MK Tirosh: 'UK boycott makes talks irrelevant'

Tirosh UK boycott makes

MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) accused the UK of rendering peace talks irrelevant by its labelling of products from the West Bank after she met on Sunday evening with British Ambassador Tom Phillips to discuss her appeal to consumers to "reconsider" patronizing British firms. Tirosh said that the British government's emphasis that "anything over the 1967 boundaries is not Israel" was a "one-sided approach" and "renders negotiation useless." Tirosh revealed last Wednesday that she was preparing a petition calling on the public to reconsider its use of British companies' goods and services. Forty-one MKs from both coalition and opposition parties signed on to the petition, which is not the first - but is certainly the most widely supported - call to boycott British goods launched from within the Knesset. Tirosh's petition was designed to protest the recent guidelines issued by the British government permitting retailers to mark differently goods produced by West Bank Jewish residents and West Bank Arab residents so that shoppers could more effectively avoid settler-produced goods. Tirosh described the meeting with Phillips as "very pleasant" but added that "the country that he represents believes that everything over the Green Line is illegitimate, and thus they have no problem in responding to what he described as a 'grassroots' call for transparency." Phillips, Tirosh said, told her that the British government was acting according to guidelines issued by the European Union, and that "we have to be sure that we don't mislead the customers." Tirosh said that she asked whether the West Bank labeling would also appear on products produced in east Jerusalem, but Phillips told her that he did not have an immediate answer. "My impression was that the next step is east Jerusalem," Tirosh told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting. Phillips, she said, repeatedly emphasized that the labeling guidelines were not because of a boycott, but merely to "increase transparency." "I don't know if the Palestinians are even aware that they have such strong support from Britain," Tirosh added. "It was clear to me that his standpoint was obvious - over the 1967 borders is simply not Israel. They already have a final-status map from their perspective." In response, the British Embassy emphasized that "the British government has always maintained that the settlements are illegal." The embassy pointed to statements made by Foreign Secretary David Miliband in late November, in which he said that "Britain has strongly and consistently supported the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security, based on 1967 borders," and reiterated that "settlements are illegal." In her petition, which she plans to send to Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow after she gathers a final few signatures on Monday, Tirosh wrote that Israel's parliamentarians "call on Britain to immediately cancel this decision that casts a shadow upon economic cooperation among residents of both countries." "We recommend that the Israeli public reconsider using the services of companies from countries in which decisions such as these are in effect," she continued. Tirosh added that she would not rule out submitting a bill to require similar marking in Israel of all British products, and that she also was attempting to prevent government officials from flying on British Airways.