JERUSALEM: Britain will stand firm against attempts to delegitimise or boycott Israel, Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs in Jerusalem yesterday, shortly before Palestinian militants fired scores of rockets at the Jewish state.
Speaking at the outset of a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Cameron gave a 20-minute address to the parliament, pledging “rock solid” support for Israel’s security and expressing “deep scepticism” over Iran’s nuclear intentions.
Most of Cameron’s remarks were on the opportunities that a peace agreement would bring.
Netanyahu, who also spoke, warned there would be no chance of a deal if the world continued to pressure only Israel, urging pressure on the Palestinians to make “significant steps” for peace.
The British premier, who arrived at the head of a delegation of business leaders hoping to strengthen economic ties with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, said he was bringing a clear message to those who called for a boycott of Israel.
“Britain opposes boycotts,” he said, sparking sustained applause.
“Israel’s place as a homeland for the Jewish people ... is founded in international law.
“Delegitimising the State of Israel is wrong. It’s abhorrent. And together we will defeat it,” he said.
Expressing support for the peace efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Cameron said Britain backed the “compromises needed” to achieve that, which included a halt to Israel’s settlement activity and an end to Palestinian incitement.
He then sketched out in detail a vision of peace which would see Israel forging new ties with the Arab world, with open borders, and Israelis and Palestinians working together to maintain regional security under a deal which would “end all conflict” would “leave Israel more secure, not less secure.”
Netanyahu said, “It is time that international pressure be directed ... at the Palestinians who have consistently and systematically refused to make any significant steps towards peace.”
“As long as the international community puts pressure only on Israel, the Palestinians will continue to entrench their positions — and will even harden them — and there will not be any move towards peace,” he said.
“It will be bad for both us and them.”
Netanyahu said the demand for concessions “must be put first on the Palestinian leadership” to recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, a demand which the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected.
The issue has turned into one of the main stumbling blocks of the ongoing peace talks.
WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that the level of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians was the highest he had ever seen.
But he insisted that he was hopeful of reaching “some kind of understanding of the road forward” as he seeks to nail down a framework to guide the stuttering Middle East peace talks.
Kerry acknowledged there were “gaps .... some of them very significant,” but stressed they should be seen within the context of the negotiations, saying “I still believe it’s possible, but difficult.”
“Certain narrative issues are so powerful and so difficult that neither leader is going to definitively cede on them at an early stage of the negotiation,” the top US diplomat conceded.
“The level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I’ve ever seen, on both sides,” Kerry told lawmakers at a hearing into the 2015 State Department budget request.