UK Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is calling on the UK to mark the centenary of the Balfour declaration with a formal British recognition of the state of Palestine.
The Balfour declaration was issued on 2 November 1917, and took its name from a letter written by Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary, expressing support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” to Lord Walter Rothschild.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is attending a commemorative dinner in London on Thursday hosted by the current Lords Balfour and Rothschild, where Thornberry will also be a guest.
In pointed comments that underlined the heated debate over how the anniversary of the Balfour declaration should be publicly noted, Thornberry added that it should be marked but not necessarily celebrated.
“I don’t think we celebrate the Balfour declaration,” Thornberry told the website Middle East Eye in a wide-ranging interview on UK foreign policy. “But I think we have to mark it because it was a turning point in the history of that area and the most important way of marking it is to recognise Palestine.
“The British government have said they will do, it’s just a question of when the time is right and it seems to me this is the time,” Thornberry added.
Thornberry’s comments follow remarks by Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev, who denounced those who oppose the Balfour declaration as “extremists.”
“Those who oppose the Balfour declaration are exposing themselves for the extremists they are,” Regev told a meeting of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.