Britain should apologize for its 1917 declaration endorsing the founding of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and should recognize Palestine as a state, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday.
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Abbas said that the Palestinian people had suffered greatly because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which Britain said it favored the establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine but that this should not undermine the rights of others living there.
“We ask Great Britain, as we approach 100 years since this infamous declaration, to draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibility for the consequences of this declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, misery and injustice this declaration created and to act to rectify these disasters and remedy its consequences, including by the recognition of the state of Palestine,” Abbas said. “This is the least Great Britain can do.”
The declaration, named for the British foreign secretary at the time, offered a more-nuanced message than Abbas described.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour 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, it being clearly understood 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,” it said.
Abbas also said that he would submit a resolution to the U.N. Security Council to protest Israeli terrorism against the Palestinian people.
“I call on you to declare 2017 the year to end the Israeli occupation of our land and our people,” he told the plenum.
He assigned all blame for the stalemate in peace talks to Israel, saying it has been “sabotaging” U.S. peace efforts, and that since Israel was, in his view, in violation of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians are free to pursue unilateral actions.