Zionist Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the UK to attend the government of Prime Minister Theresa May’s “proud” celebrations for the 100-year anniversary of a British document that paved the way for Israel’s creation.
May was to welcome her Israeli counterpart at 10 Downing Street in London on Wednesday, a day before the centenary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a short 67-word document named after then British Foreign Minister Arthur James Balfour.
The British government plans to commemorate the event with a banquet in the gilded halls of London’s Lancaster House mansion, which will also be attended by members of the Balfour family.
Ahead of the trip, and after May turned down numerous requests to call off the celebrations, Palestinian officials and peace activists said they had scheduled a series of protests outside UK embassies around the world to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians living under decades-long Israeli occupation.
Netanyahu, however, said before heading to the UK, that Palestinians had to forget the past and come to terms with Israelis.
“The Palestinians say that the Balfour Declaration was a tragedy. It wasn’t a tragedy. What’s been tragic is their refusal to accept this 100 years later,” the PM said. I hope they change their mind, because if they do, they can move forward finally to making peace between our two peoples.”
This is not the first time that Netanyahu’s trip to the UK prompts outcry. In 2015, an online petition against his trip to London was signed by more than 114,000 people.
The petition called for the Israeli premier “to be arrested for war crimes when he arrives in London.”
May, on the other hand, was expected to say at the celebratory dinner on Thursday night that using “the actions of the Israeli” regime were a “despicable justification for questioning the very right of Israel to exist.”
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson says his country is proud of the role it played in the creation of Israel as the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration draws near.
“Criticizing the government of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for hatred against the Jewish people – any more than criticizing the British government would be an excuse for hatred against the British people,” she will state.
Britain’s insistence on celebrating the document has drawn criticism from Palestine, which has repeatedly called on the UK government to apologize for its role in the establishment of Israel.
Palestinian officials said last week that they were planning to take legal action against the UK for triggering a chain reaction that led to the displacement of millions of Palestinians.
Iran nuclear deal
Netanyahu was slated to hold separate meetings with May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to discuss the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations—the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
“I intend to raise concrete suggestions on how to deal with the failed aspects of the Iran nuclear agreement,” he said before boarding the plane on Wednesday.