The Chairwoman of the International Relations and Defence Committee in Britain’s House of Lords questioned whether Israel should continue to receive preferential access to the U.K. market if the plan for annexing West Bank territory, as laid out in the incoming unity government's coalition agreement, proceeds.
In a letter addressed to Minister of State James Cleverly, Baronness Joyce Anelay expresses concern about the deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz to apply Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank, raising that annexation of occupied territory constitutes a violation of international law. Should annexation be implemented, she asks whether there would be consequences for Israel in its trade with the United Kingdom.
She references a 2017 International Relations Committee report, whose conclusions, she says, remain valid. It holds that a two-state solution that meets both Israel's security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood is the only way "to reach an enduring peace."
The conflict, though, is "on the verge of moving into a phase where the two-state solution becomes an impossibility and is considered no longer viable by either side." It added that the U.K. government should be straightforward in expressing this opinion, "despite the views of the U.S. administration." It continues, "In the absence of US leadership, it is time for the Europeans to play a more active role."
Ultimately, "The balance of power in the delivery of peace lies with Israel. If Israel continues to reduce the possibilities of a two-state solution, the U.K. should be ready to support UNSC resolutions condemning those actions in no uncertain terms." It adds that the country should consider recognizing a Palestinian state in a step to show its commitment to the two-state solution.
Anelay then poses questions for Cleverly. First, she seeks reassurance that the U.K.'s position on the matter has not changed, and that it will not recognize any changes to the status quo. Second, she asks which steps the United Kingdom should take to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the table to renegotiate a two-state solution.
And finally, she asks that if Israel should proceed, "What would be the consequences for its preferential access to the UK market, as set out in the U.K.-Israel trade and partnership agreement? How would the U.K. distinguish between legal and illegal products in order to provide preferential access only for legal Israeli exports to the U.K.?"
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On Tuesday, 35 representatives of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the largest Jewish organization in the United Kingdom, signed a letter demanding the group's leadership condemn annexation. Among the letter's signatories were members of both the Conservative and Labour Parties.
Tal Ofer, the deputy for Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue, said: “Our letter shows there is a cross-communal support on the need for the Board of Deputies to speak up on the proposed annexation."
Also Tuesday, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said that Israel's annexation plans will be "the most important item on the agenda" of the upcoming meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Friday. When asked about sanctions, Borell said he will consider the different positions that may arise within the union. "We are by the time being far away from discussing about sanctioning – but it’s important to know which is the position of the member states,” he said at a press conference in Brussels.
“Everything in [EU] foreign policy requires unanimity, especially sanctions, and we are by the time being far away from discussing about sanctioning,” said Borell, stressing that the matter is “a very divisive issue inside the [Foreign Affairs] Council and different member states have different positions, we noticed it when we discussed [annexation] months ago."