British PM’s action will not only legitimise Israel’s occupation and brutal suppression of the Palestinian people but also mock international laws.
New British Prime Minister Liz Truss has stated on more than one occasion that she is considering relocating the British Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The last of which was last month when she met Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the United Nations in New York.
The issue of Jerusalem is the most contentious subject in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, and their occupation is illegal according to international law and is not recognised by the international community.
If Truss goes ahead with the embassy move, she would be following in the footsteps of former US president Donald Trump, who recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018, and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
She would also be breaking away with decades of the UK’s foreign policy that has long maintained the illegality of Israel’s occupation.
When Trump moved the embassy in 2018, then UK PM Theresa May fervently criticised the act, and stated that, “we believe that it’s unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region”. She also affirmed that the status of Jerusalem is “clear and long-standing: it should be determined in negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states. In line with relevant Security Council resolutions, we regard East Jerusalem as part of the occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Like former PM May said, moving the embassy to Jerusalem would violate UN resolutions, and it would also defy decades of international consensus that maintained that all embassies must stay in Tel Aviv until a peace agreement is reached between the two sides, with Jerusalem being the shared capital for the two states.
What Truss intends to do is extremely dangerous for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and for the world at large. Moving the embassy will mean a dangerous de facto recognition by the UK of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the entire territories it occupied in the six-day war in 1967. It will mean dangerous legitimisation of the settlements in these areas, as well as the draconian practices against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, such as home demolitions and displacement of people.
It will effectively recognise Israel’s claim that undivided Jerusalem is its capital, and approve of Israel’s possible annexation of East Jerusalem. And it will undermine the occupied Palestinian people’s rights in the city.
Given how the Zionist takeover of Palestine and the plight of the Palestinian people since 1948 were facilitated and sponsored by Britain, Truss should be finding ways to make this mistake right, and support the Palestinians in their quest for freedom as opposed to further undermining their rights.
Trump’s Jerusalem move was intended by his ideological Middle East team –Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman– and not just as a move for political electoral purposes. It was meant to legitimise the facts created on the ground over the decades, undermine international resolutions on this issue, and legitimise the occupation of the Palestinian territories, on Israel’s behalf, starting with the city of Jerusalem. Later, the Trump Administration rhetoric and actions also sought to legitimise the occupation of the West Bank as well.
Following the diplomatic efforts of the PA, the Arab League and the EU, among others, only three states have followed in Trump’s footsteps: Kosovo, Guatemala, and Honduras. The rest of the 82 countries with embassies in Israel kept their diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv.
So, following Trump’s decision, the status of Jerusalem largely remained the same, and the Trump position remained an outlier, and although the Biden Administration didn’t reverse Trump’s move, they tried to minimise its damages. However, if the UK moves to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, this will stir the pot once again, and put respect for international law and the international community’s positions, with regards to the issue of occupying land by force, into question once again.
Truss must understand that the Jerusalem move that she is contemplating represents nothing less than an active support for the occupation (and possible annexation) of the Palestinian territories as well as the brutal draconian practices of that occupation.
The West’s preferential treatment for Israel has always had chain reactions across the world and will continue to do. You can’t overlook international law in certain countries, and require it to be implemented and respected in other countries. This won’t work.
It’s noteworthy that the UK moving the embassy would further ignite tensions in the already-volatile occupied territories, which over the past couple of months seems to be on the brink of exploding into violence. And in the long run, it would just poison the region with more instability and further make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more intractable.
Many British Jews, British Jewish organisations rival political parties in the UK, such as the LibDem, the SNP and the Labour, and Christian leaders have all come out in opposition to Truss’s intended move.
The Arab League and Arab countries, including countries that have signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, have expressed their objection to the idea. Arab countries have sent a collective letter to the UK’s foreign office, which says such a move could jeopardise a trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The move might also impact its relations with some Commonwealth and Muslim countries worldwide, for many of whom the status of Jerusalem matters. In addition, the UK stands to gain nothing from moving the embassy, none whatsoever.
These condemnations and rejection statements hopefully will deter Truss from going ahead with the embassy relocation.
Especially now more than ever, the world doesn’t have the stomach for international law and international resolutions to be dishonoured, and for countries to receive the message that it’s acceptable to occupy land by force and enforce a draconian military regime over an innocent population.
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