The Balfour Declaration: Britain's Promise to the Holy Land This World


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The Balfour Declaration: Britain's Promise to the Holy Land

Jane Corbin explores whether the aspirations of The Balfour Declaration were doomed to inevitable failure or if there is still hope of a peaceful solution in the Holy Land.


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100 years ago, a British promise, just a few words in a letter,

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lit a fire in the Holy Land.

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The Balfour Declaration ignited one of the most bitter and intractable

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struggles of modern times.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict.

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As a journalist, I've watched the consequences of that promise

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unfold over the last 30 years.

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I've seen the wars and the bloodshed, the grief and the agony.

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I've seen peace within touching distance...

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..replaced by barriers to a resolution.

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It's a far cry from the vision of those who wrote

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the Balfour Declaration -

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amongst them, one of my own relatives.

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He was convinced that Jews and Arabs could live and prosper together

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as equals.

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So, how has it come to this?

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Did the British bestow a blessing or a curse on the two peoples?

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-RADIO:

-Israeli police say two Palestinian gunmen have opened fire

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in the city of Tel Aviv, killing four people.

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The shooting took place in...

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I've been covering wars across the globe for nearly 40 years,

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but most of all I've been drawn to the struggle between

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the Palestinians and Israelis.

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-RADIO:

-The crisis grows over additional security measures

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in the old city of Jerusalem.

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Three Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli

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security forces...

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Now, I'm going back to my roots to uncover a family connection

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to the conflict.

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It's so strange driving on this road.

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This is the road I came down every day when I was small

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in the school bus.

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And this is my grandparents' house where my mother,

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Olive Amery, was born and brought up.

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It looks wonderful.

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I'm not stopping at my mother's old house today,

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I'm going on just a little bit further to the village of Lustleigh,

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which is really where the Amerys come from.

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Growing up, there was one Amery in particular my mother would tell

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stories about - Leopold, or Leo, Amery.

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Ever since my schooldays,

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I've known this relation of mine played a role in the creation

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of Israel and what followed, but I've never fully explored his story

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and how it fits with my own experiences.

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-Good morning.

-Morning.

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-You must be Peter?

-Yes. Welcome to Lustleigh.

-Thank you very much.

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-I'm Jane.

-So, shall we go in and have a look?

-Yeah.

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I'm hoping I can start to do that today with the help

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of a local historian.

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And there we have the memorial to Leopold Amery that was put up at

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the time when his ashes were brought back to Lustleigh to be buried here.

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It says he devoted his life "in peace and war to the service of the

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"British Commonwealth and Empire."

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And then we have the words of Winston Churchill.

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"I mourn the loss of my friend Leo Amery.

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"Statesman and man of letters, he was, above all, a great patriot."

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There's a family coat of arms there and a motto.

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My Latin's not very good,

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but I do know this because my mother gave me a copy of the family coat of

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arms and I know that it says tenacity of purpose.

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It's really interesting to see that there.

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-It is.

-And to put it in the context of Leo Amery and his life.

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Yes.

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I haven't seen that in years.

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One thing I know about Leo Amery is that his mother was Jewish,

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but she converted and brought Leo up a Christian,

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and he would go on to study Islamic culture.

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As a British reporter covering the conflict,

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Israelis and Arabs have always been quick to tell me that

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the Balfour Declaration is behind everything that's happened to them,

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good and bad.

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I know only that Leo Amery played some part

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in producing this historic document.

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The declaration was actually a letter written in 1917,

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from then Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour

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to one of Britain's most prominent and wealthy Jews.

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That man was Lionel Walter, Lord Rothschild.

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There was a lot going on, too.

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Yes. His great-nephew Jacob is the current holder of the title.

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He was the obvious person because of a famous name to send the eventual

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letter to, but he was an eccentric choice.

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He became passionately involved in natural history, and he had this

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zebra-drawn carriage in London, and then he careered about in a top hat

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on a tortoise.

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Hardly careering, I think, on a tortoise.

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-Slow, I think.

-Well, maybe.

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The letter was just 67 words long and pledged support from the British

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government for the creation of a national home for the Jewish people

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in Palestine.

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What do you understand to be the message of the Balfour Declaration?

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The message is that there would be a national home to which

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Jews could go, and return to the place which they'd left

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2,000 years ago, and which many of them had yearned to go back to.

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They'd been spread throughout the world,

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had suffered a great deal from persecution,

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and this was their dream.

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I know that one of my ancestors, Leo Amery, was involved in

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the Balfour Declaration, but what you know about that?

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There was a lot of discussion about the very precise wording of the

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Balfour Declaration.

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The second part of the letter, which is to protect Arab interests,

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was inserted at the request of the Cabinet by your relation Amery.

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Leo Amery added a sentence.

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"Nothing should be done," he wrote,

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"which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing"

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"non-Jewish communities."

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The line was intended as a safeguard for the majority population in

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Palestine - the Arabs.

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But they would interpret it as anything but.

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The Balfour Declaration threw Britain's weight behind Zionism,

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the nationalist Jewish movement that called for a return of its people

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to their homeland.

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Shortly after its publication,

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the British occupied Palestine as a result of the First World War.

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It gave them the opportunity to fulfil their pledge

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and they were generally optimistic about their chances.

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At the end of 1919, the chief British official in Palestine reported,

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"In my view, there will be no serious difficulty in introducing

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"a large number of Jews into the country, provided it is done

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"without ostentation."

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He went on to say that given the right finances and resources,

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"I can promise you a country of milk and honey in ten years, and I can

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"promise you will not be bothered by anti-Zion difficulties."

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The Balfour Declaration's potential to transform the future

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for the Jewish people soon became clear.

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In 1920,

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Britain was formally handed control of Palestine,

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and the doors began to open for Jews to emigrate to the country.

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100,000 arrived in the first few years alone.

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I've come to Israel to find out what effect the Balfour Declaration

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has had to this day.

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Soon after its publication,

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regeneration began as Jewish immigrants bought land.

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The first farming community established after the declaration

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was in this valley in northern Israel.

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It was named Balfouria in honour of Lord Balfour.

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SINGING

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Amongst the early settlers were Yudit and Ruth Slutsky.

