Balfour Declaration: Netanyahu Meets May, Calls on Palestinians to 'Finally Accept Jewish State'

Mired in political crisis, May said she would talk with Netanyahu about 'the obstacles and difficulties of settlement building,' and Britain's supports for Iran deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for the media as Netanyahu arrives for their meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/AP

LONDON- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his visit to London on Thursday with a meeting at Downing Street with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. As Netanyahu arrived at the meeting, May emphasized the need to return to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. She added that that while Britain is commemorating the Balfour declaration that played a role in Israel’s establishment, it is aware of “the sensitivities” and “remains committed to the two-state solution.”

May said that she would be talking to Netanyahu about “the obstacles and difficulties in the settlement building” and that Britain supports the nuclear deal with Iran “which is working and to which Britain is committed."

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Netanyahu arrived in London Wednesday night and met with May twice on Thursday – at noon for a working meeting at 10 Downing Street and in the evening for a private dinner at Lancaster House hosted by Lords Rothschild and Balfour, commemorating the Balfour Declaration. 

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Netanyahu thanked the British government for inviting him to mark “with pride” the Balfour Declaration centenary, which he described as “a great event in Jewish history.” He extolled the relationship between Britain and Israel who he described as “strong allies and partners."

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 10 Downing Street, London November 2, 2017.
POOL/REUTERS

"We cooperate closely on intelligence. We cooperate closely in the battle against terrorism. And we’ve saved, through this cooperation, countless lives – British lives, Israeli lives,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu called upon the Palestinians, “a hundred years after Balfour,” to “finally accept the Jewish national home and finally accept the Jewish state. And when they do, the road to peace will be infinitely closer."

Netanyahu went on to warn that the threat facing the Middle East “is a resurgent Iran that is bent not only on dominating the region, but bent on developing nuclear weapons."

Netanyahu’s visit is coming at a tumultuous time for May, who is contending with a political crisis caused by allegations of sexual harassment by senior British politicians, including ministers close to her. One of them, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, resigned on Wednesday. As Netanyahu and May shook hands on Downing Street, British journalists shouted at May, “is time to clean the stables, Prime Minister?"

Both May and Netanyahu will attend a private dinner this evening, commemorating the Balfour declaration, hosted by the Lords Rothschild and Balfour. May is expected to use her speech to attack those who use criticism of Israel as a cover for anti-Semitism.

Besides the Balfour event, the visit’s other highlights are scheduled for Friday, when Netanyahu will be lecturing at Chatham House and answering questions from members of the prestigious think tank. Netanyahu will also be meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

After Chatham House and a brief visit to the London Stock Exchange, it will be a long and luxurious Shabbat weekend at the Savoy Hotel where Netanyahu will celebrate his wife Sara’s birthday.