Tory leadership contender Rishi Sunak has admitted there is “very strong case” for Britain to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said if he became Prime Minister he would be “very open to looking at that.”
But Sunak added:”All I would say, having not been Foreign Secretary, there must be some sensitivities involved because if it was that easy it would have been.”
Appearing at a Conservative Friends of Israel leadership event, the former chancellor was asked by Lord Eric Pickles about what he saw as the “basic obstacles” to Britain recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Having stressed his view that as “historic capital clearly there is a strong case for it to be recognised” Sunak said he would “like to get in there and understand” the reasons why it had proved difficult to achieve.
Sunak added recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was something that could be achieved with the assistance of allies such as America.
During a night when the ex-chancellor’s economic grasp proved his strongest attribute, as he spoke of his desire to help the UK out of the cost of living crisis, and questioned his rival Liz Truss over issues such the independence of the Bank of England, which she has criticised, Sunak was also questioned over Israel and Palestine.
A question from the audience made reference to “territory west of the Jordan, some people call it Judea and Samaria, and Gaza… is ‘occupied’ Palestinian Territories.. ”
The audience member then asked Sunak: “I wonder if we can get the language changed to ‘disputed’ territories?”
He replied:”I can’t stand here and say yes I will definitely do that because I don’t know the intricacies of what that involves.
“But I completely understand the sentiment of what you are saying.”
Sunak then spoke of his “upset” at a terrorist organisation that “glorifies terrorist attacks on Israel” and ” spreads hate in its schools” and added “we need to call that out.”
He also said the United Nations needed to be “accountable” for the funding it gave to the region.
Sunak also said that while the UK should continue to be “tough” over the issues around the Palestinians that at some point “dialogue” would be needed to resolve the situation.
He said he released how “hard” this would be, with Islamic Jihad continuing to fire missles into Israel, but pledged to continue to “call out” the behaviour of the Palestinians when necessary.
Asked about Iran, and an earlier pledge to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially after the stabbing of author Salmon Rushdie, which is allegedly linked to Tehran, Sunak said:It seems an entirely reasonable position, that if we proscribe Hezbollah and Hamas then the parent organisation is also…, there’s an argument for proscribing it. ”
He added:”Iran is a major threat. It’s not just about their missile programme, we have got to put snap sanctions on the table.
“We have to recognise the threat they pose in supporting terrorism and its something I said at the weekend given what happened with Salmon Rushdie … where is this from, its from a fatwa that is there. ”
On the possible signing of a nuclear deal with Iran, he believed the prospects were “low.”
Sunak said:”It’s not just about Joe Biden, it’s about Congress as well, and the Republicans have a very clear point of view on this.
”When it comes to the JCPOA, the idea that it will get through in any way shape or form is low. ”
Sunak spoke out in support of the Westminster Holocaust Memorial, and said education was one of the main ways to combat rising antisemitism.
Sunak’s challenger Truss had appeared at a similar event last week.
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