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Today they are 96 and 91.

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They'd invited me to join a Friday night Shabbat, or Sabbath gathering.

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SINGING

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The sisters are the only surviving members of the first generation of

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their family to emigrate to Palestine.

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Their parents came here in 1924.

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They'd escaped persecution in Russia.

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They had nine daughters.

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SINGING

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Yudit and Ruth still return to visit.

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How do you feel when you come here?

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Like I came home.

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Honestly. Like I came home.

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SINGING

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My father promised my mother they will go to Israel

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and deport all the family from Russia.

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For Hannah and Mordechai Slutsky,

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Balfouria was the fulfilment of the Zionist dream,

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free from anti-Semitism.

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They bought 25 acres of land and built the home still owned

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by their extended family.

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Amnon is one of their grandchildren.

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They bought the land to raise up Israel from the land again

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after 2,000 years.

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And, so, he wrote here, "The land is not to sell, ever."

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As a family we have to keep the land.

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We are now 350 members.

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-In 100 years.

-It's amazing.

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In 1925,

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Lord Balfour made his first visit to Israel and Balfouria was of course

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on his itinerary.

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The Slutskys played host to him,

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preparing a banquet for over 70 dignitaries.

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This is the great day.

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Yes, a great day. He came like a hero.

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They treat him like a hero.

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Only the Lord Balfour give the reason to Jews from all over

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the world to come to Israel.

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Touring the length and breadth of the country,

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Balfour received a rapturous welcome from the Jews

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and he was impressed by what he saw.

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He believed Jews would bring about the regeneration of the

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Middle East, and create not just a strong civilisation,

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but an ally for Britain in the region.

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"This is a new experiment," he declared.

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"Unless I have profoundly mistaken the genius of the Jewish people,

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"the experiment is predestined to inevitable success."

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Israel has succeeded beyond Balfour's wildest dreams.

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This tiny country is in the top 20 in the world when it comes to living

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standards, better than many European states.

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Israel's the start-up nation of the 21st century.

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A hub for computer industries with a booming economy.

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And this invention is the latest proof of its hi-tech achievements.

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My hands are off the steering wheel.

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-What...? Oh!

-I'll reactivate it.

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-Hands-free?

-Hands-free.

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It's-It's a strange sensation.

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My feet is not on the pedals, my hands are not on the steering wheel.

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-Fantastic.

-It will maintain a set speed, change lanes when necessary.

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-Yeah.

-Read the traffic lights and stop at the junction.

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And it's 100% safe?

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-Tell me it's safe.

-No, no, it's not 100% safe.

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The plan is 2019 to activate this kind of technology in a 100% safety

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on highways, and 2021, to activate it in urban settings.

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I have to say, Amnon, conducting an interview with somebody who's

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waving their hands about while driving a car is very...

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-Unnerving.

-..unnerving and...

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But it's amazing at the same time.

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Amnon Shashua a professor of computer science, is a co-founder

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of Mobileye, which makes autonomous driving technology.

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Earlier this year the company was purchased by US giant Intel for more

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than 15 billion, the biggest deal in Israeli history.

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Why do you think Israel has been such a successful

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technological nation?

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I think it's kind of a prosperity under adversity.

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When you are under constant adversity,

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you appreciate how much life is fragile.

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Because of all the wars that you've been involved in?

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All the wars and terror.

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So, you either give up or you become more efficient.

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You want to succeed against all odds.

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The British thought that bringing a sort of Jewish energy here was going

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to transform the place.

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The place has been transformed. It was an arid piece of land.

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-Look at it today.

-But look at the Palestinians.

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They feel that it's been...

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..you know, Israel's gain, their loss.

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Well, I think the defining story of the last 100 years

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is a zero sum game, you know?

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The success of one party is the failure of the other party.

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Most Palestinians have certainly failed to reap the benefits

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of Israel's success.

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Their living standards are far lower.

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There's a crisis in their economy and public finances.

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It all stems, many Palestinians believe,

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from the unfair hand that Britain dealt them 100 years ago.

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I first met Jawad Siam, a Palestinian activist, seven years

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ago, protesting against the takeover by some Israelis of a building

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in an Arab area of Jerusalem.

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For Jawad, his battle over the land today is a continuation of the

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struggles of his grandparents.

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And they lived in Silwan, here on the edge of Jerusalem?

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Can you explain how your grandparents' generation felt about

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the fact that more and more Jews were coming?

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As Jewish immigration increased in the 1930s,

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Jawad's grandparents were involved in a backlash.

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The new arrivals fuelled Arab resentment.

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They felt their existence here was threatened.

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Your grandfather was there at the time.

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Many Palestinians believe the Balfour Declaration promised

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a nation to the Jews, but that same commitment was never made to them.

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It's not how the British saw it,

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which is perhaps why the violent reaction of the Arabs

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took them by surprise.

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Train wrecking is the latest weapon of the Arab terrorists.

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The Crag Haifa express was derailed with a toll of

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many killed and injured.

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By the late 1930s, there was a bloody all-out Arab revolt

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against British rule

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at a time where their forces were thin on the ground.

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Britain's dream of a land of milk and honey had turned sour.

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And no-one was more shocked than my relative, Leo Amery.

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He had become the cabinet minister responsible for Palestine.

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Thinking all was well,

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he'd overseen the disbanding of the British Military Police.

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He quickly realised his mistake.

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Leo Amery blamed himself and the British Government for not leaving

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enough troops here when the violence first broke out

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between Jew and Arab.

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In his diary, he said, "It initiated a belief in the success of violence,"

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"which increasingly affected the Arabs,"

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"and subsequently, by reaction, the Jews."

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Time and again here, I've seen that successive violence

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on both sides that Leo identified so early on.

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But if, as he believed,

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British troops could've kept the peace between Arabs and Jews at that

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time, it makes me wonder whether the dream of the Balfour Declaration

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might have succeeded.

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Back then, what Britain did next would fuel the conflict.

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In 1939, the British Government bowed to the pressure

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of the Arab revolt, drastically restricting Jewish immigration.

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The immediate consequences were to be disastrous for the Jews.

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The timing could not have been worse.

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Hitler's Final Solution was soon to come into devastating effect.

