AJC eBook: Israel’s Triple Anniversary - Page 3

INTRODUCTION 2017 marks the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, the pivotal British government document that recognized the historical Jewish link to the land upon which the State of Israel would be established. On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour wrote that his government favored “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” setting the stage for eventual international recognition of the Jewish state. In advance of the landmark anniversary, the Palestinian Authority has announced plans to file a lawsuit against Great Britain in an international tribunal. According to the PA’s foreign minister, the Balfour Declaration “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs,” making Great Britain responsible for “Israeli crimes.”1 PA President Mahmoud Abbas echoed these sentiments in a speech before the UN General Assembly, and the PLO has launched a yearlong campaign “to remind the world and particularly Britain that they should live up to their historical responsibility and atone for the big crime Britain committed against the Palestinian people.”2 Palestinian leaders eager to place Great Britain in the dock for the Balfour Declaration are wrong on two counts. First, the Jews certainly did “belong” in Palestine since it was historically “theirs.” Second, recognition of that fact was not just a British idiosyncrasy in 1917, but developed into an international consensus. As it happens, the centennial of the Balfour Declaration in 2017 is not the only memorable anniversary this year marking an event the Palestinian leadership might like to reverse: there are two more that grew directly out of the Declaration. Seventy years ago, on November 29, 1947—30 years post-Balfour—the United Nations General Assembly voted to approve the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The decision was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs, who responded with war when the Jews declared the creation of the State of Israel, a war the Arabs lost. And 50 years ago—chronologically midway between the Balfour Declaration and today—Israel, facing imminent invasion from Egypt and Syria, whose leaders had issued public calls for the liquidation of the Jewish state, acted preemptively on June 5, 1967. Israel won an astounding and complete victory in six days, a result that some in the Arab world have yet to internalize. “Palestinians gear up to sue the UK—over 1917 Balfour Declaration,” Times of Israel, July 25, 2016. 1 https//gadebate.un.org/en/71/palestine-state; David Horovitz, “Palestinian campaign vs Balfour shows hostility to Jewish state undiminished after 100 years,” Times of Israel, October 25, 2016. 2