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British PM tells Lapid she is reviewing relocation of UK embassy to Jerusalem

In meeting at UN, Liz Truss says she’s weighing ‘current location of the British Embassy in Israel’; had already vowed to consider move while serving as foreign secretary

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Yair Lapid, right, meets with UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, left, in New York City, Septemer 21, 2022. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, right, meets with UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, left, in New York City, Septemer 21, 2022. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

NEW YORK — British Prime Minister Liz Truss told Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday at the United Nations that she is reviewing a relocation of the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

A spokeswoman for Downing Street told The Guardian that Truss told Lapid “about her review of the current location of the British Embassy in Israel.”

Lapid tweeted his thanks to the British leader for considering the move. “We will continue to strengthen the partnership between the countries,” he said.

When former US president Donald Trump ordered Washington to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem in 2017, the UK prime minister at the time, Theresa May, criticized the move.

Truss, however, told the UK’s Conservative Friends of Israel last month, before she became prime minister, that she would review the UK’s decision to remain in Tel Aviv if she became the British leader.

“I understand the importance and sensitivity of the location of the British Embassy in Israel. I’ve had many conversations with my good friend Prime Minister Yair Lapid on this topic,” she said.

That announcement in August brought predictable criticism from former UK diplomats, 10 of whom wrote to The Times saying that an embassy move should await the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The British flag hangs at half-mast after the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the British embassy in Tel Aviv, September 9, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

In 2018, the Trump administration moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Honduras, Guatemala, and Kosovo also have their embassies in Israel’s capital.

Other countries, including Hungary, the Czech Republic, Serbia, and Australia, have official trade or defense branches in Jerusalem.

Lapid sat with Truss on Wednesday afternoon on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

He stressed that there must be no more Western concessions to Iran in talks over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal during the meeting. Lapid also laid out his vision of a “longer, stronger” nuclear deal.

The two leaders instructed their staff members to conclude a free trade agreement between the countries as quickly as possible.

According to a readout from his office, Lapid offered his condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and congratulated Truss on assuming the premiership.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks after winning the Conservative Party leadership contest at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London, September 5, 2022. (Frank Augstein/AP)

Truss replaced Boris Johnson as the prime minister of the UK following a reshuffle in their Conservative Party. She previously served as foreign secretary.

A liberal turned right-winger who at 47 is one of the youngest people to ever hold the post, Truss cited a Jewish boss as an inspiration and vowed to fight antisemitism in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle of London.

The UK’s decision not to back a 2017 international statement in support of a two-state solution in Israel was a watershed moment in the country’s Israel policy — part of a rightward shift after Johnson’s predecessor, May, assumed power. Previously, the UK had typically voted with other European countries to back policies and statements that were more critical of Israel.

Having left the European Union in early 2020, the UK is now more free to pursue an independent foreign policy, including in the Middle East, where the UK once wielded considerable influence.

As foreign secretary, Truss, a mother of two who was first elected to parliament in 2010, challenged the singling out of Israel at the UN, according to Stephen Pollard, a former editor-in-chief of the Chronicle who interviewed Truss.

Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report. 

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