As Israelis go to polls, UK slams gov't's policies

Foreign Sec. Hague says settlement expansion makes two-state solution impossible, warns Israel losing international support.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague sharply criticized the current Israeli government on Tuesday just as the country was going to the polls.
Hague told the UK Parliament that prospects for a twostate solution were almost dead because of expanding settlement construction, and warned Israel it was losing international support.
“I hope that whatever Israeli government emerges... that it will recognize that we are approaching the last chance to bring about such a solution,” Hague said. “I condemn recent Israeli decisions to expand settlements. I speak regularly to Israeli leaders stressing our profound concern that Israel’s settlement policy is losing it the support of the international community and will make a two-state solution impossible.”
Asked whether the European Union should tie trade with Israel to progress on peace talks, Hague said the bloc still had work to do, in conjunction with the United States, to establish “incentives and disincentives” regarding further negotiations.
“There is a clock ticking with potentially disastrous consequences for the peace process,” he added.
Hague claimed 2013 was a crucial year for the moribund peace process given Israeli elections for a new government and the start of US President Barack Obama’s second term.
“If we do not make progress in the coming year, people will increasingly conclude that a two-state solution has become impossible,” said Hague. Both Israelis and Palestinians should return to talks without preconditions, he added.
Hague said he would place peace talks and efforts toward a two-state solution – the basis of a US-backed peace process for almost 20 years – at the “top of the agenda” during a planned visit to Washington next week.
One Israeli government official responded by saying the biggest threat to the two-state solution was not the settlements, but rather the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
“When [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas said at the UN in November that the creation of Israel in 1948 was one of the major war crimes of the 20th century, he was saying that the Jewish state was fundamentally illegitimate,” the official said. “The fact that Europe, where the worst war crime of the century took place, remained silent was outrageous.”
The official said that Israel was committed to a two-state solution, and that “it is time for the EU leaders to press the Palestinians to return to negotiations without preconditions.”