Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The British Foreign Office said on Tuesday that it does not plan to apologize for issuing the Balfour Declaration, as the 100th anniversary of the document, which helped pave the way for the establishment of the State of Israel, nears.
Abbas says Britain should apologize for Balfour declaration promising right to Jewish homeland (credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called on Britain to apologize for issuing the declaration and cancel celebrations of its centenary.
“The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which Her Majesty’s Government does not intend to apologize. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves toward peace,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Balfour Declaration was a letter sent by then-British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour to a leader in the British Jewish community, in which Balfour said the British government views “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The document also says that the British government “will use [its] best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
Palestine was under British rule when Balfour made the policy statement.
While the Foreign Office said that it does not intend to apologize for issuing the declaration, it added in its statement that the document “should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination.”
The Balfour Declaration states “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” while making no mention of national rights of non-Jews.
Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the UK, said on Tuesday that unless Britain apologized, canceled planned celebrations and recognized a Palestinian state, the Palestinians would go ahead with plans for a lawsuit against the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration.
“This is the only condition upon which we can close this file permanently,” Hassassian said.
Palestinians have long condemned the document as a promise by Britain to hand over land that it did not own.
Abbas called the Balfour Declaration “sinister” at the Arab Summit in Jordan in late March.