Britain’s ‘threat’ to recognise Palestine if Israel annexed Jordan Valley

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Britain’s ‘threat’ to recognise Palestine if Israel annexed Jordan Valley

Dame Karen Pierce said when she was UK Ambassador to the United Nations that her country was prepared to consider Palestine a sovereign state

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Karen Pierce delivered the threat to recognise Palestinian statehood when she was UK Ambassador to the United Nations (Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
Karen Pierce delivered the threat to recognise Palestinian statehood when she was UK Ambassador to the United Nations (Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Britain threatened to recognise Palestine as an independent country two years ago if Israel pressed ahead with plans to annex large swathes of the West Bank.

The ultimatum was issued in the summer of 2020 after Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister at the time, promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to all settlements and the Jordan Valley.

Dame Karen Pierce, then the British ambassador to the United Nations, told American officials that if Israel did not abandon the annexation plan, the United Kingdom would immediately recognise a sovereign state of Palestine.

Such a move would have been a radical shift in British traditional foreign policy, which has traditionally supported Palestinian statehood only as part of a final peace deal with Israel.

Accounts of Dame Karen’s threat were described by the Israeli journalist Barak Ravid and in a separate upcoming memoir by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and adviser to former US president Donald Trump.

Officials at the Foreign Office did not deny Ravid and Kushner’s accounts.

A spokesperson told Jewish News: “We wish to see a viable two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace, prosperity and security.”

Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference announcing the planned annexation, in September 2019

Netanyahu drew international anger after announcing his plan in 2019 to annex far-flung Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, the stretch of land adjoining the country of Jordan.

The pledge came days before a Knesset election and was initially dismissed as an attempt to win over right-wing vote.

But the prime minister repeated the call in early 2020 as Donald Trump, then US president, announced his plan for a two-state solution.

Since Israel took control of the West Bank after the Six Day War in 1967, hundreds of thousands of settlers have moved into the territory.

But despite militarily occupying the region it calls Judea and Samaria, Israel has never applied its sovereignty there – apart from Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1980 in a move not recognised by the international community.

Dame Karen Pierce has since become Britain’s ambassador to the United States.

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