The Archbishop of Canterbury and his Roman Catholic counterpart Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster have sent joint letters to the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson opposing any move made by Israel to annex parts of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank.
A statement released on Friday by Justin Welby and Vincent Nichols said the sent letters made clear that they “unambiguously support the fundamental right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and safety but these prospects can only be secured through negotiation rather than annexation.” It continued that it is essential “both Israelis and Palestinians may live without violence or the threat of violence from each other or other armed groups.”
Earlier in the week, Ambassador Regev responded to opposition to Israel’s expected declaration of sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria saying,
“The policy of consecutive Israeli governments has in fact always been that Israeli law must be extended to parts of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] as part of any final status reality.
“I know you understand that the pre-1967 lines brought Israel neither peace nor security, and it was for this reason that, in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War, the Labour governments of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir rejected returning to those frontiers.”
He added: “Eshkol extended Israeli law into formerly Jordanian-controlled territory, and under Meir’s government, the Allon Plan was developed, which recognised the particular strategic significance of the Jordan Valley and Golan Heights. Menachem Begin applied Israeli sovereignty to the latter some three decades ago.
“Yitzhak Rabin, who led Israel to victory in the Six Day War and as Prime Minister signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, firmly believed that any sustainable peace would have to be built on robust security arrangements.
“In his final speech before the Knesset, barely a month before his murder by a hateful Jewish extremist, Rabin outlined his vision of a final status peace, which he said would demand Israeli control over the Jordan Valley ‘in the broadest meaning of that term’.”
Mr Regev said: “Israel’s friends in the international community have long understood secure borders to be a cornerstone of any durable peace.”
He added: “I know many friends of Israel here in the United Kingdom share that view.”
Defending President Trump’s proposed Middle East Peace Plan, Regev said it built upon “core principles” of Israel’s security being protected by “control over the Jordan valley” region in the West Bank.
He added it was “regrettable but unsurprising that this plan was immediately rejected outright by the Palestinian leadership, who dogmatically cling to one-sided UN and EU ‘peace plans’ that consistently ignore Israel’s vital concerns.”
Rejecting suggestions outlined in last week’s letter that Israel’s “international standing” is undermined by the annexation plan, Mr Regev wrote: “In moving forward, Israel’s new unity government will remain cognisant of our steadily improving relations across the Arab and Muslim world, and our critically important partnership with Jordan.
“We will continue to engage with Washington about how best to seize the historic opportunities inherent in the American initiative, which offers the hope of a more peaceful and secure future. It is high time for the Palestinians to come to the table and constructively do the same.”
“Annexation presents the best chance for peace”
In a separate letter, but also defending Israel, Colonel Richard Kemp, Lord Simon Reading and film-maker Hugh Kitson wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week urging the UK to recognise Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank as Johnson wrote to MPs saying that the UK was opposed to such plans. It came after 126 MPs and Peers expressed “outrage” at Israel’s plans to annex and called on the UK to “sanction” the Jewish state for what the MPs wrongly define as an “illegal action”.
Col Kemp wrote that he has drawn on his experience of working for the Joint Intelligence Committee to conclude that “the US Administration’s current peace proposals, including sovereignty implementation, in fact represent the best chance for a lasting peace between the two sides as well as a future two-state solution”.
He added: “I believe that this plan also has the potential to bring much-needed prosperity for the Palestinian people as well as greater stability to the region”.
The letter also attacked the campaign by the 126 parliamentarians for suggesting that “the UK’s response to Israel’s implementation of sovereignty should be to punish the State of Israel with sanctions and other action”.
They write: “On the contrary, I urge you to publicly support Israel’s implementation should it occur, as well as the other components of the US peace proposal.
“Increasing rather than damaging Britain’s trade relationship with Israel is in this country’s economic interest.
“Equally important, as you are well aware, the security of British citizens at home and overseas relies heavily on the continued strong intelligence, defence and technology relationship with Israel.”
They also pointed out in a separate letter that the 1920 San Remo Conference, which recognised the right of the Jewish people to “reconstitute their historic homeland’’, gave their argument legal force.
We call upon the UK Government to officially recognise Jerusalem is Israel's capital and move its embassy to Jerusalem.