Should we celebrate Balfour? Britain has honoured the first half of Balfour’s letter, which promised to deliver a Jewish homeland. But we have miserably failed to keep our second promise to protect the civil and religious rights of Palestinians. Last month I visited East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Above the Jordan Valley I spent an afternoon with a Bedouin chief for whom Balfour has been a disaster. He told me how he tried to build a school, but the Israelis knocked it down. So he tried to construct a road to the nearest school, but the Israelis destroyed the road. They bulldozed his encampment. They have taken his water supply. He told me the army had confiscated his livestock, and when that failed, shot at his farm animals from jeep helicopters. He is told that he has no rights to his land, but his grandfather is buried a few miles away and his ancestors have been in the area since time immemorial.
In many conversations like these, I grasped something I had not previously understood. The settlements have become part of the basic economic, infrastructure and security apparatus of the Israeli state. This means that the two-state solution which Britain has claimed to support for so long has become impossible. Netanyahu’s triumph means that very soon a one-state Israel must choose between democracy and apartheid.
This is an extract from Peter Oborne’s Notebook, from this week’s Spectator