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I was less than eight years old when the American troops,

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led by General Patton, broke in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

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My brother said to me,

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"Tell them to take you to a place called Eretz Yisrael.

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"This is our old homeland.

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"This is a place where they don't kill the Jews."

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As World War II came to an end,

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Yisrael Meir Lau was one of the few to escape Hitler's

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extermination camps.

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Just weeks after his liberation, he and his brother,

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the only survivors from their immediate family,

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arrived by boat in Palestine,

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but the welcome was not what they'd dreamed of.

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The soldiers, British soldiers...

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..screaming, pushing us with their guns.

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"Faster, faster, faster!"

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And they pushed us from the boat to a cattle car.

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We were like sardines standing - no bench, no chair, no one window.

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And the vehicle stopped here, and here again,

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"One, two, three, four, five!"

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And we were pushed into these huts, surrounded with a fence...

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..again a fence.

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We are inside. Soldiers, guns,

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counting us - we are numbers, not human beings.

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No-one name, only numbers.

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I looked at my brother and asked him,

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"This is what you promised to me? Is this the promised land?"

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Like many Jews fleeing to Palestine,

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Yisrael and his brother found themselves here in Atlit,

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a British detention camp.

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For me, it's really shocking to be here and see the disinfectant units,

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the showers, that the Jewish immigrants would have had to go

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through, and for many of them it must have served

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as a terrible reminder of the Nazi concentration camps.

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In fact, Yisrael was lucky.

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He was one of the few legal immigrants,

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and spent just a couple of weeks here before being settled

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in the country.

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He would go on to become Chief Rabbi and chairman

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of the Holocaust Museum.

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Many others who came via illegal Jewish networks were deported.

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Some, back to Europe.

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It was against humanity.

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After six years of horror, this limit.

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How can you not permit survivors at least of the Holocaust -

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their homes are destroyed, their families are liquidated,

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and the very few who survived - let them come back home? No.

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Where was the nation of the United Kingdom?

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I believe that Lord Balfour wouldn't believe it, if you would ask him.

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Many Jews saw the British change in policy as a betrayal of the Balfour

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Declaration, and some were determined to defend their gains

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at any cost.

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Now, it became the turn of the Jews to revolt against the British,

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20 years after they had opened the door to the promised land.

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The tragic scene is like a serious incident during the Blitz.

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The hotel housed the British Army headquarters and the Palestine

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government offices, and casualties were very heavy.

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65 deaths are reported.

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The Jewish terrorist organisation Irgun Tsvai Leumi openly admitted

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responsibility for the bombing.

0:23:170:23:18

Many arrests have been made.

0:23:180:23:20

In the 1940s, a Jewish underground movement waged war on the British,

0:23:230:23:28

to force them to leave and throw open the country

0:23:280:23:31

to unrestricted Jewish immigration.

0:23:310:23:34

As each day passed, more bombs were thrown, more trains were wrecked,

0:23:340:23:42

more lives were lost.

0:23:420:23:44

As the casualties mounted,

0:23:440:23:46

Britain looked for a way out of its Palestine problem.

0:23:460:23:50

The Balfour vision of Arabs and Jews living together in the same country

0:23:500:23:55

looked increasingly unworkable.

0:23:550:23:57

Even those who had passionately believed it could have worked,

0:24:040:24:07

like Leo Amery, had already privately accepted the inevitable.

0:24:070:24:11

But, as I discovered at an archive in Jerusalem, he, like others,

0:24:130:24:18

was now working on another solution.

0:24:180:24:20

This is a map, and it's called the Amery Scheme,

0:24:220:24:26

and it looks as if Leo Amery had his own plan for partitioning Palestine

0:24:260:24:32

into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

0:24:320:24:35

The date here is 1946.

0:24:350:24:38

You've got the West Bank.

0:24:380:24:39

He called it an Arab state, it's coloured blue on the map.

0:24:390:24:43

Then the Jewish state that he proposed is coloured in in red -

0:24:440:24:48

it's sort of faded to pink now.

0:24:480:24:50

And it actually says "state" - Arab state, Jewish state.

0:24:500:24:54

And, in a way, Leo Amery had come a long way,

0:24:540:24:56

because originally he thought the two peoples could live side by side,

0:24:560:24:59

and this makes it clear that...

0:24:590:25:01

..the two peoples will have to be separated -

0:25:020:25:05

there'll have to be a partition.

0:25:050:25:07

He was kind of bowing to the inevitable, I suppose.

0:25:070:25:09

In a sense, the spirit of the Balfour Declaration lived on

0:25:110:25:14

in the idea of partition.

0:25:140:25:16

The Jews wouldn't just have a national home,

0:25:160:25:19

they'd have a country.

0:25:190:25:20

And they'd live side by side with the Arabs,

0:25:200:25:23

who'd been given the same.

0:25:230:25:24

Partition of Palestine ends seven months of deliberation by the United

0:25:270:25:30

Nations, and 2,000 years of political homelessness for the Jews.

0:25:300:25:34

The newly formed United Nations was left to work out a solution

0:25:340:25:38

in Palestine.

0:25:380:25:40

Soviet Union - yes.

0:25:400:25:43

United Kingdom - abstain.

0:25:430:25:46

In 1947, the UN voted to establish two states there.

0:25:460:25:51

Yes.

0:25:510:25:52

A Jewish state covering 56% of the land.

0:25:520:25:55

The rest - an Arab state, for the Palestinians.

0:25:550:25:59

The city of Jerusalem would be governed by an international body.

0:25:590:26:02

In 1948 the Jews declared their state of Israel,

0:26:030:26:08

but the Arabs would not sign up to the UN plan.

0:26:080:26:11

All-out war followed,

0:26:140:26:16

as Arab armies from neighbouring countries invaded in support of the Palestinians.

0:26:160:26:22

In the violence, and after attacks by Jewish forces,

0:26:220:26:25

hundreds of thousands of Palestinians,

0:26:250:26:28

whose homes lay within the new state of Israel,

0:26:280:26:31

fled or were forced to flee.

0:26:310:26:33

The village of Lifta, on the outskirts of Jerusalem,

0:26:400:26:43

was abandoned.

