152. The FCO told us that the UK and Israel were
"close allies" and that the UK was a "friend of
In July 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown became the first British
premier to address the Knesset.
153. We conclude
that flourishing ties between the UK and Israel are welcome and
are in the interests of the people of both states.
154. The Government has recently been taking a stronger
stance against Israeli settlement activity. It appears to have
been taking the lead within the EU on the issue of ensuring that
produce from Israeli settlements cannot benefit from the preferential
trade regime which is extended by the EU-Israel Association Agreement
to products originating in Israel, understood as Israel within
the borders defined by the 1949 Armistice. The FCO told us that
the OPTs were not considered to be part of the territory of Israel
and that goods produced there were therefore disqualified from
the terms of the agreement.
Against a background of press reports that settlement produce
was on sale in the UK labelled simply as being from the "West
Government has been seeking to tackle the issue in the first instance
by seeking changes in retailers' labelling practices, so as to
"provide consumers with improved clarity about the origin
of products from the OPTs".
The FCO told us that the Government had held a roundtable on the
issue with retailers at the end of March 2009, and that the Department
for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was considering the
next phase of consultations before finalising voluntary guidance
on labelling best practice.
The Government is reportedly pressing other EU member states on
the issue in an effort to broaden the move towards tighter labelling
155. In December 2008, the FCO added a warning about
purchasing property in territory occupied by Israel to the "travel
advice" section of its website.
As of June 2009, the relevant text said that:
There are risks involved with purchasing property
in Israeli settlements on land considered to be occupied under
international law, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan.
Potential purchasers should be aware that a future peace deal
between Israel and the Palestinians, or between Israel and Syria,
could have consequences for property they purchase in these settlements.
156. In February 2009, the FCO withdrew from negotiations
on its possible leasing of space in the Hakirya Tower in Tel Aviv,
which had been intended to allow it to relocate the Embassy there.
The FCO pulled out because of what Mr Rammell said were "concerns"
that the company which owns the Tower, Africa-Israel Investments,
was involved in settlement activities.
157. The Government's stronger stance against settlements
has reportedly aggravated Israel.
UK-Israeli relations are also coloured by discussions in the British
media, academia and other non-governmental forums of possible
steps which they might take to curtail links with Israel. On 23
June, the Foreign Secretary issued a statement in which he said
that the Government was "dismayed" that motions calling
for boycotts of Israel were due to be discussed at trade union
congresses and conferences in summer 2009. The Foreign Secretary
said that "calls for boycotts of Israel cannot and do not
contribute to peace."
158. We conclude
that the Government is to be commended for seeking ways of giving
concrete expression to its position that Israeli settlements violate
international law. We recommend that in its response to this Report,
the Government should update us on its work on the issue of the
labelling of settlement produce and the enforcement of the EU-Israel
Association Agreement, and provide an assessment of the impact
of this work on UK-Israeli relations.