Britain Should Apologize Not for the Balfour Declaration But for Failing to Uphold It

Last week marked the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration—the British pledge to create “a Jewish national home in Palestine.” For this occasion, the House of Lords perversely sponsored a panel supporting Mahmoud Abbas’s urgings that the UK apologize for issuing the declaration in the first place. Richard Kemp notes that, if the UK is to do any apologizing, it should be for neglecting to uphold Lord Balfour’s promise:

Arab Jew-hatred certainly did not start with the Balfour Declaration. But it did intensify afterward. It was this intensification, with its accompanying slaughter, revolt, and rioting against both British and Jews that caused Britain to falter and fail. . . . It caused the British government to introduce White Papers in 1922 and 1939 that sought to appease Arab violence and resistance by imposing restrictions on Jewish immigration into Palestine and on the development of the millennia-old Jewish presence in the historic Jewish homeland.

It caused Britain to deny Jewish immigration into Palestine even as Jews were being butchered in the millions in Europe. . . . It caused Britain to abstain from the 1947 UN General Assembly resolution that brought about the re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. And even to appoint a British general—Sir John Glubb—to lead the Arab Legion’s invasion of Israel immediately afterward.

It has caused Britain up to the present day to sometimes fail to condemn Arab aggression against Israelis, and to find excuses for such violence. All in the name of appeasing the Arabs and their supporters in the Muslim world and even at home.

Despite all of this, with Britain sometimes sinking into moral weakness over its subsequent failure to support the state that it incubated, the country can be intensely proud that Britain alone embraced Zionism in 1917. And it was the blood of many thousands of British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers that created the conditions that made the modern-day state of Israel a possibility.

These men fought and died in the Palestine campaign to defeat the Ottoman empire that had occupied the territory for centuries. One month after the Balfour Declaration, on December 7, 1917, British imperial forces under General Allenby drove the Ottomans from Jerusalem. The day the last Ottoman soldier left the Holy City was the first day of Hanukkah, the celebration of the Maccabean liberation of that city 2,000 years earlier.

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More about: Balfour Declaration, British Mandate, Israel & Zionism, United Kingdom, World War I

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank