The 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration:
2 November 1917
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine* of a national home for the Jewish people"
(Lord Arthur James Balfour, British Foreign Secretary, 2 November 1917)
The Balfour Declaration, issued in November 1917 by British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour, marked an important milestone in the quest for the renewal of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
In one of the first such acts by a major international actor, Great Britain officially recognized the Jewish people's natural right to reestablish sovereignty in its ancestral homeland and pledged to strive to achieve this goal. One month later, nearly a year before the conclusion of World War I, Great Britain put an end to the Ottoman control of the Holy Land and began its own rule over the area.
Recognition of the Jewish people's right by the international community as a whole quickly followed the Balfour Declaration. Most significantly, the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) recognized this right in its 24 May 1922 decision to establish the Palestine/Land of Israel Mandate. In that international legislative act, the League appointed Great Britain to be responsible for putting the Balfour Declaration into effect, with the goal of "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." The legally-binding League of Nations Mandate acknowledged the "historic connection of the Jewish people" to the area rightly known as the Land of Israel.
The League of Nations decision transformed the Balfour Declaration from the policy position of one major power into a legal obligation for the entire international community.
The importance of the Balfour Declaration - and the subsequent League of Nations decision - lies in the international recognition of the natural right of the Jewish people to a national home in the land in which they had maintained a continuous presence throughout the ages.
Issued on 2 November 1917 by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur James Balfour, the declaration states:
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine* of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
*It should be noted that during this period, "Palestine" referred only to a geographic area; no independent political entity existed in that area. Furthermore, official documents show that the term "national home" was understood at that time to refer to a future Jewish state.