UK misses opportunity to distance itself from Israel’s land grab

24th Feb 2017

Prime Minister, Theresa May, has rejected calls from her Israeli counterpart to follow US President, Donald Trump’s lead to re-impose sanctions against Iran as the British Government continues its ambiguous policy towards Israel. “The Prime Minister was clear that the nuclear deal is vital and must be properly enforced and policed while recognising concerns about Iran’s pattern of destabilising activity in the region,” a UK Government statement said following her meeting Benjamin Netanyahu on February 6.

US sanctions were imposed in one of Trump’s first acts, following reports of Iran testing a ballistic missile despite that not being allowed under the historic nuclear agreement the country signed two years ago. Israel has been one of the new US President’s biggest supporters following his pledge to consider moving the American embassy to Jerusalem despite its divided status.

The visit to London by Benjamin Netanyahu came on the heels of Israel quickly passing a controversial ‘Legalisation Bill’ seeking to retroactively ‘legalise’ more illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. It took place amidst an escalation of Israeli annexations and coincided with a recent scandal involving an Israeli diplomat who was caught on camera saying that he wanted to ‘take down’ UK Foreign Office Minister, Sir Alan Duncan MP. Britain is reported to have played a leading role in drafting and backing a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to illegal settlement-building.

Pro-Palestinian supporters demonstrated against Netanyahu’s visit, during which it was hoped there would be some acknowledgement of Israel’s regular defiance of UN resolutions and international law. But it was not until after Netanyahu left London that Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, belatedly insisted that the UK had “consistently been clear that settlements are illegal under international law, and not conducive to peace.” The “spike” in settlement activity undermines trust and makes a two-state solution much harder to achieve, he said. However, when The Muslim News asked the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson whether the UK would impose sanctions against Israel for breaking international law, she did not respond, repeating only that the settlements “undermined trust”.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, called on the Security Council and General Assembly to take effective diplomatic and political measures to ensure that Israel complied with Security Council Resolution 2334, which affirms that all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories constitute a flagrant violation of international law. “If Israel understands that the international community will take no meaningful steps to enforce the Council’s resolution, it will continue to intensify its settlement project undeterred,” he warned.

It seems the only way to force Israel to respect international law is to impose sanctions. But neither the UK nor the US will ever consider that. On the contrary, they reward Israel with more arms and trade and before the end of his Presidency, Barack Obama rewarded Israel with a new military aid package of $38 billion over 10 years. The deal, called the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), is the single largest pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.

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