The Balfour Declaration, a highly conflictual and controversial public statement in modern Arab history, was issued by the British government during World War I to announce support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. It was made during World War I (1914-1918) and was included in terms of the British Mandate for Palestine after the Ottoman Empire was dissolved. It should be noted that Britain had already promised the Arabs independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1915 Hussein-McMahon correspondence.
Upon the start of the mandate, the British began to facilitate the immigration of European Jews to Palestine. Even though the Balfour Declaration included the caveat that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, Britain proceeded to equip Jews with the tools to establish self-rule, at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs. Between 1922 and 1935, the Jewish population rose from 9 percent to nearly 27 percent of the total population.The so-called mandate system, set up by the Allied powers, proved to be a thinly veiled form of colonialism and occupation.
The decades that followed the Balfour Declaration, especially during and after the period following the 1967 Israeli-Palestinian War, have witnessed mass displacement and disenfranchisement of Palestinian peoples by the Israeli Government. Now, President Trump has made his own declaration to arbitrarily recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Trump Declaration, a 21st century version of the Balfour Declaration, has been roundly condemned by the international community as being illegal and pre-emptive of any further attempt toward a two-state solution.
The Israeli-Palestinian conundrum has thus reached a dangerous crossroads.There has never been a truly genuine peace process, and the US is now no longer considered a reliable peace broker. It has slipped from its position of a superpower of moral influence, to one of abject mediocrity because of its pernicious (mis)adventures in Iraq, Syria,Libya, etc and dangerous rhetoric on numerous (foreign) policy issues from the new US Administration. The only way forward, as always, has to be a 2-state solution, with mutually agreed borders, East Jerusalem as the capital of the new Palestinian state, and a concomitant right of return for Palestinians to their homeland. Failing such a solution, the alternative for Israel and the Israeli peoples, may well be a life of perpetual insecurity and constant vigilance, despite Israel’s military might.
The next step forward might now conceivably be for the UN Security Council to approve the appointment of UN Secretary-General Guterres to establish, under his direct supervision and responsibility, a Special Commission to promote the two-state solution. Russia may be asked to help and perhaps also China, both re-emerging super powers which have shown a quiet wisdom and careful restraint in their foreign policy dealings. A final settlement must be based on UN Security and General Assembly resolutions to ensure full consensus for enforcement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian peoples: to create their own state in which to live a life of dignity and hope, side by side with Israelis and other minority groups. Great Britain, the prime source of the Palestinian tragedy spanning one hundred years, together with the Allied Powers then involved, should be held accountable for all reparations to the Palestinian peoples.