The Balfour Declaration.
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
100 years later, the thank you is in the mail One hundred years after Arthur James Balfour penned the historic Balfour Declaration to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, the World Zionist Organization decided the time had come to send a response.
Balfour had requested that Rothschild transmit the letter to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, but, according to the WZO, until now the umbrella organization never sent him a formal response.
“Honorable Lord Arthur James Balfour, First and foremost, allow me to express our deep regret over the delay in response,” WZO vice chairman Yaakov Hagoel wrote in the letter, which he posted to the Balfour family while in London for a WZO conference on antisemitism last weekend.
“The Zionist leaders welcomed Lord Rothschild’s message in which His Majesty’s Government provided its recognition to the Zionist desire to establish a Jewish national home in its historical homeland – Israel. With a profound sense of gratitude for all your efforts promoting this goal, we wish to inform you that the endeavor was successful, and that the State of Israel was founded and serves as the national home of the Jewish people, welcoming Jews from all countries of the Diaspora,” he continued.
Hagoel proceeded to address all aspects of the Balfour Declaration, which stated that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
Hagoel’s letter discussed how minority rights are protected in the Jewish state, detailing the presence of and the Israeli government could openly cooperate with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt – if a diplomatic breakthrough with the Palestinians were to emerge, said an Israeli businessman who is intimately familiar with the Smart City project.
In the meantime, the Israeli firms will be forced to operate under the table as they compete for billion-dollar contracts.
The zone is adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, and close to the Suez Canal, a major shipping terminal. Picked to run the NEOM project is Klaus Kleinfeld, the former CEO of American aluminum manufacturer Alcoa Inc. and previously CEO of German engineering company Siemens AG.
To build a multibillion-dollar smart city that’s run on renewable energy and manned by robots, the Saudi government would need technological expertise, and it might be impossible to rely entirely on domestic companies.
That’s where Israeli companies could step in.
Addressing the annual JOURNEY business conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, ex-Labor MK and founder of JVP venture capital fund Erel Margalit spoke about economic opportunities for Israel in the Smart City project.
“What politicians don’t understand: things don’t happen unless there are business opportunities,” said Margalit, who earlier this year visited a number of Arab Gulf countries to discuss economic cooperation with the Jewish state. He stepped down from the Knesset some two weeks ago, after losing the primary to lead the opposition Labor Party.
“There’s a lot of discussion with Arab businessmen and political figures; most of these discussions are very quiet and private,” Margalit told the Post. “The fact that [Prince bin] Salman came up with this announcement to call for cooperation on a regional level... it’s giving Israelis an opportunity to speak in the name of regional economic cooperation through the concept of innovation.
This is going to be the biggest drive of change in the region.”
Margalit also spoke about proposed joint-infrastructure projects between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, specifically building an airport with four terminals, allowing passengers to disembark and travel to any of the four countries. That would be on hold until Israel reaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians, he added. The Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty in 1994 included plans for a joint airport near Aqaba and Eilat, but that never materialized.
“Governments need to be informed; they don’t always lead. You need to build a business plan that’s very concrete and that has the interest of many investors and companies, which will compel the politicians to open their eyes and ears,” Margalit said.