Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday said he was undeterred by a wave of anti-Israel protests and calls for his arrest ahead of his address to members of the British Parliament later in the day.
Activists projected enormous messages calling on Britain to “arrest illegal occupation Edelstein [sic],” and declaring “Israel’s racist leader Edelstein not welcome,” onto the outer walls of the parliamentary Palace of Westminster Tuesday evening.
Edelstein was scheduled address the House of Commons and the House of Lords Wednesday afternoon in the first-ever official visit by an Israeli Knesset speaker to the UK.
“Our enemies will not deter me,” he said in response to the incident, noting that he anticipated encountering both supporters and opponents during his visit.
“This is an opportunity for me to voice Israel’s stance without hesitation,” he said.
The Knesset speaker, who arrived in the UK on Tuesday, met with Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond to discuss regional security issues including Israeli-Palestinian violence, the situation in Gaza and a post-nuclear deal Iran.
During the meeting, Edelstein praised the new directives published by the British government last month prohibiting publicly funded bodies from boycotting Israeli-made products.
“Boycott efforts achieve opposite results of those intended, because whoever boycotts goods produced in Judea and Samaria effectively harm the Palestinian employees who work to make a living there,” he told Hammond, using the biblical name for the West Bank.
Despite its internal guidelines, Britain, as a member of the EU, follows the union’s November 2015 directive to label settlement products as having been made in the West Bank.
Hammond went on to reiterate his government’s opposition to Israel’s settlement enterprise in the West Bank to Edelstein. In response, the speaker pointed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as the result of Hamas’s takeover of the territory after Israel’s disengagement.
“What we got was not peace, but terror. The situation in Gaza got worse after our withdrawal from there,” Edelstein said before condemning the Hamas leadership for using international aid money to further efforts to carry out attacks against Israel.
Last month, Edelstein faced an earlier round of opposition to his UK parliamentary address over his residence in a West Bank settlement, with Palestinian officials claiming his appearance in Westminster would legitimize Israel’s “illegal” settlement policies.
Edelstein, who lives in the settlement of Neve Daniel in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem, said then he was “proud to represent the Knesset and the State of Israel, including as a settler of Judea and Samaria.”
The Knesset speaker added that opposition to his address was an effort to create “cheap, popular headlines and garner support for extremist groups.”