Israel’s Foreign Ministry responds to Palestinian Authority’s call to sue Britain for Balfour Declaration

Gold responds to PA call on Arab League to support opening internal criminal case against Britain; Gold refers to invalidity of efforts as well as PA refusal to recognize Israel as “core obstacle to achieving genuine peace”

MFA Director General Dore Gold

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General Dore Gold responded to the Palestinian Authority’s call for the Arab League to support and contribute to its efforts to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) made the announcement of its intentions during the 27th Arab League Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania earlier this week. PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who spoke in place of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Arab states to support their efforts to open a “international criminal case” for the crime which they [Britain] committed against our nation from the days of the British Mandate all the way to the massacre which was carried out against us from 1948 onwards,” referring to the Balfour Declaration as the start of “the historic massacre of our land and our peoples’ fates” and responsible for having “ caused this catastrophe against the Palestinian people.” He also warned Arab states of against “concept of regional cooperation and security which is aimed at creating regional security cooperation between Arab countries and Israel and normalizing relations before the end of the Israeli occupation.”

Gold released an official statement on Wednesday evening responding to the latest of ludicrous efforts by the Palestinian Authority to gain support for statehood through means other than direct negotiations with the State of Israel. His statement focused on the invalidity of the Authority’s efforts and claims as neither the Balfour Declaration nor the British Mandate “created the historical rights of the Jewish people to their homeland” but “together recognized pre-existing rights that the Jewish people never conceded.”

His full statement:

“In a revealing address given in the name of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, before a meeting of the Arab League last week in Mauritania, Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, asked for help to prepare a legal file against Britain for issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

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.”

The Balfour Declaration was a letter written by then Foreign Secretary James Balfour to Walter Rothschild in 1917, where he declared support from Britain’s government for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

It read:

“I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s government, the following declaration of sympathy with the Jewish Zionists aspirations which has been submitted to and approved by the Cabinet.

His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country…”