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Netanyahu and May meeting for first time

Flying visit to the UK expected to place Iran at the top of the agenda

    Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on the steps of No.10
    Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on the steps of No.10 (Photo credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

    Benjamin Netanyahu and Theresa May are meeting for the first time today – with the Israeli PM attempting to place Iran at the top of the agenda.

    The two leaders are conducting talks at Downing Street over a working lunch with Mr Netanyahu pushing to get reassurances from the British Prime Minister that “Britain and Israel stand united against Iran’s aggression”.

    The meeting takes place after a difficult few months in relations between the two countries – with Israeli settlement building being openly criticised my Mrs May.

    Britain also played a leading role in brokering a UN resolution opposing settlements.

    A spokeswoman for Mrs May insisted the focus of talks would be mainly the bilateral relationship between Britain and Israel.

    The aide also confirmed the settlement issue and Britain’s continued support for a two state Israel-Palestine would be raised.

    Before jetting into the UK on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu told reporters in Tel  Aviv: “The most important thing at the moment is that countries like the United States and Britain and Israel stand against Iran’s aggression and set clear boundaries.”

    Last summer when the UK and Israeli  leaders spoke over the telephone one of the key topics was how to develop trading relations if the UK voted for Brexit.

    It is a topic that is sure to raised again today.

    Mr Netanyahu is set to fly straight back to Israel following the meeting in time  for a crucial vote in the Knesset.

    Although Mrs May visited Israel in her role as Home Secretary during the summer of 2014, the trip coincided with a security crisis surrounding Hamas kidnapping three Israeli teenagers, which prevented a meeting with Mr Netanyahu.

    The two leaders were also thought to have scheduled a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, but Mr Netanyahu did not in the end attend the conference.

    The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has organised a protest against today's Downing Street meeting with a counter demonstration being mounted by the Zionist Federation.

    Paul Charney, the Zionist Federation chairman, said “We welcome this opportunity for both leaders to further the strong working relationship between Israel and the UK. The ZF is preparing to stand up in support of the Israeli Prime Minister’s visit, as we do with all Israelis who find themselves targeted by the other side.

    “We call on as many people as possible to join a communal counter-demonstration against those that would shut down dialogue between these two democracies.”

    On Sunday Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement demanding Theresa May stood up for the rights of the Palestinian people in today’s meeting.

    The Labour leader said that it was “simply not good enough” for Mrs May to say that Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian land undermined trust in the Middle East peace process.

    The House of Commons is due to debate settlements on Thursday.

    Britain is Israel’s seconds largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth £5 billion.

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