The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed concerns about the impact of any move to transfer the UK’s embassy to Jerusalem in advance of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Lambeth Palace joined a growing chorus of political parties and faith leaders raising reservations in recent days, after Liz Truss announced during the Tory leadership campaign that she would “review” a move.
The prime minister told Conservative Friends of Israel at the time that she understood the sensitivities around the embassy’s current location in Tel Aviv and the review would aim to ensure that bilateral ties were on the strongest possible footing.
But further debate was sparked this week – not least within the Jewish community – after the president of the Board of Deputies three her weight behind an historic move during CFI’s fringe meeting at party conference, which was also addressed by Truss.
In a statement to Jewish News on Friday, a spokesperson for the Archbishop said: “The Archbishop is concerned about the potential impact of moving the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis has been reached. He is in touch with Christian leaders in the Holy Land and continues to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
The intervention came one day after the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, expressed “profound concerns” about the review. So too did Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with the patter’s foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran suggesting the move would be a “provocation. The UK should under no circumstances be taking steps which risk inflaming tensions and damaging the prospects of peace”.
Over the last month, Arab ambassadors in London and former British ambassadors to the Middle East have spoken out against any change to the status quo.
Jewish News understands Marie van der Zyl has in recent days been contacted by deputies both supporters and detractors of her speech. Some deputies condemned the lack of discussion and debate among members or the Board’s international division.
But for others opposition was based on regional politics and the idea of taking action from a final status agreement. Yachad spoke out against, and dozens of youth leaders signed a letter dissociating themselves from what they described as an “inflammatory speech made in their name.
The National Jewish Assembly was joined by deputies from Highgate shul in voicing public support.
Addressing the CFI event in Birmingham, Israel’s ambassador Tzipi Hotovely added: “Nothing can be more significant to show the friendship between Israel and the UK than this step. There is just one capital to the UK, and that is London. There is just one capital to Israel, Jerusalem.”
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