James Cleverly in Israel for talks on renewing security ties

UK Foreign Secretary expected to commit to tackling regional threats, including from Iran in conference speech

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (centre), chairman of Yad Vashem Dani Dayan (left) and Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely visit the Hall Of Names at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has arrived in Israel before heading to Palestine this week for a three-day visit where he is due to commit to tackling threats to regional security, including from Iran, as well as addressing the issue of settler violence against Palestinians.

In Jerusalem on Monday, he met Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. Mr Cohen thanked the British official for his country's "commitment to stopping Iran's nuclear programme", the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

"Israel-UK relations are currently at their peak," Mr Cohen said.

"We see eye to eye on many issues ... Three years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, we are working with our friends in the world to expand the circle of peace and normalisation.

"Britain is the largest trading partner in Europe. I have asked my friend Foreign Minister Cleverly to work to promote the free trade agreement between the countries which will increase trade between the countries for the benefit of the prosperity of both nations."

In a speech at an international security conference, James Cleverly will condemn Iran for enabling terrorism in Israel through its support for Hamas and extremism and will reaffirm Britain’s support for a two-state solution, the Foreign Office said.

In the occupied West Bank, Mr Cleverly will visit Jalazone refugee camp and see the impact of international support for the UN body providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

Mr Cleverly is scheduled to give a speech at an international security conference on Tuesday focusing on the security challenges facing Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and the region, and the importance of advancing the two-state solution.

He will stress the UK’s support for a viable two-state solution as the only way to bring about security, stability and prosperity for Israelis, Palestinians and the wider region.

“The UK and Israel work closely together to keep our people safe. I’ll be using my first visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as Foreign Secretary to renew our close security partnership, in the face of unacceptable threats from the Iranian regime,” Mr Cleverly said, speaking before the trip.

“A two-state solution between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is the only way to bring about security, stability and prosperity for Israelis, Palestinians and the wider region. I’ll be making clear that all parties must take steps to advance this cause.”

He said he would also commit to working with Israel to counter Iran’s destabilising activity and visit Israel’s state-of-the-art Iron Dome missile defence system, where Mr Cleverly will receive a briefing on the range of threats that the country faces.

During the visit, he is due to meet senior figures, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, to encourage dialogue and co-operation to end the cycle of violence.

He will also pay his respects to the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust by visiting Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, and laying a wreath at the eternal flame.

Mr Cleverly will devote particular attention to the issue of increasing settler violence, a problem that the Israeli government is accused of doing little to solve.

In March, the UK along with many of Israel’s allies condemned comments by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who called for the occupied West Bank town of Huwara to be “burnt to the ground” after two Israeli settlers were killed.

Settlers then launched a revenge attack, burning Palestinian property and assaulting residents in what many in the Israeli media called a “pogrom”.

Mr Cleverly will announce an increase of $1.5 million in UK funding to help victims of settler violence.

Allies of Israel, including the UK, have also expressed concern over the government’s pursuit of hugely divisive legal reforms, which opponents said would end democracy in Israel.

On Tuesday, Israel’s High Court will rule on the legality of the first round of the reform package that the government passed in June.

Updated: September 12, 2023, 3:54 AM