The Foreign and Commenwealth Office has celebrated the “proud” and “cherished” partnership between the UK and Israel on the 70th anniversary of London opening its embassy in Tel Aviv.
Writing on the FCO website, Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly emphasised the many high-profile meetings in Israel and the UK between Israeli and British leaders as well as the Royal Family.
“I know what an amazing place Israel is to visit having had the chance to do so shortly after becoming an MP in 2015,” Cleverly wrote. “A country with antiquity and modernity side by side, things that seem familiar to my British eyes and things which are fascinating and unique.”
The minister went onto praise the extensive business ties between Britain and Israel.
“The UK is Israel’s biggest trading partner in Europe: our trade has been growing steadily over the years, and in recent years we have seen annual trade exceed £8 billion, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. In 2016, the UK signed its biggest-ever trade deal with Israel, with Rolls Royce providing £1 billion of engines to El Al’s new Dreamliner planes. UK-Israeli trade and collaboration touches every aspect of our lives and helps build a more prosperous future for both our countries.”
Cleverly concluded by appealing for a negotiated settlement to the Palestine-Israel conflict and a two-state solution.
“I am a firm believer that a negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution is the best way to secure enduring stability and success. As Israel’s new government gets to work, I encourage both sides to focus on that great, if sometimes elusive, prize; sustainable peace…
“Much changes over a 70 year period but some things do not change. We will continue to cherish our friendship with Israel, stand united in the struggle against the insidious forces of hate and antisemitism and work towards an even brighter and better future for us all. Here’s to the next 70 years! Am Yisrael Chai (the Jewish Nation lives).”
Britain has a long history of supporting Israel. As the mandatory power in Palestine from 1920 to 1948, Britain enabled the gradual takeover of Palestine by the Zionist movement.
When the Arab revolt against Britain and its Zionist allies broke out in the late 1930s, the British army brutally crushed it. The UK also supported Israel’s brutal takeover of Palestine in 1948 and aided Israel’s 1967 war, having furnished Israel with hundreds of tanks.
The UK’s relationship with Israel is “special” in at least nine areas, including arms sales, air force, nuclear deployment, navy, intelligence and trade, to name but a few.
Britain has approved arms sales to Israel worth hundreds of millions of dollars since the 2014 Gaza war, and there is little doubt that some of this equipment has been used against people in the Occupied Territories.
Britain also has a long history of helping Israel to develop nuclear weapons. In the 1950s and 1960s Conservative and Labour governments made hundreds of sales of nuclear materials to Israel, including plutonium and uranium.
Yet questions remain about whether official UK policy is in line with public opinion.
Last year a poll revealed the depth of negative feeling most Britons hold towards Israel.
The poll by Populus, which was commissioned by the Israel lobby organisation BICOM, revealed that 47% of Britons hold negative views about Israel, whereas only 21% hold positive views.
Respondents also said that Israel was more to blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict than the Palestinians. Twenty three per cent said the Israels were more to blame while only 8% said the Palestinians were. Most respondents (60%) said both were equally to blame.
But when it came to boycotting Israel, 48% were against the idea, but 28% said they would be willing to boycott Israeli goods from the Occupied Territories.