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Israel may not be a 'priority' in UK politics says think tank

Britain is moving towards an "overtly pro-Palestinian position" that could have a "chilling effect" in relations between the UK and Israel, concluded a pro-Israeli think tank in a report analysing the Labour Party foreign policy in the Middle East.

In a report by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), regarded by many as the UK's equivalent of AIPAC, the Israeli lobby group predicts that Israel may "no longer be seen as a priority" under a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.

The report, which seems to be warning against a Labour victory in the next general election, predicts that Britain could become the first European country to endorse the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which has snowballed over the past decade.

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British Labour Party Leader Jeremy in London, United Kingdom on June 08, 2017. ( Ray Tang – Anadolu Agency )

Explaining the publication of the report, BICOM says Labour's potential Middle East policy demands attention because a "Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister is a real possibility".

Under Corbyn "the Labour manifesto pledge to immediately recognise the State of Palestine (adopted under Ed Miliband's leadership) would likely be swiftly fulfilled" which the report concludes "would position the UK as one of the most pro-Palestinian states in Europe".

Such a move, it warns would have "consequences for UK-Israel relations" by driving "a wedge between the UK and Israel, and potentially the US also". This, the report continues, "would likely trigger Israeli diplomatic reprisals, including the recall of the UK's ambassador to Israel."

This shift towards a more pro-Palestinian position will likely be reflected in other ways, says the report, such as "greater support for Palestinian diplomatic initiatives in UN fora to condemn and isolate Israel whilst giving support for Palestinian positions".

The report mentions the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry's visit to Israel and her assurance that "UK-Israel relations would remain strong under Labour" but warns that there is a "risk of a broader 'chilling effect' on UK-Israel relations".

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On the boycott of Israel, the report revealed that senior labour MP's like Thornberry "avoid buying goods from settlements because she would not want to be encouraging the breach of international law". It warns that while "it is not clear how rhetorical support for boycotting settlements would translate to concrete action in government" a labour government under Corbyn "raises concerns for a slippery slope in which pro-boycott positions in general gain ground".

In addition to there being a pro-Palestinian alignment in UK foreign policy, the report predicts that Britain would adopt a tougher stance towards the Gulf countries in general by restricting arms sales to regimes accused of violating international law and human rights. Under Corbyn there may be a downgrading of relations with Western-orientated Arab states, says the report.

Britain under Labour would stand in opposition to military intervention in general, which, the report concludes could see a potential "cooling" of relations with the US.

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