LONDON: A UK parliamentary committee has suggested that Israel’s preferential access to British markets should be curbed if Tel Aviv pushes ahead with plans to annex swathes of Palestinian territory.
Conservative peer Baroness Joyce Anelay, the chair of the House of Lords International Relations and Defense Committee, put forward the proposal in a letter to the UK’s minister of state for the Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, on behalf of the committee’s other members.
In the letter, Anelay highlighted that, with the UK now no longer a member of the EU and, therefore, not bound by EU policy, its stance on the issue could be construed as unclear. She asked Cleverly for confirmation that the UK’s position on Israel’s proposed annexation of occupied territories in the West Bank had not changed.
“We condemn the continuing Israeli policy of the expansion of settlements as illegal and an impediment to peace,” she wrote, adding that the UK should aim to bring the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table on a two-state solution. “How will the UK work with its partners to support this objective?” she added.
Anelay also asked the minister to set out “consequences” should Israel push ahead with the annexation, especially in relation to Israel’s “preferential access to the UK market, as set out in the UK-Israel trade and partnership agreement.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said steps would be taken in July to begin extending Israeli sovereignty to illegal settlements in the West Bank and parts of the Jordan Valley.
Many countries in the EU grant preferential treatment to Israeli goods, but not to produce from illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz suggested France, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, and Luxembourg would all propose a tough line on Israel if Netanyahu and his coalition partner, Benny Gantz, did not change their course.
The EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, however, has said the bloc’s members were not united on the issue.
The US, meanwhile, is set to back Tel Aviv, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the matter was one for Israel to decide.
On Wednesday, on a one-day visit to Israel where he met with Gantz and Netanyahu, Pompeo asked Israel to consider “all factors” when making its final decision.
In her letter, Anelay criticized a lack of leadership by the US on the issue, calling for European states to “play a more active role,” and saying the UK “should be more forthright in stating its views on these issues, despite the views of the US administration.”
Earlier this month, 127 current and former British politicians, including former chairs and ministers from the governing Conservative Party, wrote to the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask him to impose sanctions on Israel should the annexation plans move forward.
Members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews have also protested the move, with 30 signing a letter asking fellow deputies to join them in condemnation of the plan.
“A growing number of leaders in our community are speaking up against annexation and defending the values of peace and justice we all hold dear,” Deputy Amos Schonfield said in a statement.