PM Netanyahu and his wife Sara before boarding the airplane to London (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The real tragedy surrounding the Balfour Declaration is the Palestinian refusal to accept it 100 years later, Netanyahu said on his way to celebrate the historic event. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the real tragedy surrounding the historic Balfour Declaration is the Palestinian refusal to recognize it, meaning that they negate the existence of the Jewish state.

Speaking on Wednesday at Ben-Gurion International Airport prior to leaving for London to attend an event marking the Balfour Declaration’s centenary, Netanyahu remarked that the occasion is “very important” as the declaration “recognized the right of the Jewish people for their national home in this land.”

The Balfour Declaration was written by UK Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to the 2nd Baron Rothschild, Lionel Walter Rothschild, who was the leader of the British Jewish community at the time.

It stated the British government would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The declaration is considered to be the first documented legitimization of the state of Israel.

The Balfour Declaration officially became part of international law when the League of Nations adopted it in 1922. It is widely considered to be a seminal document in the process creating the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

“The Palestinians say that the Balfour Declaration was a tragedy. It wasn’t a tragedy. What has been tragic is their refusal to accept this 100 years later,” Netanyahu said, expressing hope that “they change their mind, because if they do they can move forward finally to making peace between our two peoples.”

Netanyahu posits that an essential tenant of any peace agreement is the Palestinians’ recognition of a Jewish state, a basic requirement they have so far refused, and continue to reject through their objection to the Balfour Declaration, a historic statement of sympathy issued by the British government for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

During his visit from November 1-5, Netanyahu will attend a series of centennial events commemorating the historic declaration.

On Thursday, Netanyahu will meet with UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. In the evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife will – at the invitation of Lord Jacob Rothschild – attend the event marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration; UK Prime Minister May, senior officials and members of the Balfour family will also attend.

The events are slated to be held despite pressure from pro-Palestinian groups in Great Britain and beyond, who are demanding that the British government renounce the Balfour Declaration and apologize for it.

“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,” the UK Foreign Office stated in response to a petition by the Palestinian Return Centre urging an official apology from the UK. “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel.”

100 Years of Arab Rejection

Throughout the 20th century, Arab leaders have rejected Jewish rights, promoted an exclusivist worldview that the land belongs only to them and encouraged violent attacks on the Jewish population.

This rejection of the legitimate and internationally-mandated and recognized claim of the Jewish people to a national homeland in the Holy Land is the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“It is the thread which connects every war, every atrocity, every diplomatic maneuver and every terrorist act initiated by the Arab side, from 1917 to today,” Israel’s foreign minister stated.

Even now, the Palestinians, instead of educating and building towards a future of peace, are still looking backwards, trying to turn back the hands of time, re-litigate and deny, and reject the world’s acceptance of the justice of the Jewish people’s claim, the foreign ministry exclaimed.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced at the July 2016 Arab League Summit his intention to sue Britain for issuing the Balfour Declaration.

His and other Palestinian leaders’ rejection of the Balfour Declaration reflects their consistent denial of any rights of the Jewish people in their homeland, and thus, drives peace further away.

The vehement opposition to the Balfour Declaration was and has remained rooted in the anti-historical view that Jews are aliens in the land, and in the false assumption that they have no connection to the land and no right of any kind to live there as a people. This attitude of Arab exclusivism continues to drive the Arab-Israeli conflict to this day.

In a recent example of how this rejectionism manifests itself, on October 19, 2017, the Palestinian diplomatic delegation to Colombia tweeted, quoting Yasser Arafat, that “the end of Israel is our objective… We do not want peace, we want war, victory.”