Theresa May said Britain should not apologise for the Balfour Declaration like some people have suggested.
Speaking at the Balfour Centenary dinner last night, attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she said: “When some people suggest we should apologise for this letter, I say absolutely not.
“This was a letter that remains very sensitive for many people today – but it was not ignorant of those sensitivities.”
Mrs May said the Declaration was “a letter which gave birth to a most extraordinary country.
“And finally opened the door to helping make a Jewish homeland a reality.
“Indeed, Balfour wrote explicitly that: 'nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.'
“We are proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel.
“We are proud to stand here today together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and declare our support for Israel. And we are proud of the relationship we have built with Israel.”
Mrs May and Mr Netanyahu joined Lord Rothschild and senior politicians and diplomats for the dinner at Lancaster House to commemorate 100 years since the Declaration was signed.
Mrs May had discussed deepening Britain’s links to Israel, especially in areas such as security and innovation with Mr Netanyahu before the dinner.
She said: “Areas like agriculture, health, science, technology and innovation. Israel is the true start-up nation and we are proud to be your partner. We also remain absolutely committed to Israel’s security.
“For it is only when you witness Israel’s vulnerability that you truly understand the constant danger Israelis face.
“So I am clear that 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.”
Also attending the dinner was former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mr Netanyahu told guests that without the Balfour Declaration “the state of Israel would not have come into being.
“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.
“Now, a once stateless and powerless people has found its place among the nations.”
He added: “The Balfour Declaration puts 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.”
Guests had the opportunity to view the original Balfour Declaration, usually housed at the British Library.
Chief Rabbi Mirvis said 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.
“To have the British and Israeli Prime Ministers rejoicing in Jewish nationhood together was a truly historic occasion upon which generations to come will look back with great pride.”
The dinner was organised by Balfour 100.