One hundred years after Britain’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration, his present-day successor Boris Johnson last night told a Board of Deputies Parliamentary reception to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that he recognised, “the magic, the genius and miracle of Israel.”
In his speech at Speaker’s House, Mr Johnson said: “The Balfour Declaration, whatever its defects, whatever its unfulfilled nature, paved the way for one of the greatest political triumphs of the 20th century, the creation of the State of Israel, which, after all is a democracy, a liberal society, a beacon of hope and which shares the values in which I passionately believe. This is an amazing achievement by humanity.”
He added: “Speaking as an ex-kibbutznik, who spent most of his time doing the washing up, I recognise the magic, the genius and miracle of Israel. And that is why we should mark Balfour with pride and with respect.”
The reception at the event, held in partnership with the All Party Britain-Israel Parliamentary Group and in association with Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, was also addressed by representatives of the Friends of Israel organisations.
For the Conservative Friends of Israel, Theresa Villiers MP emphasised of the strength of the British-Israel relationship. For Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan MP said: “I am incredibly proud of Britain’s role in helping to bring about world’s first Jewish state and equally proud of part played by my party.” For Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel Lord Palmer spoke of his own pride that the Balfour Declaration had been issued under a Liberal administration.
Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev told the audience of more than 100 parliamentarians, diplomats, senior civil servants and Jewish community leaders: “In the vast Middle East, there is only one country whose Arab citizens have consistently enjoyed the privileges of living in a democracy, and that is in the State of Israel.”
Board of Deputies of British Jews President Jonathan Arkush said: “After 2000 years of persecution, blood libels, pogroms, and the Holocaust, we can now finally say that we are able to return, to a place of safety and security. This is what the Balfour Declaration represents to us – a historic recognition of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our homeland.”
Photo: Boris Johnson and Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron with a facsimile of the Balfour Declaration. Photo by Gary Perlmutter