The Palestinians called on the Arab League to help them prepare a legal file against the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration almost 100 years ago.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki spoke of the impact of that 1917 document – which supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Holy Land – in a speech he delivered on behalf of PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the 27th Arab League Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania on Monday evening.
“With the coming of this painful anniversary, the passing of approximately 100 years since the historic massacre of our land and our people’s fates, and with the continuation of this catastrophe without a resolution, we call on the secretariat general of the Arab League to support us in preparing a legal file to raise against the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration and thereafter implementing it as a mandatory authority,” Maliki said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Maliki’s words proved that the Palestinians’ issue was not the West Bank, but the right of Jews to a national homeland, such as was guaranteed them under the Balfour Declaration.
“After 4,000 years of a Jewish history that is inextricably connection to this land, almost 100 years since Balfour and 68 years after the creation of the State of Israel, there are still those who deny our strong ties to this land,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday night.
The Palestinians “do not just object to a Jewish state, they are now objecting to the idea of a national homeland for the Jews that preceded the Jewish state,” said Netanyahu.
“These efforts will fail, but they shine a bright light on the fact that the source of the conflict [with the Palestinians] is their refusal to recognize a Jewish state no matter what the borders are,” he said as he spoke at a special ceremony in Jerusalem to mark the passing of Zionist founder Theodor Herzl.
A number of Israeli politicians offered some tongue-in-cheek responses for a statement that they considered to be absurd.
“If PA President Abu Mazen can sue Great Britain on the Balfour Declaration from 99 years ago, then who is next in line, the Egyptian Pharaoh?” mused Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter.
He added that he could only imagine the complaint. “You sent the Jews out of Egypt 3,500 years and since then there has been only trouble in the land of Israel.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan jokingly suggested that maybe the Palestinians should try and sue God for promising Abraham, in the Biblical book of Genesis, that he would give the Land of Israel to his descendants.
In his speech to the Arab League, Maliki also addressed the larger issue of ending Israel’s rule over the West Bank and east Jerusalem. He thanked those Arab countries and states who have supported the Palestinians.
“Our people will not forget the good countries and peoples, especially our Arab brothers and many other friendly countries, who extended and still extend their hands in supporting, standing beside, and embracing our people in its trials and tribulations,” he said.
In response to Israel’s call for the establishment of diplomatic ties with moderate Arab states, Maliki called on Arab states not to normalize relations with Israel before the establishment of a Palestinian state at the pre-1967 lines.
“We warn Arab states of the 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,” he stated.
“The time has come, before it is too late, to galvanize Arab and international support to enable our people to achieve its freedom and independence, establishing an independent Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, borders,” he said.
Since the failure of the last round of negotiations in April 2014, the Palestinian leadership has aggressively pursued an international campaign to achieve unilateral statehood at the pre-1967 lines.
As it concluded its one-day annual meeting, the Arab League issued a statement on the continued Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
“The Arab leaders once again emphasized the centrality of the Palestinian issue in our joint work, putting our foot forward in support of Palestinian people’s steadfastness in the face of the ongoing Israeli aggression and making great efforts to find a comprehensive, permanent and just solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative and the Madrid principles, international law and relevant UN resolutions, and in this context the Arab leaders welcome the French initiative to hold an international peace conference,” the statement said.
The Palestinian cabinet endorsed the League statement, but Palestinian media pundits said they were disappointed by the poor showing of top leaders at the summit, which was held for the first time in Mauritania.
Among those absent was Abbas, due to the death of his brother.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has called for a regional peace process, was not at the summit.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II was also absent.