Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki at a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York, 2015. Reuters

The Palestinian National Authority has vowed to sue the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Holy Land. Speaking at the 27th Arab League summit, Foreign Affairs Minister of the Authority, Riyad al-Maliki, said the lawsuit would be filed in an international court but did not elaborate further.

Speaking on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, at the opening of the Arab League in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, Maliki said the declaration was a "fateful promise from the ones who don't own to the ones who don't deserve."

He added: "With the coming of this painful anniversary, the passing of approximately 100 years since the historic massacre of our land and our people's fates, and with the continuation of this catastrophe without a resolution, we call on the secretariat general of the Arab League to support us in preparing a legal file to raise against the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration and thereafter implementing it as a mandatory authority."

Do not normalise ties with Israel

Maliki also urged Arab states not to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, before the Palestinian state is set up based on the pre-1967 borders.

He said: "We warn Arab states of the concept of 'regional cooperation and security,' which is aimed at creating regional security cooperation between Arab countries and Israel and normalising relations before the end of the Israeli occupation."

The foreign minister added: "The time has come, before it is too late, to galvanise Arab and international support to enable our people to achieve its freedom and independence, establishing an independent Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967 borders."

The Middle East Eye noted that the warning from Maliki comes after a retired Saudi general visited Jerusalem and met Israeli politicians. It noted that although Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official relations, they have worked together in 2015 in lobbying the US not to sign a deal to end sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Tehran significantly cutting back on its nuclear programme.

Israel reacts to Abbas statement

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to respond, saying that the statement showed the Palestinians' issue was not just the West Bank, but the right of Jews to a national homeland.

"After 4,000 years of a Jewish history that is inextricably connected to this land, almost 100 years since Balfour and 68 years after the creation of the State of Israel, there are still those who deny our strong ties to this land," Netanyahu said on the evening of Tuesday (26 July), according to The Jerusalem Post.

He said the Palestinians are not just objecting to a Jewish state but are now "objecting to the idea of a national homeland for the Jews that preceded the Jewish state."

Other Israeli politicians also responded to the Palestinian Authority's statement. Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Chairman, Avi Dichter, said that if the Palestinians can sue the UK on the Balfour Declaration from 99 years ago, "then who is next in line, the Egyptian Pharaoh?"

benjamin netanyahu israel peace process 2016
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is ready to discuss a 2-state solution REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

Gilad Erdan, Israel's Public Security Minister, suggested that Palestine should perhaps try and sue God for promising Abraham, in the Biblical book of Genesis, that he would give the Land of Israel to his descendants.

He added: "Don't be surprised if the next phase will be an expansion of the Palestinian claim against Britain, and France as well, since they were also partners in the Sykes-Picot agreement that divided control in our region."

The Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration was signed on 2 November 1917 by the then British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour. His letter to a prominent member of the British Jewish community, Walter Rothschild, stated that the UK viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and [Britain] would use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object."