UK would “neither celebrate nor apologise” for the Balfour Declaration, which “had its flaws,” but argued: “It is part of our history that some celebrate and some condemn… It did not create the State of Israel, but it was a stepping stone along the way.”
He added: “We will not apologise. The UK is a diverse country in which the historical show of support for the world’s Jewish community means a great deal to many people. We continue to support the principle of a Jewish homeland and the modern state of Israel, just as we support the critical objective of a Palestinian homeland.”
He also said next year marked 50 years of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, saying the situation was “unacceptable and unsustainable”.