The UK is currently committing two double standards in relation to Jerusalem. The first double standard is the discriminatory decision to have a UK consulate already in Jerusalem, but only for Palestinians, not Israelis. Why is a British consulate to Palestinians in Jerusalem and not Ramallah, the main Palestinian city? And why does it serve only Palestinians?
The second double standard is Britain’s decision to single out the Jewish state by not situating an embassy in Jerusalem, when Britain places embassies in other capital cities around the world. The only other examples of Britain not placing its embassies in other capital cities include Afghanistan – Britain’s embassy is outside the country for security reasons. There are some very small countries that don’t have the room, so Britain, together with other states, place embassies outside. Three countries (Burundi, Myanmar, Tanzania) have moved their capitals and are awaiting Britain to relocate. This is not the same situation for Israel. Israel has never had another city that it designates as capital other than Jerusalem. None of these examples are comparable with choosing Tel Aviv over Jerusalem. In fact, when Liz Truss was Prime Minister, a member of her cabinet announced that a plot of land in Jerusalem was ready for the embassy.
When Liz Truss announced she was reviewing the location of the embassy it caused a backlash from Palestinian groups and a number of MPs. One MP even told the House of Commons that the government was “undermining the UK’s reputation on the global stage.” According to the Jewish News, a “well-placed source” said Rishi Sunak apparently reached the decision to not move the embassy after being warned “the entire governmental system” would voice opposition to the plan. It is this fear of causing offence and political correctness that has been endemic in Britain’s foreign policy for too long.
Also joining the calls in protest were Archbishop Justin Welby, head of the Church of England, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, who should both understand what the Bible says about God giving Jerusalem to the Jewish people. Both expressed concerns, stating that they want to see a settlement reached first between Israelis and Palestinians. Their disappointing intervention echoed the same argument often shared by politicians who say Britain shouldn’t move the embassy until a so-called two-state solution is reached. MPs usually cite UN Security Council Resolution 242, which claims that the status of Jerusalem “should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The resolution then immediately adds that “the final determination of Jerusalem must ensure that the holy city is a shared capital of Israel and a Palestinian state.”
These statements seem to contradict each other. On one hand, the British position is that Jerusalem’s status should be determined by the two parties through negotiations. On the other hand, Britain is giving its “final determination” that Jerusalem “must” be shared between the two, effectively ignoring its own advice by pre-determining the outcome of negotiations.
So far, the Palestinians have refused to acknowledge the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, let alone recognise it as Israel’s capital. The British government may genuinely believe that the status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiation, but no one knows the finalised borders should there be a future Palestinian state. Let us not forget that the Palestinian leadership has already rejected four negotiated settlements that would have led to a Palestinian state. It is wrong for the UK foreign policy to be dictated by the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership.
Ironically, all those who advocate for a two-state solution could by implication also support opening an embassy in west Jerusalem as soon as tomorrow. Had Liz Truss moved the embassy, it would have most certainly been in west Jerusalem, not east Jerusalem. The UK in fact already recognises Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem and Israel is never going to withdraw from there. In this sense, it would not have undermined their argument for a two-state solution in the slightest. This raises the question whether those who opposed the embassy were simply ill-informed or whether their opposition to Israel’s capital runs much deeper. The stone, as the Bible says, is heavy.