In an exclusive article for the JC, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has warned of the damage being done to Israel’s international reputation as a result of its recently announced plans to build around 5,500 new homes beyond the Green Line.
Mr Burt writes that settlement building “undermines trust and makes peace harder to achieve”, and expresses the concern that countries around the world are questioning Israel’s faith in the peace process.
Last week, Mr Burt released a powerful statement castigating Israel in the wake of its announcement on December 24 that the Jerusalem District Planning Board had approved over 3150 units in Givat Hamatos and 1242 units in Gilo, both to the east of Jerusalem.
In his statement, Mr Burt described the move as “profoundly provocative” and said that it contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention, which covers war crimes. He also praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his “measured response” to the settlement announcements.
The comment flew in the face of a remark last week by former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman that Israel could only begin negotiations if Mr Abbas were to resign as head of the PA.
In his article for the JC, Mr Burt calls for “bold and courageous leadership from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, prepared to engage in serious negotiations without preconditions”.
Mr Burt also affirms the strong ties between Israel and the UK, in life sciences, medicine and hi-tech, and pledged to “redouble these efforts”.
He adds: “Developing our economic partnership goes hand in hand with our unwavering commitment to Israel’s long-term security… We understand Israel continues to face dangers as a result of regional turmoil.”
The best way to ensure Israelis can live in peace and free from terror, writes Mr Burt, is through a “negotiated two-state solution”.