Abbas Prepares to Sue Britain Over Balfour Declaration

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a committee meeting in Ramallah, May 4, 2016.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a committee meeting in Ramallah, May 4, 2016.Credit: Mohamad Torokman, AP

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Arab states to help the Palestinians prepare a lawsuit against Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, on the grounds that it ultimately led to the Palestinian Nakba.

Nakba, which means catastrophe in Arabic, is the Palestinian term for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The Balfour Declaration voiced Britain’s support for establishing “a national home for the Jewish people”; after World War I, the League of Nations, the predecessor to the UN, incorporated this goal into the British Mandate for Palestine.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki announced the intention on Wednesday at the opening of the Arab League summit in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott. He was speaking on behalf of Abbas because the Palestinian leader is in mourning for his older brother, who died last week.

Malki said the suit would be filed in an international court.

A copy of the original Balfour Declaration at the Israel Museum.Credit: Uriel Cohen

In his speech, Malki reiterated Abbas’ support for the French peace initiative and urged the Arab states to support it. He also spoke out against regional cooperation with Israel, including on security issues, warning that this would lead to normalization before the main goal of ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state had been achieved.

The Palestinian warning against cooperation with Israel was spurred in particular by media reports of Israeli relations with Saudi Arabia, which was confirmed a few days ago when a Saudi delegation visited Israel. Israel is also thought to maintain cooperation with certain other Arab states that haven’t been named in the media.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan reacted to Malki's speech, saying that it "sounded strange, but the direction is not accidental." 

Erdan claimed that is one just the opening salvo to 2017, a year that will mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and 50 years since the Six Day War.

"Palestinian leaders haven't been interested in peace for some time already," said Erdan. "The only goal is to delegitimize Israel. Don't be surprised if the next phase will be an expansion of the Palestinian claim against Britain, and France as well since they were also partners in the Sykes-Picot agreement that divided control in our region ... everything is kosher in Abu Mazen's [Abbas'] path of lies and incitement."

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