0:26:430:26:44

Lifta has lain empty for nearly 70 years.

0:27:070:27:10

Palestinians have never been allowed to return to live here.

0:27:120:27:16

But, every year they come back with their children and grandchildren

0:27:170:27:20

to remember.

0:27:200:27:22

I was about seven years old.

0:27:220:27:25

We heard the attacks. They killed about six people

0:27:250:27:28

and then shot others.

0:27:280:27:29

For that they were afraid and preferred to leave because they

0:27:290:27:34

have seen what has happened in many cities of Palestine.

0:27:340:27:37

It's very important for my children to see what we have left here,

0:27:410:27:46

what my father has left.

0:27:460:27:48

Coming here, I've realised how important it is to know the history

0:27:500:27:54

of the houses here, to retell it to people who come here

0:27:540:27:58

for the first time.

0:27:580:27:59

And when you come and you hear the stories, do you feel angry?

0:27:590:28:02

Yes, angry and sad at the same time.

0:28:020:28:05

I hope that they will come and we will have

0:28:060:28:10

the right to come back and live here in peace.

0:28:100:28:12

Lifta was just one of hundreds of villages given up by Palestinians

0:28:230:28:28

in the bloody conflict between the new State of Israel

0:28:280:28:31

and its Arab neighbours.

0:28:310:28:32

MUSIC

0:28:320:28:37

This annual march in the West Bank is one of many held

0:28:370:28:41

to commemorate the war, and the wider Palestinian losses,

0:28:410:28:45

known as the Nakba.

0:28:450:28:47

MUSIC

0:28:470:28:49

They're lighting a torch for every year since the Nakba -

0:28:490:28:53

the catastrophe - 69 torches.

0:28:530:28:56

They still remember that so many Palestinians had to leave

0:28:560:28:59

the State of Israel.

0:28:590:29:01

Three quarters of a million Palestinians fled their homes

0:29:030:29:06

during the fighting, never to return.

0:29:060:29:08

Door keys to their houses are still a potent symbol of their loss.

0:29:120:29:17

Though the war to secure the State of Israel ended in 1949,

0:29:330:29:37

the conflict continued.

0:29:370:29:39

Israel's Arab neighbours invaded again in the '60s and the '70s.

0:29:430:29:48

In 1967, Israel had launched a pre-emptive strike,

0:29:480:29:51

fearing an attack.

0:29:510:29:53

More bitter battles were fought with Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

0:29:530:29:58

Across the deserts of Sinai,

0:29:580:30:00

a biblical prophecy comes to pass as the forces of Israel sweep on in an

0:30:000:30:04

astonishing triumph of strategy.

0:30:040:30:06

Israel won those wars, expanding its territory further,

0:30:070:30:11

occupying the Palestinian areas of Gaza and the West Bank,

0:30:110:30:15

and Israel took control of all of Jerusalem when it annexed

0:30:150:30:19

the east of the city.

0:30:190:30:21

The UN declared some of Israel's actions as an occupying power

0:30:210:30:25

were illegal under international law.

0:30:250:30:27

The occupation sparked an armed struggle by the

0:30:300:30:33

Palestinian Liberation Organisation, under its leader, Yasser Arafat.

0:30:330:30:37

Exiled from Palestine,

0:30:390:30:40

the PLO carried out hijackings and bombings on the international stage.

0:30:400:30:45

They killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

0:30:490:30:53

Israel sent hit squads to hunt down those responsible.

0:30:550:30:59

In the late 1980s, I began reporting from the region.

0:31:040:31:08

There was still a bitter stand-off between Israel and the Palestinians

0:31:080:31:12

over this territory.

0:31:120:31:14

Both Jew and Arab realise that unless a settlement is reached

0:31:140:31:18

over the future of this land on which the olive tree grows,

0:31:180:31:21

there can be no offering of the olive branch of peace.

0:31:210:31:24

There wasn't any sign of an olive branch then.

0:31:260:31:29

Israel and the PLO refused to even recognise each other,

0:31:290:31:33

let alone meet and talk.

0:31:330:31:34

But then, in 1993, I heard rumours of a back channel.

0:31:360:31:41

Secret negotiations going on in Norway.

0:31:410:31:44

It was all the idea of this man, Yossi Beilin,

0:31:460:31:50

a junior minister in the new Labour government in Israel.

0:31:500:31:53

I was the only journalist allowed behind the scenes to witness

0:31:550:31:58

what became the Oslo peace process.

0:31:580:32:02

The main idea was that Israel should talk to its enemies,

0:32:020:32:07

and speaking about the Palestinians, the enemy was the PLO.

0:32:070:32:11

On the other side, a veteran PLO official, Ahmed Qurei,

0:32:120:32:16

known as Abu Ala, headed up the talks in Norway.

0:32:160:32:20

It is the first time

0:32:200:32:22

in the history of this conflict that officials from

0:32:220:32:25

both sides sit together, not to meet just on a day alone,

0:32:250:32:30

to negotiate about substance and issues, and that's very important.

0:32:300:32:34

The historic Oslo peace deal was made possible

0:32:370:32:40

by two powerful leaders.

0:32:400:32:43

Prime Minister Rabin, Chairman Arafat...

0:32:430:32:46

Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel - a tough soldier,

0:32:470:32:51

respected by his people - and Yasser Arafat,

0:32:510:32:54

who led the Palestinian armed struggle.

0:32:540:32:56

Today we bear witness to an extraordinary act

0:32:580:33:03

in one of history's defining dramas.

0:33:030:33:07

The principle behind Oslo was land for peace.

0:33:070:33:11

Israel committed to a step-by-step withdrawal of its forces

0:33:110:33:15

from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

0:33:150:33:18

The Palestinians would govern themselves,

0:33:180:33:20

in return for the PLO taking responsibility for security

0:33:200:33:24

within those areas.

0:33:240:33:26

In 1994, I joined Yasser Arafat in his inner circle,

0:33:280:33:33

as they prepared to go back to Gaza.

0:33:330:33:35

I was on the plane with him as he returned after nearly three decades

0:33:370:33:41

exiled from his homeland.

