Netanyahu set to meet Theresa May in London next week
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Netanyahu set to meet Theresa May in London next week

PM passed up previous chance for talks in protest at British support of UN anti-settlement resolution

Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Theresa May (Composite image, Flash 90, AP)
Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Theresa May (Composite image, Flash 90, AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with his British counterpart Theresa May next week. British media reported their meeting, at 10 Downing Street, would be held on Monday.

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem did not confirm the trip.

The news came hours after Britain’s Foreign Office slammed new Israeli settlement plans. “The announcement of further settlement units in the West Bank is part of a growing trend which we condemn,” said Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood. “We have consistently been clear that settlements are illegal under international law, and not conducive to peace.

In December, Netanyahu eschewed a meeting with May planned for the World Economic Forum summit in Davos last month, as part of his furious response to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements, and for which Britain voted in favor. The passage of the resolution was ultimately made possible by the abstention of the outgoing Obama administration.

Britain’s deputy ambassador to Israel was among diplomats from several countries who were summoned to Jerusalem on Christmas Day and reprimanded for their country’s support for the move.

While Israeli officials blamed US President Barack Obama for the resolution’s success, it later emerged that the original draft presented by Egypt was based on a document prepared by British legal and diplomatic figures working together with the Palestinians.

Under pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, Egypt withdrew the proposal, then it resurfaced under the sponsorship of Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela. While Israel tried to pressure New Zealand to drop its support for the resolution, Britain encouraged Wellington to stand firm.

Samantha Power, center, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, votes to abstain during a UN Security Council vote on condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)
Samantha Power, center, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, votes to abstain during a UN Security Council vote on condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)

A British source told the Jewish Chronicle at the time that the “yes” vote for the resolution was part of May’s new strategy toward Israel, according to which the Jewish state’s friends have to take a stand against settlements to garner favor with the Palestinians.

However, Netanyahu did not speak directly with May, The Times of Israel established, despite indications that she might have opposed the text. May appears to not have known about the content and would possibly have been willing to abstain or even veto the motion.

Days after the UN vote, the British prime minister’s spokesperson issued a highly unusual rebuke of US Secretary of State John Kerry for overly focusing on Israeli settlements during a post-vote December 28 speech in which he defended the US abstention.

Just a week and half before the Security Council vote, May delivered a speech overflowing with praise and support for Israel. Addressing the Conservative Friends of Israel, the prime minister hailed the Jewish state as “a remarkable country” and “a beacon of tolerance.”

Ties with Jerusalem were “crucial,” she said, promising to raise the bilateral trade relationship to new heights and described the Balfour Declaration as “one of the most important letters in history.”

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