British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is in Israel this week in the first real test of bilateral relations since Boris Johnson penned an opinion piece in an Israeli newspaper saying annexation would be illegal.
Raab, who is also visiting the West Bank, was in town at the same time as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who last week issued a veiled threat to the UK, France and Germany to support the White House line on Iran sanctions.
Although the White House has been mute on the prospect of Israel unilaterally annexing land in the West Bank, the UK has been vocal in its opposition, saying this would constitute an illegal move and would torpedo peace hopes.
The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which recently merged with the Department for International Development, said Raab would meet both Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Both Raab and Pompeo were expected to congratulate Netanyahu on the recent announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates would be normalising relations and deepening ties in a range of fields, in a major diplomatic landmark.
The UAE agreement includes a condition that Israel shelve its annexation plans, which Israel’s settler community has fiercely resisted.
The FCO said Raab would “stress the necessity of a negotiated two-state solution… and the need for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and wider cooperation on development, trade and coronavirus”.
Ahead of his visit, Raab said: “The UK remains committed to Israel’s security and stability, and the recent normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE was an important moment for the region.
“Israel’s suspension of annexation is an essential step towards a more peaceful Middle East. It is important to build on this new dynamic, and ultimately only the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority can negotiate the two-state solution required to secure lasting peace.”
While in Israel, Raab will also meet his counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is due to take over from Netanyahu next year, if not before.