What is the Balfour Declaration?

We’re dissecting one of the most famous documents in Israeli history – the Balfour Declaration – and asking what made this 117-word letter so important and so controversial.

The Declaration was written in 1917 by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur James Balfour, and sent to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, one of Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizens. It expressed the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

So why did it take another 30 years, until the United Nations passed UN Resolution 181, for a Jewish state to finally be established? Why was the Balfour Declaration so controversial? Why was it written so ambiguously and did the British even have the right to promise the Jews a homeland in British Mandate Palestine?

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