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Netanyahu Marks Balfour Declaration Centennial in London

11-02-2017
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May, Photo, Styles: Kobi Gideon Ltd.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May, Photo, Styles: Kobi Gideon Ltd.

JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to London Wednesday evening to attend a series of celebrations commemorating the centennial of the historic Balfour Declaration in the city of its inception.

Netanyahu's visit will serve to remind England and the world of the historical bond of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, wrote Amb. Dore Gold of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. U.K.'s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote that letter in 1917.
 
"The Balfour Declaration is important because it recognizes the historical bond of the Jewish people to the Holy Land, a bond which existed long before the declaration. What was significant was its public and formal recognition and its incorporation into international law," Gold wrote.

It was incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate in 1922, making it a binding obligation to the nations of the world.

Not everyone is celebrating the anniversary.

The Palestinians call the declaration a "tragedy."  And according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, well-known graffiti artist turned political activist Banksy threw an 'apology' party for Palestinian refugees at his Bethlehem hotel.

In spite of the controversy, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain will mark the centennial "with pride."
 
In his response to the Palestinian outcry against the declaration, Netanyahu said he hoped "they change their mind because if they do they can move forward finally to making peace between our two peoples."
 
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu will capitalize on his time in London by holding multiple meetings with May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

These meetings are set to focus on the discrepancies between the two administrations regarding the Iranian nuclear deal. Netanyahu is hoping to influence May to tone down her support for the deal that his government has deemed an "embarrassment" and suggest alternatives to the its flaws.

The centennial celebration and Netanyahu's meeting comes amidst a tumultuous time for May as she is in the throes of Brexit negotiations with the European officials on Britain's exit from the E.U. With American President Donald Trump decertifying the Iran deal and sending it back to Congress for review, May could feel the pressure of her European allies, including Germany and France, to support its assets in the face of Netanyahu's skepticism.

Netanyahu is set to attend a gala dinner in honor of the Balfour Declaration at the residence of Lord Rothschild, a descendant of the original recipient of Balfour's letter. Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, will spend the Sabbath in London and on Sunday they will finish their trip by meeting with British Jewish community leaders as well England's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis before returning to Israel, reports said.

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