The British Government has hinted that it may support punitive action against Israel if Jerusalem goes ahead with its West Bank annexation plans, saying such a move “could not go unanswered”.
In a stark speech to the United Nations’ Security Council last week, Middle East Minister James Cleverly said annexation “risks signalling Israeli rejection of the very solution Israel and the international community agreed in 1947”.
He added that “the UK has been clear, in this Council and beyond, that unilateral action is unacceptable… Annexation could not go unanswered, and we implore Israel to reconsider.”
The comments represent the strongest hint yet that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is mulling action in response to Israel’s widely-mooted plans to annex big settlements blocs as well as the Jordan Valley this summer.
Cleverly’s speech referred to the end of the British Mandate over Palestine in 1947 and international agreement at the UN that year on the need for partition into Arab and Jewish states. The partition plan was supported by the Jewish Agency.
The minister was speaking at a special meeting to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which featured presentations from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
While criticising both sides, Cleverly specifically mentioned “settlement expansion, increases in demolitions, seizures, and worsening settler violence,” adding: “The UK has long urged Israel to end these counterproductive activities.”
He explained that annexation “has the potential to trigger regional instability, threatening Israel’s own security… It could have a real impact on Israel’s relations with the region, as well as the international community”.
Cleverly said: “Let us not forget the consequences for those most directly affected: the Palestinian people. We cannot predict the implications as a loss of hope. But we can say with some degree of certainty that it is the extremists who would benefit most. We have to find another way.”