On this day: 105th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration

105-years-ago, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter that made history.

Lord Arthur James Balfour and the text of the Balfour Declaration (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Lord Arthur James Balfour and the text of the Balfour Declaration
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

On November 2, 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to a well-known Zionist and friend of Chaim Weizmann, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, saying that the British government will support the Jewish people in returning to their homeland. The letter later became known as the Balfour Declaration, marking a major milestone in Israel's history.

Britain's support for the Zionist movement came after the First World War caused concern regarding the direction the world was going in. Britain hoped that supporting the Zionism movement would help gain Jewish support for the Allies, according to History.

"His Majesty's Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object," Balfour wrote.

A month after the declaration was issued, Britain put an end to the Ottoman control over the Holy Land and took control.

International recognition of the Jewish people's right to go back to their homeland quickly followed after the Balfour Declaration. The League of Nations recognized these rights and appointed Great Britain to be responsible for putting the Balfour Declaration into effect. The League of Nations Mandate acknowledged the Jewish people's right to the area known as the Land of Israel. Their approval transformed the declaration from the policy position of one major power to an international obligation.

Lord Balfour's writing desk. Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Lord Balfour's writing desk. Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Who was Balfour?

Arthur James Balfour, 1st earl of Balfour of Whittingehame, Sicount Traprain, was a British statesman who maintained a powerful position in the British Conservative Party for 50 years. 

He was prime minister from 1902-1905 and then was the foreign secretary from 1916-1919.