A prominent British MP has called on the UK government to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration by recognising a Palestinian state. Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, said that the time was now right to do this during an interview with Middle East Eye in which the Labour MP described Britain as having lost its “moral anchor”.
I don’t think we celebrate the Balfour Declaration but I think we have to mark it because I think it was a turning point in the history of that area and I think the most important way of marking it is to recognise Palestine.
“The British government have said they will do, it’s just a question of when the time is right and it seems to me this is the time,” Thornberry said.
Thornberry mentioned that the infamous declaration, which promised to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine where the Jewish population was no more than five per cent, as a “turning point in the history” of the region. Critics have said that the declaration is half complete given its promise not to “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, who at the time made up 95 per cent of the population.
Thornberry insisted that Britain should measure all its actions and statements on Israel by the standard of whether they will secure two viable states.
The Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury spoke about the Israeli embassy scandal. The Al Jazeera investigation exposed Israeli embassy official Shai Masot who was secretly filmed plotting to “take down” the foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan, an outspoken Palestinian supporter, and attempting to establish organisations and youth groups to promote Israeli influence inside the Labour Party, and trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Thornberry revealed that Labour Party would be carrying out a review into the conduct of Masot, now that the regulatory body Ofcom has cleared the Al Jazeera investigation.
Britain’s relations with Arab dictators and its controversial arms sale to Saudi Arabia were also discussed during the interview. “We should not be selling arms until there is a proper international independent investigation into what has happened, looking at both sides, but on the face of it the Saudis are bombing agricultural lands, schools, weddings, funerals,” Thornberry said.
Describing British foreign policy in recent years, Thornberry complained that the UK had lost its “moral anchor” while promising that a Labour government would restore Britain’s voice in the world with a policy that would put human rights and international law at its core.
“Post-Brexit we are scrambling around the world trying to find trade deals and we seem to have lost our moral anchor. It does not have to be like that. Of course you have to be pragmatic and I am not saying we are going to be starry eyed, but there needs to be more in your relations with foreign countries than the need for trade deals,” Thornberry pledged.