(C) Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2017 Balfour 100 Dinner at Lancaster House.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu engaged with British Jewish leaders on a range of topics during his visit to celebrate the Balfour Declaration Centenary.
The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council hosted a meeting where the Israeli leader reinforced an overriding message that Israel stands as the vanguard of democracy against a backdrop of extremism sweeping across the Middle East.
Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed the need for the British Jewish community to continue its support for Israel despite growing anti-Israel feelings in wider society.
Other issues discussed included Israel’s developing relationships with Arab countries and the threat Iran poses to Israel and the wider world.
There was also an update on Israel’s technological and start-up sector and increase in trade between Israel and the UK.
Board of Deputies president, Jonathan Arkush, said: “I regard it as extremely significant the Israeli Prime Minister wanted to talk with us and hear our views directly.
“We, in turn, had the opportunity to hear Mr Netanyahu’s direct assessment of Israel’s strategic position in our fast-changing world.”
“At the end of an enriching week for Anglo Jewry, it was fitting that we look to the future and recommit ourselves to an even stronger relationship between the UK Jewish community and Israel,” commented Jonathan Goldstein, Jewish Leadership Council.
Organisations represented included Conservative Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel, Zionist Federation, UJS, UJIA, European Jewish Congress and Community Security Trust.
Prime Minister Netanyahu visited London at the invitation of Prime Minister Theresa May. During the trip he outlined his concerns about the Iranian regime’s regional aggression at Chatham House at a question and answer event, and at the London Stock Exchange, he discussed the success of Israeli technology.
Prime Ministers May and Netanyahu joined Lord Rothschild, politicians and diplomats at a dinner to mark the Balfour Declaration centenary at Lancaster House.
The landmark event was hosted by Lord Rothschild and Lord Balfour and commemorated 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was signed on November 2, 1917.
Lord Rothschild addressed over 150 guests in opening the dinner.
“Tonight we ask ourselves what does the balance sheet looks like 120 years after the Dreyfus case in France, 73 years after World War II, almost 70 years since the founding of the State of Israel, as we mark the 100 years after the Declaration?,” he said. “The Declaration not only set out to establish a national home for the Jewish people but, in addition, a society which would ensure the civil and religious rights of its non-Jewish residents.
“We cannot forget that Israel has a unique strategic vulnerability, given Iran’s stated policy to destroy the country. Hezbollah in the north, and Hamas in the south, both supported by Iran, have like objectives. Security and defence must therefore remain of paramount importance. But even when the obstacles to peace seem intractable, above all a vision is needed, for, as the Proverbs say, “where there is no vision, the people perish”.
“We know that the ultimate prize of peace will take time, endless effort, thought, goodwill, judgement, faith, energy and courage, and these virtues are not in short supply.
“In pursuit of peace, it must surely be of crucial importance to avoid impediments and obstacles which could jeopardise the peace we all seek.”
The original Balfour Declaration, usually housed at the British Library, was on display for guests to view.
The Declaration was last loaned to the Knesset from October 1987 to May 1988, to mark both the 70th anniversary of the Declaration and the 40th anniversary of the State of Israel.
Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and May focused on the relationship between the UK and Israel and significance of the Balfour Declaration..
“The State of Israel would not have come into being, but it was the Balfour Declaration that galvanised international support for Zionism as never before and paved the path for Zionism’s entry on the world stage,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“Now, a once stateless and powerless people has found its place among the nations.”
He added, “Prime Minister May, the Balfour Declaration put Britain on the right side of history in marking that declaration today you are keeping Britain on the right side of history.
“On behalf of Israel and the people of Israel I thank you.”
Prime Minister May described the letter written by Lord Rothschild’s great-uncle as “one of the most significant” in history, helping make a Jewish homeland a reality.
Declaring support for Israel, she noted a Downing Street meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier in the day, looking to deepen links where Israel led the world.
“Israel is the true start-up nation,” Prime Minister May said.
“We also remain absolutely committed to Israel’s security. We will always support Israel’s right to defend itself. And in a world where Britain and Israel increasingly face the same shared challenges and threats, I am just as clear that our security services will continue to deepen their already excellent co-operation to keep all our people safe.”
Calling for a lasting peace based on a two-state solution where there is a “safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian State”, Prime Minister May condemned the “new and pernicious form of anti-Semitism which uses criticism of the actions of the Israeli government as a despicable justification for questioning the very right of Israel to exist.”
