A pledge by Tory leadership contender Liz Truss to “review a move” of the British embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been openly criticised by a group of senior ex-diplomats.
Truss had last week confirmed in a letter sent to the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) group her intention to “review” the possibility of moving the embassy, saying she understood the “importance and sensitivity” over its location.
In the letter to CFI she added: “I’ve had many conversations with my good friend Prime Minister Yair Lapid on this topic. Acknowledging that, I will review a move to ensure we are operating on the strongest footing within Israel.”
But a letter to Friday’s The Times from Sir Vincent Fean, former consul-general in Jerusalem, ex-Kenyan high commissioner Sir Edward Clay, former Iran envoy Sir Richard Dalton, one-time UN envoy Sir Jeremy Greenstock and Lord Green, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia condemns the Truss pledge.
The writer’s cited a 2019 comment by former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon, later a Labor Knesset member, who suggested “two states for two peoples” was the only way to preserve both Israel’s security interests and democratic state. Ayalo said any move that made the two state solution harder, which would include an early embassy move, should be rejected.
In Friday’s letter the ten signatories wrote: “Moving the British embassy would be such a step. It would preempt the outcome of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of international law. To have meaning the law must apply equally to all.”
The letter ended by stating: “Two states is British government policy: until that policy is realised, the embassy should stay put.”
After former US President Donald Trump announced he was moving the US embassy to Jerusalem in 2017, then Prime Minister Theresa May was quick to criticise the decision.
May said: “We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement. We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.”
It was noticeable that the pledge to move the UK embassy to Jerusalem was not mentioned when Truss took part in a CFI leadership hustings event on Monday.
But her self-declared attempt to “change the mindset” of Foreign Office officials was praised.
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