Britain lashes out at Israel on settlements

By Martin Bright, November 8, 2012

Middle East minister Alistair Burt this week condemned Israel’s latest plans to extend settlement building in East Jerusalem and Ariel.

Mr Burt was reacting to the publication by the Israeli Housing Ministry of plans for nearly 1,300 new units.

On Wednesday, Mr Burt issued the latest in a series of strongly worded government statements on the issue: “I condemn yesterday’s provocative decision to advance settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank through the publication of tenders for 1,285 settlement housing units.

“The UK has been consistently clear that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and, by altering the situation on the ground, are making the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly hard to realise.

"It is deeply disappointing that the government of Israel continues to ignore the appeals of the UK and other friends of Israel.”

The issue of settlement-building was also raised at the fourth annual UK-Israel Strategic Dialogue meeting, held last week in London.

The UK team was led by the head of the diplomatic service, Simon Fraser, with the Israel team headed by the director of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rafi Barak.

Discussions also covered how to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons and the situation in Syria.

Mr Fraser said: “The dialogue shows clearly that Britain and Israel are — as the Foreign Secretary has said — strategic partners, working together on many issues of shared concern, and talking constructively on the areas of difference.”

Further speculation emerged this week about the UK’s response to the threat from Iran during the Prime Minister’s visit to the Gulf to promote British trade in the region.

The Daily Mail reported that Britain was planning to set up a base in the United Arab Emirates, with jets stationed permanently to deter an Iranian attack.

The JC understands there are ongoing discussions about UK use of Al Minhad air base in the UAE, which is currently a staging post for Afghanistan.

Mr Cameron also pledged an extra £14 million in humanitarian aid, to help Syrians fleeing the bloodshed in their country, after visiting a refugee camp in Jordan on the final leg of his Middle East tour, which did not include Israel.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The UK regularly deploys Typhoons to the UAE as part of our routine exercise programme and to demonstrate our military commitment to the UAE and the security of the region.

“These deployments are not due to our concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme. The government does not believe military action against Iran is the right course of action at this time, although no option is off the table.”

Last updated: 1:09pm, November 8 2012