By Mohammed Marâ€™i
RAMALLAH–On Nov. 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour announced that his government views â€œwith favor the establishment in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people,â€ laying the foundation for the creation of Israel more than 30 years later.
The Palestinian Ministry of Information said in a statement on the 96th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration that â€œsince 1917, the Palestinian people are paying the price of the biggest political crime in contemporary history.â€ It said that the declaration was â€œa mark of shame on humanity.â€
The ministry said that the declaration â€œbegan the Zionistsâ€™ process of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from their homeland, which continues until today.â€
It added that â€œBritain and the entire world must recognize the usurped Palestinian rights because everything thing that has befallen Palestine â€“ itâ€™s partition, the aggression, the suppression, the settlements, the arrests, the separation wall, the siege on Gaza, and the millions of Palestinians living in exile â€“ was made possible because of the Balfour Declaration.â€
The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbasâ€™ Fatah movement said that they called the declaration â€œinfamousâ€ and â€œillegal promiseâ€ that brought misery to the Palestinians.
The movement held Britain and other supporters of Israel as responsible for â€œracist and Zionist crimes.â€
Fatah said that â€œthe Palestinian people are determined to get all their rights and to liberate their homeland from Israeli occupation and Jewish settlers.â€
It called upon Britain to apologize and make amends for the crimes committed against Palestine because of the declaration.
The development comes as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met more than ten times since peace talks were renewed at the end of July in Washington after a three-year halt in talks in an attempt to solve the final status issues; Jerusalem, refugees, boundaries, settlements and security. Israelâ€™s ongoing expansion of its West Bank settlements, however, has continued.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Interior Minister Gideon Saâ€™ar agreed to expedite four construction plans in occupied Jerusalem hours after a second batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners was released.
The Israeli Channel 10 television said that one of the plans involves the immediate approval for construction of 1,500 new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement, to the north of Jerusalem. In addition, current owners of apartments in Ramat Shlomo would be allowed to expand their homes with another room to the size of 50 square-meters.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour said that â€œIsrael would rather stay an occupying powerâ€ than be a partner for peace.
Mansour said in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Israel has proven time and time again, with announcements of new settlement unit construction, that its efforts for peace are insincere.
â€œIsrael continues construction of its illegal settlements, including seizing and looting land, as well as forced displacement of Palestinian families, while building thousands of housing units,â€ he wrote in the letter.
This â€œshamelessly shows disrespect for international law and the international efforts to support the peace process,â€ he added. Mansour said that due to Israelâ€™s actions, international hopes for a resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have â€œdiminished.â€