Israel is strengthening its ties with moderate Middle East actors and hopes the Palestinians will follow suit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a special Knesset session marking the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration on Tuesday.
“We’re forging closer relations with moderate forces in the region,” he said. “Just as we made peace with Egypt and Jordan, we’re working to attain peace with other Arab countries that stand together with us against radical Islam.
“I can only hope that, in the end, the Palestinians will also adopt this approach and turn toward peace,” he continued. “When they term the Balfour Declaration ‘a crime’ and urge the British government to apologize for it, they aren’t moving forward, but going 100 years backward. This is the root of the conflict: the refusal to recognize Zionism and the Jewish home, and to recognize the modern state of Israel in any borders.”
“We welcome the peace that has been achieved. We hope to expand it, but its delay has never weakened us,” he said.
Linking current peace efforts and the historical document, Netanyahu claimed that at the time, “Even the Arab world treated the Balfour Declaration sympathetically.
“Emir Faisal [King of Saudi Arabia at the time] recognized the right of the Jews to reestablish their national home in Palestine simultaneously with the establishment of a united Arab kingdom in the Middle East. He supported cooperation between the Jews and the Arabs based on mutual understanding and brotherhood.
“On the other hand, the Arab nationalist faction harshly attacked the Balfour Declaration. The declaration provided a pretext for incitement and violence, in no small way encouraged by the Mufti Amin el-Husseini.
“Those who seek the roots of the internal Islamic struggle that we are witness to in recent years, will find it here, Faisal the moderate opposite the extremist mufti.”
Netanyahu also claimed that the Balfour Declaration, which he said helped catalyze Jewish national sentiments, was also a tragedy that cost the lives of Jews during the Holocaust. “Sadly, shortly after it was given, Britain backtracked from its commitment [to the Balfour Declaration] and this was a tragedy. Our lack of sovereignty until 1948 prevented us from saving the lives of millions of Jews. The tragedy of the Balfour Deceleration is that it took 30 years to be implemented.”
Much diplomatic ado has been made regarding the 100 year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Netanyahu traveled to London last week in commemoration of the anniversary. He met with British Prime Minister Theresa May for a working meeting at 10 Downing Street and for a private dinner at Lancaster House hosted by Lords Rothschild and the family of Balfour, commemorating the Balfour Declaration.
Besides the Balfour event, Netanyahu gave a talk at the Chatham House think tank and answered questions from members of the prestigious think tank on Friday. He also met with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.