Balfour Declaration turns 100, Netanyahu challenges Palestinians to recognize Israel

At the centenary celebration of the Balfour Declaration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state is the key to peace.

Speaking in London to mark one century since the Balfour Declaration was issued calling for the establishment of a Jewish state, the Israeli prime minister hailed the blossoming UK-Israel alliance and urged the Palestinians to finally recognize the Jewish state. Netanyahu also insisted he’s committed to fixing, not nixing the Iran deal.

“A hundred years after Balfour, the Palestinians should finally accept the Jewish national home and finally accept the Jewish state,” Netanyahu told UK Prime Minister Theresa May. “And when they do, the road to peace will be infinitely closer. In my opinion, peace will be achievable.”

Netanyahu’s comments came during a special state visit to the UK to participate in an event marking the centennial since the issuing of the Balfour Declaration.

The declaration, issued by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to a leader of the British Jewish community Lord Rothchild in a letter dated November 2, 1917, spelled out the British government’s support “in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and pledged to “use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

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Speaking in a joint press conference with May in 10 Downing Street in London, the Israeli premier began his remarks by expressing his gratitude to the Conservative prime minister for inviting him to participate in marking “with pride a great historical event, a great event in Jewish history, British history and world history.”

Paying tribute to the UK’s past contribution to catalyzing the establishment of the Jewish state, Netanyahu also celebrated the strong alliance that had been developed between the UK and Israel.

“A hundred years later, our two countries, our two democracies–Israel and Britain–are strong allies and partners,” Netanyahu said, listing just a few of the various fields in which the friendship has blossomed.

“We cooperate closely on intelligence. We cooperate closely in the battle against terrorism. And we’ve saved, through this cooperation, countless lives–British lives, Israeli lives,” he said.

“We cooperate in cybersecurity, in technology, in business and enterprise. We share the values of freedom and democracy and peace.”

Turning his attention to the peace process between his country and the Palestinians, which have stagnated in recent years since the last peace push spearheaded by former US president Barack Obama, Netanyahu reiterated that both he and Israel are committed to peace, but added that the crucial caveat lay in Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

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Moreover, Netanyahu highlighted the “great things that are happening in the Middle East,” citing the “many Arab countries” who “now see Israel not as an enemy, but as their indispensable ally in the battle against militant Islam.”

Concluding his remarks, Netanyahu addressed the Iranian threat, stressing its commitment to dominating the region and its ambition to develop nuclear weapons.

However, Netanyahu was keen to clarify his position on the Iranian nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration, insisting that he was not determined to scrap the deal, but rather to improve it.

“The goal that I have in mind is not keeping or eliminating the deal; it’s improving the deal and correcting its main flaws. And I think those who want to keep the deal should cooperate in correcting the deal,” Netanyahu said in a remark apparently directed at May, who recently announced her belief that the nuclear agreement must not be scrapped.

“I have some concrete ideas, which I look forward to discussing with you,” Netanyahu added, before thanking May, who is considered a staunch supporter of Britain’s Jewish community and Israel, “for your resolute stand against anti-Semitism, for your resolute stand on the historical truth and for your friendship. Thank you, Prime Minister.”

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By: Jack Ben-David, World Israel News