0:33:410:33:43

Can Yasser Arafat deliver peace

0:33:450:33:47

and a better life for his people,

0:33:470:33:49

and can the Israelis and Palestinians overcome the harsh

0:33:490:33:53

realities of a divided land

0:33:530:33:55

after the euphoria of the homecoming?

0:33:550:33:58

The mood was jubilant, but there were doubts about Yasser Arafat's

0:34:000:34:04

ability to deliver security on the ground.

0:34:040:34:08

Because you were such a famous revolutionary leader,

0:34:080:34:10

people now say you will find it very difficult to adjust to being the

0:34:100:34:13

leader of people with so many problems?

0:34:130:34:16

I have full confidence

0:34:160:34:18

that our people will be able to carry on

0:34:180:34:22

in this line.

0:34:220:34:24

No doubt Mr Arafat is my partner,

0:34:240:34:29

and I hope that both of us will try our best to avoid failure.

0:34:290:34:35

So, are you optimistic?

0:34:350:34:37

I'm realistic.

0:34:370:34:40

The Palestinian chief negotiator, Abu Ala,

0:34:410:34:44

went on to become their Prime Minister.

0:34:440:34:47

Today, he's still an influential figure and lives on the West Bank.

0:34:470:34:51

Hello, Abu Ala.

0:34:520:34:54

-Welcome.

-Thank you, thank you very much.

0:34:540:34:56

-Welcome.

-How are you?

0:34:560:34:58

-How are you?

-I'm very well, a long time since...

0:34:580:35:00

-Long time!

-Too long, too long.

0:35:000:35:02

Nice to see you, shall we sit down?

0:35:020:35:05

If we go back to Oslo,

0:35:050:35:06

I believe at that time both sides were convinced that it is the time

0:35:060:35:11

to start really a credible peace process.

0:35:110:35:15

We were full of hope that, really, the first step is being achieved.

0:35:150:35:23

It is land for peace,

0:35:250:35:27

and you give the Palestinians their land and take peace.

0:35:270:35:31

Without it, there will be no peace for the Israeli.

0:35:310:35:34

The Israeli architect of the Oslo peace accords, Yossi Beilin...

0:35:380:35:42

-Hi.

-Hi.

-..is now retired and lives in Tel Aviv.

0:35:420:35:46

The whole idea was we need a border,

0:35:460:35:49

we need a border because without partition we cannot stay as a Jewish

0:35:490:35:54

and democratic state.

0:35:540:35:55

This is the heart of Zionism,

0:35:550:35:58

this is the heart of the Balfour Declaration.

0:35:580:36:01

This is the whole story.

0:36:010:36:03

And you were giving redress to the Palestinians, in a way?

0:36:030:36:06

Right - to look at them as equal partners.

0:36:060:36:10

Despite the hopes, the peace deal was quick to unravel,

0:36:120:36:16

under pressure from extremists on both sides.

0:36:160:36:19

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas rejected the peace deal and set out

0:36:200:36:25

to undermine it by bombing Israeli buses.

0:36:250:36:28

And Yasser Arafat's security forces failed to prevent the attacks.

0:36:300:36:34

Things went wrong on the Palestinian side, didn't they?

0:36:350:36:37

Believe me, I'm speaking honestly, Yasser Arafat, he tried his best.

0:36:370:36:43

But why did he fail to stop the violence, after the agreement?

0:36:430:36:46

Because it is the Israelis who pushed the situation...

0:36:460:36:50

It is the Israelis, It is not Yasser Arafat.

0:36:510:36:53

It is for the side who has the power,

0:36:550:36:59

and who use it wrongly.

0:36:590:37:03

Yasser Arafat, although he was, in my view,

0:37:030:37:06

sincere in his wish to have an agreement with Israel,

0:37:060:37:08

he did not give up on the other option.

0:37:080:37:11

-Violence, you mean?

-Which is violence, which was violence.

0:37:110:37:15

There were factions who were not ready to listen to him,

0:37:150:37:20

so it was convenient for him to...

0:37:200:37:23

..you know, turn a blind eye or something like this, to violence.

0:37:240:37:29

And, he also thought, apparently,

0:37:290:37:32

that a certain amount of violence might deter Israel or incentivise

0:37:320:37:39

Israel to move towards an agreement, and that he needed such leverage.

0:37:390:37:45

It wasn't just Palestinian violence that scuppered Oslo.

0:37:460:37:50

Yitzhak Rabin insisted it be an interim agreement for five years

0:37:500:37:55

while a permanent settlement was negotiated.

0:37:550:37:58

We believed that they would be some opposition but we never envisaged

0:37:580:38:06

the depth of and the hatred of the extremists.

0:38:060:38:11

And we did not understand...

0:38:110:38:12

..profoundly enough that if we gave them five years, it may go on for

0:38:130:38:19

much longer, because they will use every day in order to kill

0:38:190:38:25

the idea of peace.

0:38:250:38:26

Tonight at 11:10, the Prime Minister

0:38:300:38:34

of Israel, Mr Yitzhak Rabin, passed away.

0:38:340:38:39

Two years after the agreement, a Jewish extremist

0:38:390:38:42

opposed to giving up land for peace, assassinated Yitzhak Rabin.

0:38:420:38:47

It was like the end of the world, in a way.

0:38:480:38:51

It was like the end of the world.

0:38:510:38:53

When he was killed, I couldn't stop it, I cried for Israel.

0:38:530:39:00

Not necessarily only for him.

0:39:000:39:02

I couldn't understand,

0:39:020:39:03

I couldn't believe that something like that happened to us.

0:39:030:39:07

Not in my home, not in my country.

0:39:080:39:10

But here we are nearly 25 years later.

0:39:140:39:17

Unfortunately it's 25 years and a waste of time.

0:39:170:39:22

They are still controlling the country and the Palestinian territory,

0:39:240:39:29

they are controlling the Palestinian people.

0:39:290:39:33

The Israelis used it to take more land and to confiscate more rights

0:39:330:39:38

and to keep the Palestinians frustrated.

0:39:380:39:41

Mentality, unfortunately, the Israeli mentality of occupation.

0:39:420:39:48

Oslo changed everything.

0:39:490:39:51

There are those who say they changed it to the worst and there are those

0:39:510:39:54

who are saying that it was changed to the better.

