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Britain and Israel seek closer ties as diplomatic winds change

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By Euronews
Britain and Israel seek closer ties as diplomatic winds change

<p>Britain’s relations with Israel these days may sound confusing to some. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was very clear as he headed to London on Sunday (February 5), before a trip to Washington next week: He wants to seize what he calls diplomatic “opportunities.”</p> <p>“The opportunities stem from the fact that there is a new administration in Washington, and a new government in Britain. I intend to speak with both of them about tightening relations, between each side and Israel and trilaterally,”<br /> <a href="https://www.businessdayonline.com/netanyahu-visits-london-amid-new-diplomatic-opportunities/">Netanyahu said</a> before boarding his flight.</p> <p>Last week, Israel said it would establish <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/israel-palestinians-outpost-idINKBN15G3WA">the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank since the late 1990s</a>, just hours after Jewish settlers were <a href="http://in.reuters.com/video/2017/02/01/israel-begins-evicting-settlers-from-ill?videoId=371040779&mod=related&channelName=worldNews">evicted from an illegal outpost</a>. The country has approved the construction of 6,000 new settlement homes since US President Donald Trump took office.</p> <p>Netanyahu would certainly like to see Britain become a key ally just like the new US administration. But not long ago – in December – <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/28/uks-key-role-in-brokering-un-resolution-on-israeli-settlements-confirmed">Britain supported the UN resolution</a> urging Israel to stop building settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.</p> <p>The vote enraged Israel, but also Trump, who <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/812390964740427776">warned in a tweet</a> that things would change at the UN from the very first day of his presidency. His administration has since clarified that while the US no longer sees Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/03/trump-says-israeli-settlements-not-impediment-to-peace-but-expansion-unhelpful">it does not consider them helpful either</a>.</p> <p>Theresa May, for her part, went as far as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/europe/theresa-may-john-kerry-uk-israel.html?_r=0">scolding then Secretary of State John Kerry</a> for a speech criticizing Israeli policy.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><span class="caps">BBC</span> News: Donald Trump and Theresa May hold hands <a href="https://t.co/wncrPlyMwo">https://t.co/wncrPlyMwo</a></p>— Pamela Falk (@PamelaFalk) <a href="https://twitter.com/PamelaFalk/status/825294911893282818">January 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <h3>Looking for friends</h3> <p>Israel saw this as a welcome change of tone. The US has always been its closest ally, whereas <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/05/netanyahus-visit-comes-amid-tensions-between-uk-and-eu-over-israel">Europe has been more critical</a>. Now Netanyahu might enjoy even stronger support from Washington, and also win the backing of post-Brexit Britain.</p> <p>In January, Britain <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/15/uk-snubs-middle-east-peace-summit-in-paris-to-keep-trump-onside">refused to send a high-level delegation</a> to a Middle East peace conference organised in Paris. It voiced concern that the meeting would only exacerbate tensions.</p> <p>It also <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-peace-talks-israel-palestine-britain-refuses-back-benjamin-netanyahu-john-kerry-a7528846.html">snubbed the closing declaration by 70 countries</a> that stressed only a two-state solution could resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.</p> <p>Just as Britain works on its divorce from the European Union, many see in its new coziness with Trump and Israel <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/06/world-leaders-donald-trump-theresa-may-benjamin-netanyahu">a way to keep warm</a> in an uncertain post-Brexit world.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">UK PM <a href="https://twitter.com/theresa_may"><code>theresa_may</a> --- Thank you for your warm welcome. It reflects the strength of the partnership between Israel and Britain! <a href="https://t.co/frQn8KPihS">pic.twitter.com/frQn8KPihS</a></p>&mdash; Benjamin Netanyahu (</code>netanyahu) <a href="https://twitter.com/netanyahu/status/828598304380448768">February 6, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>