The Socialist International on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration

2 November 2017

One hundred years ago today during the First World War, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour conveyed the support of his country's government for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people in Palestine", in a declaration that has had a profound impact on the subsequent history of the Middle East and on the peoples of Israel and Palestine. Balfour's pledge paved the way for the declaration of an independent State of Israel in 1948 and later its acceptance as a member of the United Nations in 1949.

On this anniversary, despite the conflicts, wars and human suffering of the past hundred years, we can appreciate that the aspirations and needs of one people led the international community to act positively to their quest for statehood. There remains, however, the challenge to equally respond to the aspirations and needs of the Palestinian people who have waited all these years for their rights to be recognised and respected.

The commitment made one hundred years ago in the Balfour Declaration that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine", has not been fully upheld, and many of these rights have been successively eroded. In addition, the declaration notably fails to mention political rights and was made without any consultation of these nameless communities. The unequal status afforded to the non-Jewish population by the Balfour Declaration has contributed to the ensuing decades of unresolved conflict between Arabs and Jews throughout the Middle East.

The Socialist International has long considered that a just and durable resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a prerequisite for regional peace in the Middle East, and this requires that all the rights – civil, religious and political – of the Palestinian people be upheld. This is only achievable with the full international recognition of an independent Palestinian state, living peacefully side by side with Israel, on the June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This has been reflected on numerous occasions in positions adopted by the Socialist International, with the support of its Israeli and Palestinian member parties, underlining the right to statehood of the Palestinian people. The Socialist International has equally agreed that any member party of the organisation that is a member of its national government should ensure its recognition of the State of Palestine.

To date, although 136 of the 193 UN member states have now recognised the State of Palestine, it holds the status in the UN of “observer non-member state”. It is high time for the entire international community and the United Nations to take decisive and courageous actions, giving not only their long overdue full and unconditional recognition to the State of Palestine, but also the support necessary to ensure the viability of that state becomes a tangible reality. Only on this basis can peace and security in a two-state solution between two sovereign and democratic states with equal status be achieved.