Pro-Palestine group slams UK trade deal efforts with Israel after Amnesty 'apartheid' report
A pro-Palestine group of lawyers, scholars and politicians urged the UK government on Wednesday to "immediately review" a free trade agreement it is seeking with Israel.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday that Britain is working towards an "ambitious" deal with "our friend and ally Israel".
She quote tweeted International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was promoting a consultation concerning a "renewed" British deal with Tel Aviv.
Trevelyan embarked on a three-day trip to Israel earlier this week in line with the British Government's wish to bolster commerce and investment relations with Israel, according to the UK's Department for International Trade.
The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) said Truss' comments on the free trade agreement were "unhappily timed" because they quickly followed the release by Amnesty International of a report that concluded Israel was committing "the crime of apartheid" against Palestinians.
"This raises the prospect of a deal that includes security cooperation with a state in longstanding violation of a central principle of international law," the ICJP said.
It described a prospective agreement as an "affront [to] the most important human values that should underpin the foreign policy of all democratic states".
The ICJP said the deal "sends the worst possible message about the United Kingdom's attachment to the rule of international law".
According to Truss, the agreement centres on increasing trade, furthering technology and services relationships and bolstering communities and businesses. She did not mention security cooperation.
The ICJP argued the UK's freedom to engage in trade "also comes with responsibilities".
"The UK Government policy should be used to set international standards when it comes to the application of international law specifically, human rights law, international criminal law and the Geneva Conventions," it said.
🇮🇱🇬🇧 As an independent trading nation, we’re working towards an ambitious Free Trade Agreement with our friend and ally Israel, focussed on:— Liz Truss (@trussliz) February 2, 2022
📈 Boosting trade for our mutual benefit
💻 Deepening services and tech ties
🤝 Strengthening our businesses and communities https://t.co/hyey3aGnzr
The organisation reiterated Amnesty's plea in its report that governments should "not support the system of apartheid [in Israel] or render aid or assistance to maintaining such a regime".
The ICJP added that it "finds it regrettable" the UK is trying to bolster relations while Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and authorises construction of more settlements, and settlers increase their attacks on Palestinians.
Britain's Department for International Trade (DIT) said the UK backs a two-state solution in Palestine-Israel and that this will continue to be central in dealings with the Palestinian and Israeli governments.
It said Britain often discusses human rights with Israel and encourages it to comply with the requirements of international law and to respect universal equality. Occupied Palestine and Israel are key human rights issues for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, according to the DIT.
The governmental department said goods originating in Israel's illegal settlements are ineligible for preferential trade benefits through Britain's current trade deal with Israel. It said the UK will stick by this stance.
Note: This article was updated at 22:11 UK time on Friday, 4 February to reflect a response from Britain's Department for International Trade.