UK Politics

Israel's Netanyahu to meet May in Downing Street

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press at his Jerusalem office on December 28, 2016, in response to a speech by the US Secretary of State Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Netanyahu is expected to travel to the US later this month to meet Donald Trump

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to visit Downing Street on Monday for talks with Theresa May.

Mrs May is expected to take the opportunity to restate Britain's concern that settlement building in the West Bank is undermining trust in the Middle East peace process.

But Amnesty International urged Mrs May to make it clear to Mr Netanyahu that Israel was violating international law.

The talks are also likely to focus on upping trade relations post-Brexit.

The 6 February meeting will be the first time the two prime ministers have met, although they spoke by phone in August last year after Mrs May's arrival in Downing Street.

Two-state solution

Britain backed a United Nations Security Council resolution in December denouncing Israel's settlements in occupied Palestinian territory as a "flagrant violation" of international law and a "major obstacle" to a just and lasting peace.

Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood said the announcement of further settlement units in the West Bank was "part of a growing trend which we condemn".

Announcing Mr Netanyahu's upcoming visit to London, Mrs May's official spokesman said: "I think they will want to talk about how we strengthen the bilateral relationship.

"Of course, alongside that, they will want to talk about a range of security and international issues, including the Middle East peace process," he said.

"We think the continued increase in settlement activity undermines trust.

"Our focus is on how we make a two-state solution, with an Israel that is safe from terrorism and a Palestinian state that is viable and sovereign work."

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK director, urged Mrs May to tell Mr Netanyahu to halt settlement-building and fulfil Israel's legal obligation to remove settlers from occupied land.

Strengthen links

"Mrs May needs to do more than make passing mention of her disapproval of Israel's rampant settlement-building," she said.

But Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, "warmly welcomed" news of the visit.

"There are many ties between the two countries, and these should be strengthened," he said.

"The complex nature of the challenges in the region and those faced by Israel in particular should be high up on their agenda."

More on this story