0:39:540:39:57

It will hopefully be conducive to a permanent agreement, much,

0:39:570:40:02

much later than our original idea.

0:40:020:40:07

And it created the legitimacy for Israel in the Arab world.

0:40:070:40:12

I think that the process that we began in Oslo is irreversible.

0:40:120:40:16

The Oslo Accords are the closest I've ever known to the kind of peaceful ideal

0:40:220:40:27

that Balfour and Leo Amery had for Palestine.

0:40:270:40:30

But for me, despite the progress made,

0:40:310:40:34

the death of Yitzhak Rabin spelled the end of the Oslo peace process

0:40:340:40:39

and that's why it's so poignant to come here.

0:40:390:40:42

Built in the hopeful time after Oslo,

0:40:450:40:47

this was to have been the Palestinian parliament on the edge of East Jerusalem.

0:40:470:40:53

And this room, Yasser Arafat's office,

0:40:540:40:57

with its view of the Dome of the Rock,

0:40:570:40:59

one of the holiest sites in Islam.

0:40:590:41:01

Not only was the building never finished,

0:41:020:41:04

it's now surrounded on all sides by the wall,

0:41:040:41:08

the separation barrier cutting it off, effectively, from East Jerusalem.

0:41:080:41:12

This other structure symbolises the different approach taken when a

0:41:150:41:20

permanent peace deal was not reached.

0:41:200:41:23

The two sides blamed each other for a new wave of violence...

0:41:260:41:30

CROWD SHOUTS

0:41:300:41:31

..for reneging on their agreements.

0:41:360:41:37

The barrier was built under more recent right-wing Israeli governments

0:41:430:41:47

to secure the country from Palestinian suicide attacks.

0:41:470:41:51

700km long, it divides Israel from the West Bank.

0:41:520:41:57

Today, most Palestinians living on the other side can't enter Israel.

0:42:030:42:09

Those who do face severe restrictions.

0:42:090:42:12

But the same isn't true of Israelis travelling in the opposite direction.

0:42:130:42:17

Well, it may not look much but I'm actually now crossing over from Israel

0:42:200:42:24

into the West Bank where the Palestinians live.

0:42:240:42:27

And here, an even greater barrier to any peace deal has emerged.

0:42:280:42:33

Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

0:42:330:42:37

Since Oslo, Israel has more than tripled the number of settlers

0:42:380:42:42

in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

0:42:420:42:44

There are now more than 500,000 Israelis

0:42:440:42:47

living in around 140 settlements.

0:42:470:42:49

Heading north, I'm on my way to an Orthodox Jewish settlement called Tappuah.

0:42:520:42:57

The international community considers all Israeli settlements illegal.

0:42:570:43:03

It's very different today than when I first came on the West Bank 30 years ago.

0:43:030:43:08

So many more Israeli settlements on all the hills around and so many

0:43:080:43:12

more Israeli settlers.

0:43:120:43:14

There's a long history of hatred and violence in Tappuah,

0:43:150:43:18

with people killed on both sides.

0:43:180:43:21

Access is strictly controlled.

0:43:220:43:24

But I know someone on the inside who agreed to see me again.

0:43:250:43:30

Hi, Lenny. How are you doing?

0:43:300:43:32

-I'm good.

-I'm good. Good.

0:43:320:43:34

-Great.

-Still alive.

0:43:340:43:36

Lenny Goldberg moved to the West Bank from New York 25 years ago.

0:43:360:43:41

He's a follower of an ultranationalist Orthodox rabbi,

0:43:410:43:45

a rabbi who's inspired modern Jewish militants.

0:43:450:43:49

People would say, looking at this,

0:43:490:43:51

these are all the great Jewish terrorists of history.

0:43:510:43:54

Oh, no. Jewish terrorists, God forbid.

0:43:540:43:56

Jewish freedom fighters for a lofty and holy cause.

0:43:560:44:00

They fought for the Jewish people.

0:44:000:44:01

These are Jews that will go down in history for their self-sacrifice.

0:44:010:44:06

The international community says there can only be peace when Israel

0:44:060:44:10

withdraws from illegal settlements like Lenny's.

0:44:100:44:14

Would you ever leave this land?

0:44:140:44:16

What about if there is two states, Palestinian and Israeli,

0:44:160:44:20

side by side, and you have to leave?

0:44:200:44:22

It shouldn't get to that point. Give them a Palestinian state? I mean,

0:44:220:44:25

there's no Palestine, there never was, we won this land, it's ours,

0:44:250:44:29

historically ours, it's biblically ours, it's logically ours,

0:44:290:44:33

so why should we give it to a bunch of murderers?

0:44:330:44:36

This is an illegal settlement.

0:44:360:44:38

Well, illegal by whose law?

0:44:380:44:40

I don't go by the secular law here.

0:44:400:44:43

According to the Bible, which is God's law, which is the real law,

0:44:430:44:46

this belongs to the Jewish people.

0:44:460:44:47

Abraham walked here. The only reason we have a country is not because of

0:44:470:44:51

the Balfour Declaration, it's because the Jews sacrificed themselves with

0:44:510:44:55

blood and fire and bullets,

0:44:550:44:56

and Holocaust survivors who lost everything and they fought for this country.

0:44:560:45:00

That's the only reason there's a state.

0:45:000:45:02

That's the way any state is made.

0:45:020:45:04

Not through papers but through fighting and self-sacrifice.

0:45:040:45:07

The fact is there is a time to get up and fight and if a Jew fights for

0:45:070:45:11

his land that's a positive thing.

0:45:110:45:13

And is this the time still to get up and fight?

0:45:130:45:15

It says in the Bible, one comes to slay you, slay him first.

0:45:150:45:19

Lenny's views are those of the most extreme minority of settlers.

0:45:190:45:23

But many of them reject the idea that there can be two states here

0:45:230:45:27

side by side, and they form a powerful lobby in Israeli politics today,

0:45:270:45:33

supporting the conservative coalitions who have mostly governed here since Oslo.

0:45:330:45:38

I've certainly found more hardline voices

0:45:420:45:45

have come to dominate the public debate in Israel in recent years.

