British envoy: Balfour would have urged two-state solution

Says Balfour "would see such a solution as the right way in the modern world to achieve the balance he sought in his declaration."

arthur james balfour  (photo credit: Courtesy)
arthur james balfour
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Lord Arthur James Balfour, the author of the document that paved the way for a Jewish state, would have supported a two-state solution, according to British Ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips. "If Lord Balfour were here today, he would see such a solution as the right way in the modern world to achieve the balance he sought in his declaration," Phillips said Monday night. He was speaking at the annual Balfour Dinner held by the British-Israel Commonwealth Association at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Phillips based his opinion on the text of the Balfour Declaration adopted by the British cabinet in 1917, which read, "His Majesty's government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." It added that in the pursuit of this objective, "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." According to Phillips, a two-state solution would provide the best balance between the rights of the Jewish people and the "non-Jewish communities" referenced in the Balfour Declaration. Until this summer's war in Lebanon, Phillips said, there was a broad consensus within Israel in support of a two-state solution. He credited prime minister Ariel Sharon for providing credibility to the idea that the demographics of a Greater Israel "would inevitably undermine the identity of a democratic Jewish state." The withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Israel's willingness to sincerely engage "in the search for peace," and the terrorist threat from radical Islam had helped Europe better understand Israel, said Phillips. In the light of the war with Hizbullah, Phillips said he was concerned that "Israelis seem to be pondering the failure of both negotiations and unilateralism." The failure to find a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians means "Israelis believe that Israel has no choice but to remain strong and to be prepared to pay the heavy price of however many wars the future may bring." Despite such pessimism, Phillips said, the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Tony Blair remained committed to a two-state solution according to the road map peace plan. "I believe we have to hang on to hope, and to work toward the two-state solution," he said.