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Lloyd George and Jerusalem

April 5, 2008 3:22 PM

JerusalemAn interesting piece in the People Column of today's Liberal Democrat News records the surprise of members of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, on a recent fact-finding trip to Israel, at discovering a street in Jerusalem named after David Lloyd George.

Lloyd George was of course prime minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, a communication between Arthur Balfour, Foreign Secretary in LG's wartime coalition government and Lord Rothschild of the Zionist movement declaring British support for the establishment of a national Jewish homeland in Palestine - provided that safeguards could be reached for the rights of other inhabitants of the land.

A quick search on the internet reveals that Lloyd George Street is in a popular part of the city with trendy shops, hotels, bars and The Lev Smadar, a highly regarded and comfortable arthouse cinema.

Unsurprisingly after Israel became independent municipal authorities decided to rename most of the streets which had British names from the period of the Palestine Mandate. However General Allenby, Lloyd George and Lord Balfour streets all remained in place to commemorate the British leaders who championed Jewish rights to a homeland.

According to Robert Fulford, a journalist on the Toronto newspaper the Globe & Mail, within a short walk in Jerusalem there are streets called Benjamin Disraeli, Emile Zola, Jan Masaryk, and Josiah Wedgwood. In Jerusalem, he comments, you stare at a street map and history stares back at you. There's a George Eliot Street not far away, probably named for her because she wrote Daniel Deronda, which has been described as "a great Zionist novel" though it was written before the political philosophy known as Zionism was invented.

It is perhaps a pity that Lloyd George did not live long enough to see the fruition of the policy in the middle east that he and Balfour drove forward - the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 but certainly he would have understood that an independent Jewish state in Palestine was the beginning of new and difficult relationships in that part of the world.