UK drops plans to move Israel embassy after protests
London, (IRNA): The British government has announced the cancellation of controversial plans to move its embassy in Tel Aviv to a property owned by a company linked with building illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
“We can confirm that we have withdrawn from negotiations on a lease for the Hakirya Tower premises and we continue to explore solutions to ensure that we have suitable embassy premises in Tel Aviv,” Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said.
“This decision follows discussions with Africa-Israel (owners of the Hakirya Tower) about our concerns of involvement in settlement activities by Africa-Israel and its subsidiary companies,” Rammell said.
“The Government’s firm stance is that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is unlawful under international law, and this is an important policy issue for the Government,” he said in a written parliamentary reply published Friday.
The controversial plans provoked protests from Palestinian human rights groups last year that the UK was contravening its declared policy of opposing illegal Israel settlements by leasing offices in Hakirya Tower.
At least eight advocacy groups and prominent opponents of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories launched a letter writing campaign to the Foreign Office in September 2008.
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights said that renting space from Africa-Isael "would be tantamount to condoning Israel's colony building, supporting clear violations of international law, in some cases amounting to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention" and "in violation of third party obligations".
Abe Hayeem, founder of the UK-based Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine, said the lease sent Israel "the wrong message" about the British government not being serious about stopping illegal settlements.
“Rather than mouthing admirable but empty platitudes about freezing settlements, for the sake of all Israelis and Palestinians, let us apply serious sanctions to stop Israel expanding illegal colonies and the Wall, and take our business elsewhere," Hayeem said.
The Foreign Office’s initial reaction to the protests was to insist that "no decision on a site has been taken and no leases have been signed."