U.K. Lords: Recognize Palestinian State, Apologize for Balfour Declaration

YERUSHALAYIM -

As Israel celebrated its 69th Independence Day on Tuesday, the British House of Lords was “reconsidering” the country’s Middle East policies, based on a report issued by a committee of peers which said that the U.K. could no longer follow Washington’s lead on the matter. President Trump’s ideas on renegotiating the deal with Iran and, especially its willingness to accept Israeli construction in Yehudah and Shomron, is reason enough for the U.K. — and Europe in general — to forge its own path in the Middle East.

That path, the report said, could include recognizing a Palestinian state, with the full diplomatic protections and relationship that all other states merit. Reuters quoted David Howell, chairman of the British parliament’s House of Lords International Relations Committee, as saying that the U.K. “can no longer assume America will set the tone for the West’s relationship with the Middle East.”

In its report, said Reuters, “the committee cited in particular Trump’s approach to Iran and to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Quoting from the report, Reuters said that according to the committee, “the new U.S. administration has the potential to destabilize further the region… The U.S. president has taken positions that are unconstructive and could even escalate conflict. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute must remain high amongst British foreign policy priorities,” the report said. “The government should be more forthright in stating its views on these issues despite the views of the U.S. administration.”

Several weeks ago, Lord Warner, a peer in the House of Lords, said that Britain should “apologize” for the Balfour Declaration, a key document that eventually led to the establishment of Israel as a state in 1948. The 1917 document declared that London “looked favorably” on the establishment of a “national home” for the Jewish people in what was then Mandatory Palestine. That self-determination, however, should not “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Lord Warner was quoted by the BBC as saying that Britain had failed on that side of the declaration, and that the 100th anniversary of the declaration, which comes up in November, should be “marked with a gracious apology from the British government in Parliament for the suffering that that failure has caused and try to make amends … with a clear commitment to recognition of a viable independent Palestinian state.”