A century after the Balfour declaration, Palestinians are demanding a formal apology from the U.K. over the letter that gave formal British support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
A new parliamentary petition was launched by Liberal Democrats "to pressure the U.K. government into acknowledging its role in ‘almost a century of Palestinian suffering' and the U.K.'s wider colonial impact on the region," the Independent reported on Tuesday. The petition should reach 100,000 signatures in order to be discussed in the British parliament.
Britain should apologize for its 1917 declaration endorsing the founding of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and should recognize Palestine as a state, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said late September at the U.N. General Assembly. Abbas said that the Palestinian people had suffered greatly because of the Balfour Declaration in which Britain said it favored the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine but that this should not undermine the rights of others living there.
"We ask Great Britain, as we approach 100 years since this infamous declaration, to draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibility for the consequences of this declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, misery and injustice this declaration created and to act to rectify these disasters and remedy its consequences, including by the recognition of the state of Palestine," Abbas said. "This is the least Great Britain can do."
Abbas raised the 1917 declaration - named for Arthur Balfour, then the British foreign secretary - in the context of other milestones, including the 1948 U.N. General Assembly resolution partitioning Palestine into two states and the 1967 war when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking a short time later at the annual gathering of world leaders, derided Abbas for focusing on the declaration and alluded to the possibility of the Palestinians suing Britain for it. "President Abbas just attacked from this podium the Balfour Declaration. He is preparing a lawsuit against Britain for that declaration from 1917. That's almost 100 years ago. Talk about being stuck in the past," Netanyahu said.
The mutual recriminations in Thursday's speeches underlined the low expectations for any revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. As it happened, the sole speaker between the two Middle East neighbors was the prime minister of Norway, where the secret Israeli-Palestinian peace talks took place leading to the 1993 Oslo accords. The central issues to be resolved in the conflict include borders, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which most nations regard as illegal, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.
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