Britain proud of role in creating Israel, Prime Minister Theresa May will say at Balfour celebration


(JTA) — Britain is “proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel,” British Prime Minister Theresa May will say at a dinner to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

A copy of May’s speech for the dinner on Thursday night was provided to and widely reported by the British media. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in London on Wednesday evening and will be May’s guest at the dinner.

“We are proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel. We are proud to stand here today together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and declare our support for Israel. And we are proud of the relationship we have built with Israel,” May’s speech says.

“I believe it demands of us today a renewed resolve to support a lasting peace that is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians – and in the interests of us all. … A peace deal that must be based on a two-state solution, with a secure and prosperous Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”

May also will use her address to warn against “a new and pernicious form of anti-Semitism which uses criticism of the actions of the Israeli government as a despicable justification for questioning the very right of Israel to exist.”

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The Palestinian Authority and Palestinian supporters have called on the United Kingdom to apologize for the 1917 declaration, which was named after then-Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour. On Nov. 2 of that year, following long talks with Zionist leaders, the British government vowed to help establish a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel without jeopardizing the rights of other area inhabitants.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, will attend the dinner in place of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn did not say why he turned down the invitation, but he is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. Thornberry this week called on Britain to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration with a formal British recognition of a state of Palestine.

Netanyahu and May met Thursday in London prior to the dinner.

“A hundred years ago, the Balfour Declaration helped pave the way for the reestablishment of an independent state for the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland,” Netanyahu said before the meeting. “A hundred years later, our two countries, our two democracies – Israel and Britain – are strong allies and partners.

“A hundred years after Balfour, the Palestinians should finally accept the Jewish national home and finally accept the Jewish state. And when they do, the road to peace will be infinitely closer. In my opinion, peace will be achievable.”