Israel won't fight UK gov't advisory

Britain issued advisory against buying property over the Green Line; Foreign Ministry downplays move.

settlement Building248.88 (photo credit: )
settlement Building248.88
(photo credit: )
Israel will not wage a public battle with the British over a new advisory to be placed on the Foreign Office's Web site, warning against buying property over the Green Line, saying the move has little practical significance. "This is obviously unacceptable to us," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday. "We think it is unnecessary and not something positive, but we have to pick our battles and are not going to go on the offensive about everything." At the same time, another government official said that this type of formal advisory issued by the British government can only add ammunition to those in Britain interested in delegitimizing Israel. The official also said that Jerusalem was watching to see if this was the last of a series of "unfriendly" actions the British have taken against Israel lately, or the precursor of more to come. British Embassy spokesman Karen Kaufman confirmed reports that the Foreign Office would soon be adding to its travel advisories regarding Israel a statement warning Britons against buying property over the Green Line, including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The warning will say there could be "consequences for that property" in any future peace deal with the Palestinians or Syrians. Kaufman said that this was not a change of British policy, and that London's long-standing policy has been that the settlements are illegal, and that Israel must honor its commitment under the road map to stop settlement construction. Kaufman said that new advisory was an attempt to underline the "urgency and sensitivity" of the matter. The advisory comes quickly on the heels of a letter British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote two weeks ago to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam, Fayad saying he shared Fayad's "frustration" at settlement activity, which Brown said has "continued and has accelerated since the Annapolis process was launched. "The UK is now looking at what effective action we can take to discourage settlement expansion," he wrote. "Given our clear position on settlements, it follows that we would not want any British national to purchase property inside an illegal settlement," Brown continued. "We are now looking at whether there are effective ways in which we can discourage them from so doing. "I have already asked officials to update our official travel advice to include a specific warning that potential purchasers of property in a settlement should consider that a future peace agreement could have consequences for that property." Israeli officials said the issue was raised during meetings with visiting British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Bill Rammell, who arrived Sunday and is leaving on Tuesday. Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem did not seem too concerned that similar advisories might be issued by other European countries, with one official pointing out that the academic boycott calls that began in the United Kingdom did not spread elsewhere. Nevertheless, the advisory is viewed in Jerusalem as the latest in a series of less-than-friendly steps toward Israel. For instance, Britain - along with Ireland, Cyprus and Malta - led the unsuccessful charge inside the EU earlier this month to link a political upgrade with Israel to developments in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. Likewise, Britain is pressing the EU to be more stringent regarding the import of goods from Israel that may have been produced in the West Bank. The British complained in an internal memorandum to the EU countries a few months ago that goods produced in the West Bank were coming into Britain in violation of the EU-Israel trade agreement, which avoids tariffs on goods from within the Green Line, but not from the territories. Furthermore, Britain - according to Israeli officials - has joined other EU countries in holding quiet talks with Hizbullah in Lebanon. The Europeans say that they are only meeting with Hizbullah parliamentarians, not members of the organization's armed wing.