She added, “This is abhorrent and we will not stand for it. That is why the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of an international effort to create a new definition of anti-Semitism which explicitly calls out this inexcusable attempt to justify hatred.”
Denouncing anti-Semitsm under the guise of anti-Zionism, she commented, “Criticising the actions of Israel is never, and can never be, an excuse for questioning Israel’s right to exist, any more than criticising the actions of Britain could be an excuse for questioning our right to exist.
The British leader added, “Criticising the government of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for hatred against the Jewish people – any more than criticising the British government would be an excuse for hatred against the British people.
“Put simply, there can be no excuses for any kind of hatred towards the Jewish people. There never has been – and there never will be.”
“The Balfour Centenary has provided a remarkable opportunity for us to reflect with pride on the role of the British Government in the establishment of the Jewish State,” reflected Chief Rabbi Mirvis.
“To have the British and Israeli Prime Ministers rejoicing in Jewish nationhood together is a truly historic occasion upon which generations to come will look back with great pride.”
Members of the Government, Her Majesty’s Opposition, Ministers, MPs, international politicians and members of the Jewish community attended the official dinner.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby were also present.
Prior to the dinner, organised by Balfour 100, acclaimed historian and documentary maker Simon Schama delivered the Balfour Centenary Lecture at the Royal Society.
During his lecture, he outlined the persecuted history of the Jewish people throughout Europe and Russia before the Second World War.
“Israel still stands as a living, breathing, debating, thriving, rejoicing democracy,” he said. “Israel’s six million Jews are the ultimate retort to the number that Adolf Hitler exterminated. “The life of Israel is Hitler’s failure. But it’s also to hope against all the odds that somehow the vision set out by Yitzchak Epstein or that for which Yitzchak Rabin sacrificed his life to a murderous bunch 22 years ago this coming Shabbat will not be entirely and forever in vain.
“I myself see the small vindications of it. Schools like Yad Ve’Yad where the governing bodies, both Israeli and Palestinians, work together.”
The lecture took place in front of a capacity audience of 300 and was streamed live to locations in London, Bournemouth, Leeds, Glasgow, Belfast, Brighton and Barnet.
The Royal Society was chosen as the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.
“Simon Schama gave a mesmerising and thought-provoking talk on the Declaration’s significance,” said Simon Johnson on behalf of the Balfour 100 steering committee.
Bevis Marks Synagogue hosted a closing ‘Balfour Shabbat’ to mark the end of the Balfour Declaration’s centenary.
Chief Rabbi Mirvis recited a prayer to mark the occasion to a 500-strong crowd in attendance.
Lord Balfour recited the declaration drafted by his ancestor.
The Balfour 100 Steering Committee organised the service, which included addresses from Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Lord Rothschild and Lord Kestenbaum.
“While we deal with the politics and social dynamics we must never oversimplify what is quite truly complex,” said Rabbi Dweck. “We must also remember there is more to that land than the remnant spell of history. It is alive with its people and is reawakened.
“Lord Balfour set the tenor in Britain that Israel is to be applauded not condemned, embraced not boycotted, celebrated not shunned, she is a gift to the world and we pray the world will one day receive her with open arms.”
Lord Kestenbaum paid tribute to the role Lord Rothschild played in making the centenary a success.
“You inspired an unprecedented set of activities to mark this historic centenary,” he said. “They have been good natured, they have unified, some might call that a second Balfour miracle. It has been embraced in all parts of the community, engaged the Government and even parts of the Opposition.
“For all those reasons those three words, which began the journey to statehood – ‘Dear Lord Rothschild’ – are as evocative today as they were 100 years ago.
“For inspiring this centenary, we as a community offer you our heartfelt thanks.”
Reflecting on the service, British Ambassador to Israel, Mark Regev, commented: “This week’s anniversary has reminded a great many people of the Balfour Declaration’s important role in galvanising international support for Israel’s rebirth.
“As we look forward to celebrating Balfour’s great legacy in the Knesset in the coming days we remember our people’s journey from statelessness to sovereignty. We stand proud of the Jewish state’s achievements as both our national home and a thriving, robust democracy.”
Balfour 100, initiated by Lord Jacob Rothschild and managed by a steering committee representing Jewish communal organisations, is the official tribute of the British Jewish community marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.
Over 160 events took place from Belfast to Hull, Plymouth and London over a week ranging from school assemblies to communal events and educational programmes.