EXCLUSIVE: UK has 'no plans' to relocate Israel embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv

EXCLUSIVE: UK has 'no plans' to relocate Israel embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv
A UK government spokesperson said there are 'no plans to move the UK embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv', while Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot said the question about the mission's location 'should never have been asked in the first place'.
4 min read
02 November, 2022
The new UK government said it has 'no plans' to move its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv [Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images]

Rishi Sunak's new UK government on Wednesday said it didn't have any plans to relocate its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, just weeks after his predecessor as prime minister said she was reviewing the mission's location.

"There are no plans to move the UK embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv," a British government spokesperson told The New Arab.

Separately, Sunak's spokesperson said "there are no current plans to change the location of our embassy" when asked if the Tory leader's administration was still pursuing a plan to transfer the mission to Jerusalem.

It comes on the 105th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a highly controversial 1917 statement in which the UK government said it "views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

"We would like to thank the UK government, opposition parties, faith leaders, activists and members of the public whose efforts have helped keep the UK in line with international law on the matter," Palestinian ambassador to Britain Husam Zomlot said in a statement.

"The question about the location of the UK's embassy should never have been asked in the first place.

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"There is much work to be done to create a conducive environment for peace in the Middle East and make amends for the historic injustice caused by the Balfour Declaration, 105 years ago.

"We call on the British government to play an active role, recognise the State of Palestine, affirm the UK's support for the rights of Palestinian refugees, ban all illegal goods and products from settlements in occupied territories and sanction companies working in and profiting from them."

The Balfour Declaration is viewed by many as a key historical moment that set the UK on a path of staunch support for Israel that continues to this day, despite the ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Liz Truss, Sunak's predecessor as prime minister and Conservative Party leader, said in September that she was reviewing the location of Britain's embassy to Israel.

This was met with widespread criticism, including from Vincent Nichols, the UK's most-senior Catholic cardinal.

He tweeted that moving the mission to Jerusalem "would be seriously damaging to any possibility of lasting peace in the region and to the international reputation of the United Kingdom".

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the top member of clergy in the Church of England, was "concerned about the potential impact" of relocating the embassy "before a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis has been reached", a spokesperson told newspaper Jewish News last month.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, urged the UK government to "refrain from taking any illegal action".

The news Britain has no plans to move its embassy comes despite Sunak saying in August that Jerusalem was "indisputably" Israel's "historic capital" during a previous race to become prime minister, which he lost to Truss.

"Clearly there's a very strong case for it to be recognised," Sunak added, saying he was "very open to looking at that", the Jewish Chronicle newspaper reported at the time.

However, he said that since he had never held the role of foreign secretary, "there must be some sensitivities involved because if it was that easy, it would have been done by now".

The status of Jerusalem is a central issue in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Israel captured and began occupying East Jerusalem in 1967, before annexing it in 1980 when it claimed the entire city as its capital in a decision spurned internationally.

Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state.