A hundred years after the Balfour declaration that established a pathway to a Jewish state, the prime minister should acknowledge its role in Palestinian suffering
He has not yet confirmed that he is coming. But having warmly described Theresa May’s invitation to visit Britain to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour declaration as “speaking volumes” about the UK-Israel relationship, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is unlikely to pass up the opportunity.
The anniversary of Arthur Balfour’s letter to Lord Rothschild announcing that “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” will be seen in very different ways. For many Israelis it is a cause of patriotic celebration that the British Zionists led by Chaim Weizmann were able to persuade the UK government, on the brink of wresting Palestine from Ottoman control, to set them on a path to a Jewish state. Equally every Briton who has spent any time in the occupied Palestinian territories will have been told repeatedly that Britain – and its promise of a Jewish national home in a land with a then overwhelming Arab majority – was the source of all their suffering over the next century.