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Balfour Declaration

Arthur James Balfour.
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Arthur James Balfour.

The letter that now is called the Balfour Declaration.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

The letter that now is called the Balfour Declaration.
Statement issued by the British government in 1917, which is often seen as the initiation of the process leading to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Issuing of the statement is believed to have been motivated just as much by British interests, as by the sympathy for the Zionist cause. At the eve of the World War I Britain needed the support from the World Jewry, which had been neutral, and which represented a large part of the population of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The declaration was drafted with the help of US President, Woodrow Wilson, who was a strong supporter of Zionism.
Secondly, Britain saw the need to protect the sea route to India, which passed through the Suez Canal, upon which much of Britain's economy relied. In accordance with the spirit of the time which emphasized the "self-determination of small nations", supporting Zionism would be the easiest way to secure lasting British influence in the region east of the Canal, especially because the Levant had been Ottoman until 1917.
Lord Rothschild, to whom the letter was addressed, was a leading British Zionist.
Foreign Office
2nd November 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild:
I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty's Government the following declaration of our sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Yours sincerely
Arthur James Balfour
In 1920, the Balfour Declaration was included in the San Remo Agreement of 1920. From July 24, 1922, the declaration was included into the mandate from which Britain temporarily administered Palestine. However, with the White Paper of 1939, the Zionist-friendly attitude of the Balfour Declaration was suspended.
For the Arabs, the Balfour Declaration was perceived as an act of dishonesty, as the cooperation that had been going on between Arabs and the British during the World War 1, in the Hijaz region against Ottoman supremacy, had involved a promise of help to establish a united Arab country, reaching from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.

By Tore Kjeilen