Point-blank: Moving the UK Embassy in Israel

Mohamed Salmawy
Thursday 29 Sep 2022

Just weeks before the next Arab summit in Algeria to discuss the Palestinian cause among other urgent issues, British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced that her government would study moving the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem.


Truss had only moved into 10 Downing Street earlier this month after Queen Elizabeth II had officially mandated her to form a government. The queen passed away 48 hours later, after 70 years on the British throne. No sooner had the new prime minister finished with the funeral ceremonies than she dashed off to New York to attend the inaugural session of the UN General Assembly.

While there, she met with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Subsequently her office confirmed what had already been published in the Israeli press, namely that she had told him “dear friend” Lapid that she was thinking of moving the British Embassy to Jerusalem. 

In so doing she would follow in the footsteps of former US president Donald Trump who, in 2017, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and decided to move the US embassy to that portion of the occupied territories.

At the time, then prime minister Theresa May criticised Trump’s action, saying he should have waited until the establishment of a Palestinian state. That was the position of the EU on the matter. As we know, the UK has since exited the EU, freeing itself from EU policies, such as the collective commitment to UN principles and resolutions that oppose the forced annexation of other people’s land and regard Arab Jerusalem as occupied territory.

So Truss had no problem promising British Jewish groups in August that she would study the matter of moving the embassy if she became prime minister. Perhaps Lapid had asked her to act on that promise in his meeting with her in New York. 

In all events, how is Britain to preserve its credibility as it fights Russian plans to annex Ukrainian land while recognising Israel’s annexation of another people’s land? How will the Arabs respond to the British decision which flies in the face of international principles and resolutions? Will they let it pass, as occurred with decisions of the US, Honduras, Guatemala and Kosovo before? 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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