Can the Palestinians Make Peace?
In November 1917, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour made public the dramatic announcement that “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” But he then added a major stipulation: “. . . it being understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
London’s easy assumption of 1917 that the two parts of Balfour’s declaration could be reconciled was quickly shattered, as the Arabs of Palestine showed that they very much considered Zionism an impediment to their “civil and religious rights.” To their distress, British authorities found over the next thirty years that they could support the Jewish homeland or an Arab-dominated Palestine, but not both. Indeed, nothing in the vast reaches of their empire had prepared British administrators for such a bleakly zero-sum confrontation. In the end, they gave up on it; in 1947, in a unique instance of imperial defeatism, they handed the problem over to the United Nations.
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