UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson addresses a Board of Deputies of British Jews parliamentary reception in London on Monday night to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration..
(photo credit: GARY PERLMUTTER)
After expressing unabashed pride about the Balfour Declaration in an op-ed penned for the Sunday Telegraph, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke of the “genius of Israel,” during a Board of Deputies of British Jews parliamentary reception held in London on Monday night.
The event was a celebration that marked the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, attended by more than 100 parliamentarians, diplomats, senior civil servants and Jewish community leaders.
In his speech, at the official residence of the Speaker of the House Of Commons, Johnson said: “The Balfour Declaration, whatever its defects, whatever its unfulfilled nature, paved the way for one of the greatest political triumphs of the 20th century, the creation of the State of Israel, which, after all, is a democracy, a liberal society, a beacon of hope and which shares the values in which I passionately believe. This is an amazing achievement by humanity.”
“Speaking as an ex-kibbutznik, who spent most of his time doing the washing up, I recognize the magic, the genius, and miracle of Israel. And that is why we should mark Balfour with pride and with respect,” he added.
The “unfulfilled nature” he spoke of, referred to the caveat in the Balfour Declaration that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities.”
In his opinion piece for the Telegraph, Johnson said he did not believe this had been fully realized and asserted that a two-state solution could help achieve this.
Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev told the audience at Monday’s event that: “In the vast Middle East, there is only one country whose Arab citizens have consistently enjoyed the privileges of living in a democracy, and that is in the State of Israel.”
The reception was held in partnership with the All-Party Britain-Israel Parliamentary Group and in association with Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.
Conservative Friends of Israel member.
MP Theresa Villiers emphasized the strength of the Britain-Israel relationship, and Labour Friends of Israel member MP Joan Ryan said she was “incredibly proud of Britain’s role in helping to bring about world’s first Jewish state and equally proud of the part played by my party.”
On behalf of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, Baron Monroe Palmer OBE spoke of his own pride that the Balfour Declaration had been issued under a Liberal administration.
Board of Deputies of British Jews President Jonathan Arkush, said: “After 2000 years of persecution, blood libels, pogroms, and the Holocaust, we can now finally say that we are able to return, to a place of safety and security. This is what the Balfour Declaration represents to us – a historic recognition of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our homeland.”