UK should answer Israeli annexation with harsh economic sanctions, MPs say

House of Lords committee asks government to weigh limiting Jewish state’s preferential access to British markets if it applies sovereignty in West Bank

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A general view of the House of Lords chamber in session at the Houses of Parliament in London, September 5, 2016. (AFP/POOL/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A general view of the House of Lords chamber in session at the Houses of Parliament in London, September 5, 2016. (AFP/POOL/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The United Kingdom should weigh serious economic sanctions against Israel if it goes ahead with its planned annexation of large parts of the West Bank, the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee said Thursday.

Committee chair Joyce Anelay, a veteran Conservative lawmaker, said the incoming Israeli government’s plan would constitute a “violation of international law” and jeopardize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and asked the government to consider limiting Israel’s preferential access to British markets in response to such a step.

In a letter to the UK minister of state responsible for the Middle East, James Cleverly, she restated her committee’s enduring commitment to a two-state solution and asked him for the government’s “urgent response” to three questions.

First, Baroness Anelay urged Cleverly to reassure her that London’s opposition to any unilateral Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories remains unchanged.

Second, the committee chair — a former minister of state at the Foreign Office — wanted to know what concrete actions the government would take to get Israelis and Palestinians to reengage.

“What steps will it take to bring all parties back to negotiations in support of a two-state solution? How will the UK work with its partners to support this objective?” she wrote.

British MP Joyce Anne Anelay (Twitter)

Finally, Anelay asked about “consequences for [Israel’s] preferential access to the UK market, as set out in the UK-Israel trade and partnership agreement.

“How would the UK distinguish between legal and illegal products in order to provide preferential access only for legal Israeli exports to the UK?” she asked.

Most European countries, including the UK, grant preferential treatment to goods produced in Israel proper but not to those made in settlements they do not recognize as part of sovereign Israel.

Anelay said she was representing the committee’s 12 members.

10 Downing Street, like most other governments across the globe, is staunchly opposed to Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank. According to the coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and incoming defense minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, the annexation plan can be advanced as early as July 1.

“The UK Government have expressed, both publicly and to the Government of Israel, our concerns about reports of annexation, which we have consistently said we oppose and could be detrimental to the chances of the peaceful, sustainable two-state solution that we should all be working towards,” Cleverly told parliament on Monday.

In April, the UK also expressed its concerns over a possible Israeli annexation at a special session of the United Nations Security Council, he said.

Cleverly avoided, however, directly responding to lawmakers’ question about possible sanctions against Israel.

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