0:45:450:45:49

And on the Palestinian side, too, more extreme views have gained ground,

0:45:530:45:59

particularly in Gaza.

0:45:590:46:01

This is the executive force of Hamas,

0:46:030:46:06

the military wing of the Islamist group

0:46:060:46:08

that Britain considers a terrorist organisation.

0:46:080:46:11

Ten years ago, I filmed with them, just after Hamas won

0:46:110:46:15

elections in Gaza and then ousted Yasser Arafat's more moderate Palestinian

0:46:150:46:20

Authority faction in bloody fighting.

0:46:200:46:22

Israel had withdrawn from Gaza,

0:46:340:46:36

imposing a physical and economic blockade.

0:46:360:46:40

They had tightened it extensively when Hamas forced out the PLO.

0:46:400:46:43

Hamas fired rockets and mortars into the country,

0:46:460:46:50

refusing to recognise the Israeli state, even to this day.

0:46:500:46:54

This time, when I tried to get into Gaza again, I couldn't.

0:46:560:47:00

Hamas had sealed the border.

0:47:000:47:01

But an old contact of mine, a founder of Hamas, Dr al-Zahar,

0:47:030:47:07

agreed to speak to me from there.

0:47:070:47:09

The Palestinian Authority are prepared to make peace with Israel.

0:47:110:47:15

Why can't you?

0:47:150:47:16

Hamas is believing the negotiation method failed.

0:47:160:47:21

I think the alternative will be armed struggle.

0:47:210:47:23

Palestine is our land.

0:47:230:47:25

This is an Arabic land.

0:47:250:47:27

This is an Islamic land.

0:47:270:47:29

And, therefore, what do you want?

0:47:290:47:32

Want whole Palestine.

0:47:320:47:34

You want all of Palestine?

0:47:340:47:36

-Yes.

-Will Hamas ever recognise Israel's right to exist?

0:47:360:47:41

We are not going to recognise Israel by any means because this is our land.

0:47:410:47:46

That means the fight will continue as far as Hamas is concerned.

0:47:460:47:51

This is an armed struggle against occupation.

0:47:510:47:54

As the prospect of peace has faded,

0:48:000:48:03

ordinary Israelis and Palestinians find themselves on the of new wars.

0:48:030:48:08

Hila Fenton lives on the border between Israel and Gaza with her family and runs a large farm.

0:48:100:48:15

How close are you here to the border with Gaza?

0:48:190:48:21

From here we're about half a mile to the border itself.

0:48:210:48:25

Unfortunately, of three people that died from rockets in our village,

0:48:250:48:29

two of them died while working in the farms.

0:48:290:48:32

But there's a new threat and that's the tunnels.

0:48:320:48:35

The threat of tunnel is very nearby.

0:48:350:48:37

This one is 14 metres deep.

0:48:390:48:42

Three years ago, on their side of the border, the Israeli army

0:48:440:48:47

showed me Hamas's network of military tunnels.

0:48:470:48:51

So, you see it's well-designed.

0:48:520:48:55

So it works very well.

0:48:550:48:57

They were being used to kidnap and murder Israelis.

0:48:570:49:00

In 2014, Hamas attacks killed six Israeli civilians, one a child.

0:49:030:49:10

But Israel's response was condemned as disproportionate.

0:49:100:49:13

Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza that destroyed more than 30 tunnels.

0:49:190:49:25

During a lull in the fighting,

0:49:290:49:30

I travelled there to meet Palestinians on the front line.

0:49:300:49:35

This was the fourth war in Gaza in a decade.

0:49:350:49:38

What was here, Asma, before?

0:49:380:49:41

That's my home. That room,

0:49:420:49:46

my mum and our sister and brother when she was staying.

0:49:470:49:52

Nine members of Asma al-Ghul's extended family were killed when the Israelis bombed this house.

0:49:550:50:02

This is my mum's brother.

0:50:020:50:05

How old was the youngest child who died?

0:50:060:50:10

THEY SPEAK ARABIC

0:50:100:50:12

-20 days.

-20 days?

0:50:120:50:14

Just three weeks old.

0:50:140:50:15

In the last war, Israel killed more than 2,000 Palestinians,

0:50:160:50:21

a quarter of them children.

0:50:210:50:22

Your relatives had connections with Hamas.

0:50:260:50:28

Surely that's why this house was attacked by the Israelis.

0:50:280:50:31

But not.. Yes, not this uncle at all.

0:50:310:50:32

-Not this uncle?

-Not this uncle at all.

0:50:320:50:34

No. They are not related to Hamas.

0:50:340:50:37

If they are, I will say that.

0:50:370:50:39

It's very easy. This is war crime.

0:50:390:50:41

The Israelis say that Hamas uses civilian buildings as military headquarters.

0:50:440:50:50

Hamas says Israel target civilians.

0:50:500:50:53

The UN has investigated war crimes on both sides.

0:50:540:50:58

What Israel did in this war,

0:50:580:51:01

they are creating more generations who will belong to Hamas and jihad.

0:51:010:51:08

So, how you will change this?

0:51:080:51:10

Today, on the other side of the border,

0:51:130:51:15

for Hila the danger hasn't gone away.

0:51:150:51:18

Israel know from intelligence that they are still digging.

0:51:180:51:21

They see signs on the other side.

0:51:210:51:23

The problem is that they know where they start.

0:51:230:51:25

They don't know where they end.

0:51:250:51:26

So it can be anywhere.

0:51:260:51:27

It can be where we stand right now and that's a scary thought,

0:51:270:51:30

that you never know.

0:51:300:51:32

And what's that over there on the hill?

0:51:320:51:34

This is Hamas...

0:51:340:51:36

-An outpost?

-Outpost, yeah.

0:51:360:51:38

So, right on that hill overlooking where we are now?

0:51:380:51:41

Yes, they're watching us.

0:51:410:51:43

I'm sure they are.

0:51:430:51:44

They dig every...

0:51:450:51:46

Oh, there might be shooting so maybe we'd better go.

0:51:460:51:48

Yeah, there's shooting, I think we should move. There's shooting.

0:51:480:51:49

Hila believes her government could be doing much more towards bringing peace.

0:51:530:51:58

Israel should be leading this into a solution,

0:51:590:52:03

not standing and saying there's no partner.

