Israel must end illegal settlements, says May

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May
Updated 03 November 2017

Israel must end illegal settlements, says May

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May told Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that Israel must end illegal settlements to achieve peace, as they celebrated the centenary of the British statement that helped lead to the Jewish state’s creation.
The two leaders attended a dinner celebrating the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a statement offering Britain’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
In a speech at the event, May said Britain was committed to a two-state solution with a viable Palestinian state.
“There will need to be compromises from each side if we are to have a realistic chance of achieving this goal — including an end to the building of new settlements and an end to Palestinian incitement too,” she said.
The prime minister held talks in Downing Street earlier in the day with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who said: “Israel is committed to peace, I’m committed to peace.
“A hundred years after Balfour, the Palestinians should finally accept a Jewish national home and finally accept a Jewish state. And when they do, the road to peace will be infinitely closer. In my opinion peace will be achievable.”
The Balfour Declaration is seen as a precursor to Israel’s creation in 1948, and the anniversary is a joyous occasion for Israelis.
But many Palestinians say it led to hundreds of thousands fleeing or being forced from their homes, and thousands took to the streets of various cities on Thursday in protest.
Effigies of May and Balfour were set ablaze in the West Bank city of Nablus, while in Hebron protesters burned a British flag.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wrote in a newspaper opinion piece that “the creation of a homeland for one people resulted in the dispossession and continuing persecution of another.”
May said she would “absolutely not” apologize for the Balfour Declaration, telling dinner guests: “We are proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the state of Israel.”
But she also cautioned that one of the key caveats of the historic letter — that the rights of non-Jewish communities shall be protected — has not been realized.
“Sadly, Balfour remains unfinished business — as his fundamental vision of peaceful co-existence has not yet been fulfilled,” she said.
Netanyahu, who is on a five-day visit to London, also met British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Their discussions were expected to include US President Donald Trump’s decision last month to refuse to certify the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
Before their meeting, May emphasised Britain’s commitment to the deal, while Netanyahu said: “The goal that I have in mind is not keeping or eliminating the deal, it is improving the deal and correcting its main flaws.
“Those that want to keep the deal should co-operate on correcting the deal.”
Dignitaries at the dinner included a descendant of the Balfour Declaration’s author, then foreign secretary Lord Arthur Balfour.
In her speech, May was also warned against a “pernicious form of anti-Semitism which uses criticism of the actions of the Israeli government as a despicable justification for questioning the very right of Israel to exist.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party, was unable to attend but sent a colleague in his place.
On Friday, Netanyahu said he hoped a US peace initiative would work and praised President Donald Trump for taking a fresh approach to bringing the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations.
Asked during a visit to London to commemorate the 1917 British declaration of support for a Jewish homeland if he felt now was the moment for peace in the region, noting Trump’s involvement in peace efforts, he said: “Hope so.”
“What’s being discussed now is an American initiative. Obviously we make our interests and our concerns known to Mr. Trump. He’s coming with a sort of refreshing ‘can-do’ thing... they’re trying to think out of the box,” Netanyahu said at London’s Chatham House think tank.
Netanyahu has previously expressed doubts about the Trump initiative, telling France’s President Emmanuel Macron in July that it would be difficult to move forward quickly because he felt Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may not be able to deliver on commitments he had made.
But he said that more countries in the region were now beginning to engage constructively with Israel.
“The reason I draw hope from the moment is because of the larger shift in Arab-Israeli relations with the countries of the region. I cannot emphasize how dramatic that is,” he said.


UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

Updated 30 October 2020

UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

  • Husband Richard Ratcliffe: Iran has ordered Nazanin to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen”

LONDON: Britain on Friday warned Iran against throwing detained woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in jail, after hauling in Tehran’s envoy for a dressing-down over her emotive case.
The Foreign Office summoned Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad on Thursday to hear renewed demands from a senior official for an end to the British-Iranian captive’s “arbitrary detention.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in a “horrific position,” after her husband said Iran has ordered her to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail.
Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen,” Raab said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who will turn 42 on Boxing Day, has been on temporary release from Tehran’s Evin prison and under house arrest since earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016 while visiting relatives with her young daughter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — denied charges of sedition but was convicted and jailed for five years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016. (AFP)

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said this week that the Foreign Office’s handling of the case “seems disastrous,” and that “the UK is dancing to Iran’s tune.”
Raab told the BBC: “We’ve made it very clear we want to try to put the relationship between the UK and Iran on a better footing.
“If Nazanin is returned to prison, that will of course put our discussions and the basis of those discussions in a totally different place. It is entirely unacceptable.”
Richard Ratcliffe linked the latest development to the postponement of a hearing that was due to take place on Tuesday in London to address Iran’s longstanding demand for the repayment by Britain of hundreds of millions from an old military equipment order.
“As Nazanin’s husband, I do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years,” he said, accusing Iran of “hostage diplomacy.”