(Photo credit: AP)
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stopped plans to move the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, according to a statement made by a Downing Street spokesperson on 2 November.
“There are no current plans to move the UK embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv,” the spokesperson told reporters.
Palestinian ambassador to London, Husam Zomlot, hailed the news, highlighting that “the question about the location of the UK’s embassy should never have been asked in the first place.”
“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,” Zomlot said in a statement.
The announcement was made on the 105th anniversary of the ‘Balfour Declaration,’ a statement by British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour that pledged support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
To this day, the Balfour Declaration is seen as one of the main catalysts of the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’ in 1948, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of at least 750,000 Palestinians, perpetrated by British-trained, armed Jewish groups.
Sunak’s short-lived predecessor, Liz Truss, in September said she was “reviewing” the location of Britain’s embassy to Israel.
Moreover, the new premier’s U-turn comes just a few months after he said that Jerusalem was “indisputably” Israel’s “historic capital,” and that there was a “very strong case” for moving the UK embassy.
“It’s something I’d like to do,” he said during a speech at a Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) event in August.
Reports last month revealed that for decades the UK has held a plot of land in occupied Jerusalem designated as the site of a future embassy in Israel.
London acquired the site located in the Talpiot neighborhood, known as the Orange Plot, as part of a 1960’s agreement that facilitated the transfer of ownership of other assets acquired during the Palestinian mandate to Tel Aviv.
Under the terms of the agreement, the UK would lease the plot to the Israeli government for a total sum of one British pound per year, with Israel having the option to terminate the lease at any time.
According to Israeli land records uncovered by Middle East Eye (MEE), the lease was last renewed in 2007 for another 40 years.