0:52:030:52:06

It's OK to blame the terror organisation but it's nothing to do with families and kids

0:52:060:52:11

and everyday people who want to have the same life that we have.

0:52:110:52:15

The Balfour statement decided that the Jewish need to have a place

0:52:150:52:19

but we can't ignore the fact that there are other people here as well.

0:52:190:52:23

And if people will decide this is...

0:52:230:52:26

Will accept it from both sides of the borders,

0:52:260:52:28

that they are here to stay but we are here to stay as well,

0:52:280:52:31

we can move forward.

0:52:310:52:32

Whilst most Israelis and Palestinians still say they want peace there is,

0:52:340:52:38

of course, one impediment that must be resolved.

0:52:380:52:41

This is the place which is the symbol of how intractable the situation still is,

0:52:500:52:55

a place that's been the focus of many of the reports I've done

0:52:550:52:59

over the years.

0:52:590:53:00

The biggest obstacle of all remains, blocking the end of

0:53:000:53:04

the road that leads to peace.

0:53:040:53:06

That obstacle is at once both strategic and symbolic,

0:53:060:53:10

the holy city of Jerusalem.

0:53:100:53:11

This is the Arab Quarter of the Old City in East Jerusalem.

0:53:160:53:21

One day every year, Palestinian stallholders lock up their shops.

0:53:230:53:29

Today is the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem Day,

0:54:070:54:12

when Israelis celebrate their capture of the Old City in 1967 and

0:54:120:54:18

the reunification of their capital.

0:54:180:54:20

THEY CHANT AND SING

0:54:200:54:21

Israel insists that Jerusalem, the site of their holiest place,

0:54:380:54:43

the Western Wall of the temple, must be their eternal undivided capital.

0:54:430:54:47

We returned back to Jerusalem.

0:54:490:54:50

It's our city, our Old City.

0:54:500:54:54

Never we shall give it back.

0:54:540:54:56

The great mosques of Islam are here, too,

0:55:230:55:26

and the Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as theirs,

0:55:260:55:29

the capital of their future state.

0:55:290:55:32

They say they won't compromise when it comes to this city.

0:55:360:55:40

THEY CHANT AND SING

0:55:430:55:46

And neither will the Israelis.

0:55:460:55:48

Jerusalem has overshadowed every attempt

0:55:590:56:02

to make peace between Jews and Arabs.

0:56:020:56:05

And it preoccupied Leo Amery, too,

0:56:060:56:09

who made his last visit to Israel in 1950 with his son.

0:56:090:56:13

Leo Amery and Julian Amery,

0:56:230:56:27

1950, and there's their London address.

0:56:270:56:31

So it looks like Leo Amery and his son Julian signed a visitors' book

0:56:310:56:37

here in Chaim Weizmann's house.

0:56:370:56:39

Leo, now 76,

0:56:390:56:41

came to stay here as a guest of the first President of Israel.

0:56:410:56:46

Correspondence between them reveals how involved Leo still was in the

0:56:460:56:51

project that he'd helped create.

0:56:510:56:53

What's clear from these letters between the two men is the warmth of the friendship that they had.

0:56:540:57:00

Leo Amery writes, "Not least of the pleasure of that visit was seeing

0:57:000:57:04

"something of you again."

0:57:040:57:06

Weizmann says, "I shall treasure the many hours of stimulating conversation

0:57:060:57:10

"roving far and wide."

0:57:100:57:12

The letters that are really, really interesting here

0:57:130:57:17

are the ones about Jerusalem.

0:57:170:57:19

Leo Amery is writing to Chaim Weizmann.

0:57:190:57:22

He says, "Would it be impossible for your people,

0:57:220:57:25

"while not abandoning their claim to the Jewish Jerusalem as part of

0:57:250:57:28

"Israel, to offer voluntarily to entrust it for law and order and local

0:57:280:57:32

"government purposes to the international authority which is to look after the holy city?"

0:57:320:57:38

And Weizmann responds, "The problem of Jerusalem is

0:57:380:57:40

"admittedly a complex one.

0:57:400:57:42

"I need hardly tell you of all people what Jerusalem means to us.

0:57:420:57:46

"None of us is now prepared to entrust the safety of the city to an

0:57:460:57:50

"international regime."

0:57:500:57:52

Well, this is very interesting.

0:57:520:57:53

But, of course, at the same time rather depressing to me to read that

0:57:530:57:57

Jerusalem was such an issue and it was so contested and hard-fought back then, as it is today,

0:57:570:58:03

and as it has been for me for decades reporting from there.

0:58:030:58:06

Jerusalem is emblematic of the struggles this region still faces 100 years

0:58:090:58:15

after the Balfour Declaration.

0:58:150:58:17

I do believe that Leo Amery was right when he thought violence wasn't inevitable here.

0:58:190:58:25

It resulted from the wrong political decisions.

0:58:250:58:29

And I think that still holds true today.

0:58:290:58:31

For me, what's needed is the kind of vision that Oslo brought.

0:58:330:58:37

Strong and inspired leadership, a leap of faith on both sides.

0:58:370:58:42

And without that, there's a danger that time is running out.

0:58:420:58:46

The bloodshed and intransigence will make peace impossible for decades still to come.

0:58:460:58:51

100 years ago, just 67 words on a single sheet of paper lit a fire in the Holy Land, igniting the most intractable conflict of modern times. The Balfour Declaration was the first time the British government endorsed the establishment of 'a national home for the Jewish people' in Palestine. While many Palestinians see it as a betrayal, many Israelis believe it was the foundation stone of modern Israel and the salvation of the Jews.

The legacy of the declaration is one that BBC reporter Jane Corbin has watched unfold over the last 30 years - charting the conflict on both sides. But it is also a story that Jane has a personal connection to. One of her own ancestors, Leo Amery, a British politician and Cabinet minister, played a key part in drafting the original declaration and then oversaw Britain's governance of Palestine in the 1920s.

Now, on a journey starting in her home village, Jane explores what Leo did and whether the aspirations of The Balfour Declaration - for both sides to live peacefully and prosper together - were doomed to inevitable failure or if there is still hope of a peaceful solution in the Holy Land?