British Foreign Secretary William Hague responded Thursday to accusations levied by former finance minister Yuval Steinitz — who said perceptions of Israel were more negative in the UK than in other countries — by blaming Israeli settlement activity.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Steinitz, who serves as the international affairs minister in the current government, voiced concern for what he termed “animosities and some incitement in Britain, in the media, made by NGOs against Israel.”
Hague, who is in Israel to discuss regional issues and offer support for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to restart the languishing Israeli-Palestinian peace process, acknowledged that Israel’s popularity had dropped.
“Israel has lost some of its support in Britain and in other European countries over time — this is something I’ve often pointed out to Israeli leaders — because of settlement activity, which we condemn,” the UK’s top diplomat told Sky News.
“We strongly disagree with settlements on occupied land. Israel is a country we work with in many ways, but we do disapprove of settlements.”
He added, “We want to see both Israelis and Palestinians really commit themselves to the peace process while there is still a chance of a two-state solution.”
Hague warned that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution was rapidly closing. If an agreement isn’t reached between the parties, he said, Israel would struggle to remain both a Jewish and democratic state.
After a meeting with Secretary Kerry in Ramallah on Thursday evening, senior Palestinian officials said that conditions were not yet ripe for a renewal of negotiations with Israel. Officials quoted by Israel Radio said the US did not have a formal program for moving ahead with the peace process.
Kerry is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas again on Saturday, in Jordan.