The Palestinian Authority has called on the Arab League to help them prepare a legal file against the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration almost 100 years ago.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki spoke of the impact of that 1917 document – which supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Holy Land – in a speech he delivered on behalf of PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the 27th Arab League Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania on Monday evening.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded saying that Maliki’s words proved that the Palestinians’ issue was not the West Bank, but the right of Jews to a national homeland, such as was guaranteed them under the Balfour Declaration.
“After 4,000 years of a Jewish history that is inextricably connection to this land, almost 100 years since Balfour and 68 years after the creation of the State of Israel, there are still those who deny our strong ties to this land,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday night.
The Palestinians “do not just object to a Jewish state, they are now objecting to the idea of a national homeland for the Jews that preceded the Jewish state,” said Netanyahu.
“These efforts will fail, but they shine a bright light on the fact that the source of the conflict [with the Palestinians] is their refusal to recognize a Jewish state no matter what the borders are,” he said as he spoke at a special ceremony in Jerusalem to mark the passing of Zionist founder Theodor Herzl.
On Wednesday, Israel’s Foreign Affair’s Director-General Dr. Dore Gold issued the following statement on the Palestinian move to sue Britain for issuing the Balfour Declaration:
Quite apart from the obvious lack of any legal basis for Abbas’ claim, his initiative itself demonstrates yet again the continuing refusal of the Palestinian side to recognize the legitimate and indigenous connection of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, alongside the recognition the Palestinians seek for their own rights.The legal significance of the Balfour Declaration emanated from the fact that it was incorporated by the League of Nations into the 1922 Mandate for Palestine. That mandate recognized the historical connection of the Jewish people to that area and that it provided the grounds for them to reconstitute their national home there.
This recognition came at a time when the Ottoman Empire, was crumbling and renouncing its sovereignty in the areas south of Modern Turkey. The League of Nations Mandate had the effect of transforming the policy position expressed in the Balfour Declaration into an internationally recognized international legal obligation to give effect to the inherent right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancient homeland.
Rights that were recognized by the League of Nations in that period were preserved by its successor organization, the United Nations, through Article 80 of the UN Charter.
Significantly, neither the Balfour Declaration nor the Mandate created the historical rights of the Jewish people to their homeland. Rather, these documents together recognized pre-existing rights that the Jewish people never conceded. Indeed thousands of Jews poured back into their ancient homeland well before the Balfour Declaration was issued.
Israel has insisted that at the end of any negotiation with the Palestinian leadership, it should recognize the rights of the Jewish people to a nation-state, just as many have been insisting that Israel recognize the rights of the Palestinians to a state of their own.
The statement of Mahmoud Abbas that the Arab League should help sue the British government for the Balfour Declaration is yet another resounding “no” to Israel’s fair request for reciprocity through mutual recognition and compromise. It is this stand by the Palestinian leadership that serves as a core obstacle to achieving genuine peace.