UK Ambassador to Israel: I worry about future British-Israel ties if peace process remains frozen

“The vote last night was a sign of which way the wind was blowing,” Matthew Gould says of UK Parliament's vote's in favor of recognizing Palestine.

October 14, 2014 14:00
2 minute read.
Matthew Gould

Matthew Gould. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Continued deadlock in the peace process and additional settlement-building could have negative consequences for Britain’s relationship with Israel in the future, British Ambassador Matthew Gould told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“The vote last night was a sign of which way the wind was blowing,” Gould said, speaking the morning after the British Parliament held a non-binding 274-12 vote in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state outside the context of the peace process.

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“As the guardian of the relationship between the countries, I worry about the direction of public opinion in the absence of progress to peace. I worry about the impact of settlement announcements on public opinion, and I worry where that will leave the relationship in the future,” he said.

There are 138 nations that already accept Palestine as a state.

The policy of the US and most European countries, including Great Britain, has been to link such recognition with the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a final-status agreement that sets out the borders of two states and resolves all claims.

In the last five years, Palestinians have sought to separate peace with Israel from statehood recognition.

Earlier this month Sweden said it intended to recognize Palestine unilaterally.

Gould said he wanted to assure Israelis that Britain remained committed to resolving the issue of Palestinian statehood through negotiations with Israel.

The vote has no bearing on Prime Minister David Cameron’s foreign policy or that of his government, the ambassador stressed.

“Our policy remains the same.

Our Prime Minister’s Office made clear what our policy continues to be,” he said. “The only viable future for Israel and the Palestinians lies in the declaration of a Palestinian state in peace and security alongside Israel.”

He asserted that “we will recognize that state at a time that we judge will be most helpful to efforts to find peace. We believe those efforts and the creation of a state best come out of a process of negotiation, and that will continue to be our approach.”

Gould clarified that the vote was “a back-bench motion,” meaning that it is non-binding and that ministers did not participate.

He explained that the Conservative Party had not imposed party discipline and that the vote did not dictate policy.

But it does “reflect the opinion of those who voted. It is a strong indication of the direction of public opinion,” he said. “The conflict in Gaza, followed by the announcement of settlement activity since the conflict, has had an effect on British public opinion.”

The government’s “approach to the recognition of a Palestinian state continues to be what it was before the vote,” Gould said. But he warned that “friends of Israel should take note of the debate and what it signifies.”

“I was sent here by the prime minister with very clear instructions to build the strongest possible partnership,” he stated, adding that he believed his successor would receive the same instructions.

“But in the future, if public opinion continues to shift and if parliamentary opinion continues to shift, and there is no progress toward peace, and if there continue to be endless announcements about settlements, I do not know what instructions will be given,” he said.

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