UK pushes for two states 'by September'

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

The Board of Deputies has asked for a meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague amid concern that the UK government holds Israel responsible for the deadlock in the Middle East peace process and is demanding a Palestinian state by September.

The Board's approach was made before Britain voted for a United Nations security council resolution - vetoed by the United States - which said that Israel must stop all
settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.

Following Friday's vote, Mr Hague, calling settlements an obstacle to peace, said: "I have made clear my serious concern about the current stalemate in the Middle East peace process".

A statement by the UK's UN ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant added: "Our goal remains an agreement on all final status issues … by September 2011."

Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting Egypt and other Arab countries this week, said that there was an urgent need to "push forward".

Mr Cameron stated: "The result should be two states, with Jerusalem as the future capital of both, and a fair settlement of refugees."

He added: "This is not just a problem of rights, territories and people, complicated as they are. It is a
recruiting sergeant for terror, an excuse for authoritarianism and a cause of deep-rooted instability."

Mr Hague, recently congratulated in Parliament for taking a "tough line" on the peace process by veteran critic of Israel, Sir Gerald Kaufman, had already angered Israel by warning it to avoid "belligerent language" in response to the upheaval in Egypt.

The Board of Deputies has declined to comment before it has had a chance to speak to Mr Hague directly. But a source close to the Board said: "The leadership of the community has got real concerns about recent statements by various ministers in the government."

Manchester Jewish Representative Council has registered "surprise and concern" in a message it has asked local MPs to relay to the government.

The international community should be concentrating on "the general unrest and instability in the Middle East and North Africa", Rep Council president Lucille Cohen wrote.

"To force Israel into concessions without securing its position is
not something that the UK would countenance for itself and is not even in the UK's interests, despite its oil requirements."

Malvyn Benjamin, a member of the Board's international division, said that Mr Hague's statements "will not advance the peace process one iota. He poses as a critical friend of Israel, but he is more critical than friend."

But Lee Scott MP, an officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel, did not believe that the government was taking a harder line on Israel. Next week he plans to discuss concerns raised by some of his constituents with Mr Hague. "Whenever I have spoken to William, he has only been positive, pro-Israel and helpful," he said.

Last updated: 2:23pm, February 24 2011