Palestinians Threaten U.K. Court Action on Balfour Declaration

(Bloomberg) -- Palestinians plan to sue the U.K. in pursuit of an apology and compensation for its promotion of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine 100 years ago through the Balfour Declaration.

Notice of the court action came Thursday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in London to join U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May for a celebration of the endorsement of Zionism issued in 1917 by Britain’s foreign secretary. The Palestinian Authority will hire a British law firm to lodge its claim and explore similar actions in European and other international courts, Foreign Minister Riad Malki said.

Palestinians Threaten U.K. Court Action on Balfour Declaration

“The Palestinian government has made every effort to persuade the British government to abandon its decision to celebrate the centennial of the Balfour Declaration,” Malki said in an emailed statement. Palestinians will “will exhaust all possibilities for a partial realization of the stolen justice that was executed by Britain through its ominous promise.”

Israel holds the letter sent by Lord Arthur Balfour as one of the legal foundations for its establishment three decades later as a Jewish state, while Palestinians call it a tragedy that paved the way for their dispersion. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K. Labour Party and a prominent Palestinian supporter, has said he won’t attend the dinner hosted by descendants of Balfour and Walter Rothschild, the British Jewish leader who received the letter.

A protest against the commemoration, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, will take place Saturday in London’s Parliament Square. Demonstrations also are planned across the Palestinian territories, including a march to the U.K. Cultural Office in Ramallah.

Peace ‘Achievable’

Netanyahu hailed British leaders for participating in the Balfour centennial and said Palestinians were to blame for the enduring Middle East conflict.

“A century after Balfour, the Palestinians must finally accept a Jewish national home and a Jewish state,” Netanyahu told May at the beginning of their meeting in London, according to an emailed statement. “When they do, the road to peace will be much closer, and in my opinion, peace will be achievable.”

In a speech to Parliament Monday, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson defended Britain’s backing for Jewish self-determination.

“I see no contradiction in being a friend of Israel and a believer in that country’s destiny, while also being profoundly moved by the suffering of those who were affected and dislodged by its birth,” Johnson said.

Emily Thornberry, the opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the government should mark the occasion by recognizing a Palestinian state.

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