The UK should uphold its commitment to helping to achieve a two-state solution promised in the Balfour Declaration, if only to prevent radicalization at home, said Vincent Fean, the British consul general to Jerusalem between 2010 and 2014, during a Chatham House discussion in London this week.
He said: “I firmly believe that this unresolved issue contributes to radicalization in our own country among the Muslim community and if only for that self-interested reason we should think of doing something about it.”
Emphasizing the need for a change of international direction, he criticized “the practice we’ve had of leaving the strong to negotiate with the weak,” and warned that, unless the issue is addressed, a two-state solution will be unachievable.
“Israel is creating facts on the ground which will make a two-state solution impossible; many say it’s already happened,” he said, outlining two things the UK could do.
“We could, and I think should, validate that second state by recognition of the State of Palestine on ‘67 lines and uphold international law properly – not just talk about it – with consequences for whoever seeks to destroy the outcome of two states.”
The event, called “The Balfour Declaration: Palestine, Israel and Britain One Hundred Years,” brought together Palestinian, Israeli and British commentators.
The speakers also attempted to dissect the foreign policy intention of Downing Street at the time and that of Balfour himself.
Yaacov Yadgar, a professor of Israeli studies at University of Oxford, said:
“Balfour, in his conviction that the Jews belong in Palestine, was opposed to their emigration to the United Kingdom”
UN diplomat and former Algerian minister Lakhdar Brahimi said that “Lord Balfour’s declaration was intended to serve Britain’s interest first and foremost.”
In 1917, Britain did not really have a foreign policy, only a national one, he added.
He said: “Israel is a nuclear power, with a booming economy, a flourishing culture and is a leader in cutting edge science and technology. In contrast the Palestinians, those still in their shrinking homeland and those pushed into exile are suffering systematic oppression, injustice and humiliation.”
On Thursday, UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the shared capital.
Speaking during a debate on the Balfour Declaration in Westminster Hall, Burt said the UK has “unfinished business,” until lasting peace is achieved.
British Prime Minister Theresa May will mark the occasion of the Balfour Declaration centenary on Nov. 2 at a dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this week, she said: “We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of the State of Israel, and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride.”