Opinion

The UK must end its double standard over Jerusalem

Britain must treat both sides fairly. Either move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or move the consulate for the Palestinians from Jerusalem to Ramallah.

The British Embassy in Tel Aviv. Credit: Wikipedia.
The British Embassy in Tel Aviv. Credit: Wikipedia.
Alastair Kirk
Alastair Kirk

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking Her Majesty’s 70th year on the throne. To mark the occasion, the United Kingdom hosted parties for the Queen around the world, including in Israel. However, there seemed to be a disparity between how Israelis and Palestinians were able to mark the occasion.

Israelis, including former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were invited to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee in Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, the United Kingdom hosted its Jubilee party for Palestinians, and no Israelis were invited.

The reason for this disparity is because the United Kingdom refuses to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and instead places its embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the British consulate to the Palestinians is not in Ramallah, the main Palestinian city; instead, it is in Jerusalem. In other words, the United Kingdom treats Israel unfairly compared to the Palestinians. It operates a double standard when it comes to Jerusalem.

Why does Britain deny Israel’s legal right to Jerusalem while supporting a Palestinian claim?

It bases its Jerusalem policy on U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and claims that the status of Jerusalem “should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” It then immediately adds that “the final determination of Jerusalem must ensure that the holy city is a shared capital of Israel and a Palestinian state.”

These statements seem to contradict each other. On one hand, the British position is that Jerusalem’s status should be determined by the two parties through negotiations. On the other hand, Britain is giving its “final determination” that Jerusalem “must” be shared between the two, effectively ignoring its own advice by pre-determining the outcome of negotiations.

So far, the Palestinians have refused to acknowledge the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, let alone recognize it as Israel’s capital. Meanwhile, the U.K. Foreign Office continues to reward the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership while penalizing Israel. It is unfathomable for the Jewish connection to Jerusalem to even be called into question. The British government may genuinely believe that the status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiation, but no one knows the finalized borders should there be a future Palestinian state. A British consulate in Jerusalem might be in the wrong place for a future Palestinian state. Likewise, if Jerusalem “must” be shared in the United Kingdom’s opinion, then why does Britain not just recognize west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital today? After all, Israel has sovereignty over Jerusalem under international law, which cannot legally be changed.

There are two ways the United Kingdom can correct this hypocrisy.

The first is to recognize the historic and legal fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and move the British embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The second option is to move the British consulate to the Palestinians from Jerusalem to Ramallah. Either of these actions would correct the double standard the government is currently deploying.

London refuses to locate its embassy in Jerusalem, despite the fact that Israel’s parliament and government are located in Jerusalem, the usual criteria for British embassies, more than 80 of which are in capital cities around the world. No other sovereign nation would accept being told where it should designate its capital.

This discrimination towards the Jewish state is a matter that needs to be addressed. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism states that anti-Semitism includes denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and applying double standards to Israel.

The United Kingdom has a particular legacy concerning Jerusalem. It was British forces that liberated the holy city from Ottoman occupation in 1917, and it was the British Mandate for Palestine that preceded the rebirth of the modern-day State of Israel. Therefore, Britain has a unique responsibility to treat Israel honorably, and if it truly wants to be non-discriminatory, there is only one realistic option: Move the embassy to Jerusalem.

It’s time to end Britain’s anachronistic and prejudiced policy over Jerusalem.

Alastair Kirk is the development manager for Christians United for Israel UK, the largest Christian pro-Israel advocacy group in the United Kingdom. Follow him on Facebook at: @ChristiansUnitedforIsraelUK.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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