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Liz Truss says she's a “huge Zionist”, embassy move backlash

10/10/2022 11:11 AM
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British prime minister Liz Truss called herself a “huge Zionist” and “a huge supporter of Israel” — a country that many human rights organisations have called an apartheid state.

The prime minister was speaking at a fringe event held by the Conservative Friends of Israel along with Israel’s Ambassador to London, Tzipi Hotovely.

At the event Hotovely, a hard-line supporter of Israel’s illegal settlements who has been accused of making racist and inflammatory comments throughout her political career, said Britain should look to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It comes after Truss informed Israel's prime minister Yair Lapid last week that she was considering relocating it to Jerusalem — an incendiary move that goes against decades of official British policy.

The news prompted Arab politicians and diplomats to warn Britain not to go ahead with the “illegal and ill-judged” plan, according to the Guardian, with some saying it could even jeopardise talks on trade deal between the UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council.  

Israel's occupation and invasion of East Jerusalem 1967 was universally condemned as an illegal act. International institutions, including Israel's allies in the West, rejected the wider annexation of East Jerusalem.  

When Donald Trump's administration officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it was criticised by the international community, including Britain.

Contravention of international law

At the Conservative Friends of Israel event, health minister Robert Jenrick reiterated previous comments that an area of land had been reserved for a new UK embassy. He said he was “delighted to hear the Prime Minister commit to the review to move our Embassy to Jerusalem”.

“We have a site in Jerusalem there waiting to go. It is time we took responsibility and built that Embassy and recognised that the true capital of the State of Israel is obviously Jerusalem,” he added.

Last week, Labour MP Naz Shah wrote to Truss, urging her not to relocate the embassy, citing the damage it would cause.

"To do so otherwise would contravene international law, negatively impact our relationships in the Middle East, bring no valuable benefits to British interests and establish a terrible precedent against the backdrop of Russia's occupation of Ukraine," she wrote.

"In accordance with international law, the UK has correctly stipulated that territories occupied by Israel through force, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, are illegally occupied; a stance upheld by nearly every other country in the world.  

"Specifically on Jerusalem, the UK, through the United Nations Security Council with Resolution 252 insisted that the annexation of East Jerusalem following Israel's occupation was "invalid and cannot change the status" of these territories."

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador in London, said: “Any embassy move would be a blatant violation of international law & the UK's historic responsibilities. It undermines the two-state solution & enflames an already volatile situation in #Jerusalem, the rest of the occupied territories and among communities in the UK and worldwide.

The UK’s potential embassy move comes despite many human rights groups saying that Israel is committing apartheid against Palestinians.  

Just this year, Amnesty International was the latest to call Israel an apartheid state and urged the international community to act and hold Israeli authorities to account.

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