Britain’s Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office with responsibility for the Middle East has warned Israel about growing international pressure and isolation if the current peace efforts fail. Alistair Burt’s comments were reported by Israel radio on Wednesday morning.
“The pressures will mount and Israel’s risk of isolation becomes ever greater, unless a solution is found,” Burt said. He rejected the idea of preconditions set out by either side to the talks and worried about the consequences of failure to reach an agreement. “Neither side should be in the business of demanding preconditions,” he said. “Both should recognise that if a two-state solution is to be the answer, then the time to get on with that is very much now.”
The former office-bearer of Conservative Friends of Israel added: “Should [US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts] not be successful, I think the United Kingdom would be extremely worried about the outcome.”
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Monday that he does not accept the Palestinian precondition ahead of resuming talks. In a meeting with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee he said that he is not ready to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank. However, the prime minister and other senior Israeli officials distanced themselves from Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon’s remarks, in which he dismissed the two-state solution and said that if it was ever put to a vote in the government no one would say yes.
Danon’s comments brought a wave of criticism in response. Nevertheless, the chairman of the governing coalition, Yariv Levin MK, said that Israel is to strengthen its presence in the occupied West Bank, claiming that it is the government’s “duty” to hold on to “all of Eretz Israel”, including illegal settlements, as they are “the best guarantee for Israel’s security”.
Levin is the new co-chair of the Caucus for Eretz Israel in the Knesset. His fellow chair is Jewish Home MK Orit Strock, who lives in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. Although such groups have little legislative effect, analysts say that Levin’s appointment shows that opposition to a Palestinian state is growing among Israeli officials, especially Likud members.