Netanyahu and Edelstein (R) in the Knesset, honoring the Balfour Declaration (Hillel Maeir/TPS) (Hillel Maeir/TPS)
Netanyahu and Edelstein (R) in the Knesset, honoring the Balfour Declaration (Hillel Maeir/TPS)

“We know that without that declaration, we would not be standing here today, in the Knesset Building in an independent state,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said.

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, held a celebratory event on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917 was a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Baron Rothschild stating that “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

In 1922, the League of Nations adopted this position and made the British Mandate “responsible for putting into effect the declaration,” which led to the UN vote in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The keynote speaker was Lord Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild, who called the Balfour Declaration a momentous event in the history of the Jewish People.

”A decade after the Declaration, Lord Balfour himself said it was important not only for the Jewish People, but also for the history of the entire world. This is not merely a historic document, but a vision of a society that will be governed by Jewish values and will care for the non-Jewish populations as well,” he said.

The Zionist Dream Not an ‘Extreme Insane Act’

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein recounted, “100 years ago, on November 8, two reports were published in the world press. The first, which seemed to be particularly dramatic at the time, was a report on the Bolshevik Revolution, and there was another small report, apparently in an inner page, about the Balfour Declaration. The first report was undoubtedly significant – thousands of deaths, and tens of thousands who lived in great fear for 70 years. But that has ended. Today we are marking 100 years of a dream that came true. The small report became a reality, against all odds.”

Edelstein said that before the Balfour Declaration pioneers had traveled to the Land of Israel ”to realize a 2,000-year-old dream, but the Declaration placed the Zionist dream on the table of the international community and relayed the message to every pioneer – there is hope for the realization of the dream. This is not an extreme insane act; there is a chance.”

”We know that without that Declaration, we would not be standing here today, in the Knesset Building in an independent state,” he added.

British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey read aloud a message on behalf of British Prime Minister Theresa May saying that the purpose of the Balfour Declaration was to realize the dream of many, even though many opposed this dream.

Lord Balfour, the message said, had a vision of returning the persecuted Jewish nation to a safe haven. Britain, the message said, is proud of its part in the pioneering work for the establishment of the State of Israel. Britain is proud of the State of Israel, for what it stands for as an open and democratic country in the Middle East, said the message from May.

Before the conference, a commemorative stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration was unveiled.

Lighting a Fire in Jewish Hearts

The Knesset Plenum also marked the centenary with a special session.

During the special plenary, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Declaration lit a fire in people’s hearts, allowed the Jews of the world to stand tall and gave huge momentum to the Jews’ return to the Land of Israel.

”Let’s be clear, without the dedication, sacrifice, courage and preparation in the [Land of Israel], we would have never seen our independence, but the Balfour Declaration laid the international foundation and the support for Zionism in Europe and America and in other parts of the world, and by doing so it contributed greatly to the resurrection enterprise of our people.”

”To our regret, a short while later Britain withdrew from what was promised in the Balfour Declaration, and this was a major tragedy,” Netanyahu told the Plenum. ”The fact that we were not sovereign until 1948 prevented the rescue of millions of Jews who were annihilated in the Holocaust. The tragedy of Balfour Declaration is that it took 30 years to implement it.”

In his speech, Netanyahu decried the Palestinians’ rejection of the Balfour Declaration.

”When I saw the Palestinian leadership refer to the Balfour Declaration as a crime and call on the British Government to apologize for it – they are not moving forward, they are going 100 years backwards,” Netanyahu stated. ”This is the root of the conflict, the 100-year-old refusal to recognize Zionism and the State of Israel within any borders.”

During the session, Knesset Speaker Edelstein noted that the Balfour Declaration ”marked the first time in modern history that a global superpower stood up and spoke the truth: the Land of Israel is the ancient and only homeland of the Jewish People, where it has the indisputable right to establish its national home.”

Despite all that has been written about the Balfour Declaration, ”it remains short and succinct; true today as it has always been,” Speaker Edelstein told the Plenum. ”The privilege we have of thanking His Majesty`s Government, and Balfour, here in the Knesset Building, in Jerusalem, in the sovereign State of Israel, is definite proof of this.”

Edelstein said he would have liked to give the Balfour Declaration a ”current and personal” touch by adding the following words to it: ”The State of Israel must promise its citizens that it will strive for peace with its neighbors and nurture all its residents without ceding parts of the homeland. The State of Israel must fortify its borders and continue the construction momentum in all of the Land of Israel, including the north, south, the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria.”

By: United with Israel Staff