Rishi Sunak scraps plans to move embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Patrick Wintour

The Guardian  /  November 3, 2022

Palestinian mission in UK welcomes statement, which appears to put end to review ordered by Liz Truss.

Rishi Sunak has abandoned moves initiated by Liz Truss to relocate Britain’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Downing Street has confirmed.

Truss, when she was prime minister, ordered a review into whether the UK should follow the Trump administration in moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Asked whether the UK government was still considering a move, a No 10 spokesperson said: “It has been looked at. There are no plans to move the British embassy.”

The development came after UK government officials told a group of foreign reporters that there were “no plans to move the British embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem”, a statement welcomed by the Palestinian mission in the UK.

Truss had told the outgoing Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, that she was conducting the review when the two met on the side-lines of the UN general assembly in New York in September.

The proposal met with a backlash from British church leaders, pro-Palestinian groups, Arab ambassadors in London, European foreign ministries and some Conservative MPs whose constituencies have large Muslim populations.

But the manner of the apparent U-turn, furtive even by the standards of the British Foreign Office, was perplexing since it came days after Sunak met Israeli and Arab diplomats to celebrate the second anniversary of the signing of the Abraham accords, which led to diplomatic relations being established between Israel and a number of Arab countries.

An enthusiastic supporter of Israel, Sunak met a group of Israeli and Gulf Arab and diplomats on Wednesday in the UK to praise the Abraham accords as the dividend of diplomacy. “The accords have kickstarted a new era of relations in trade, tourism, security and more. This is the dividend of diplomacy,” he said.

He added: “It is almost exactly 45 years since Anwar Sadat travelled to Israel to address the Knesset. With [the] Abraham accords, our generation took up the torch. Now we must continue the journey. We must show that by working together more closely we can deliver lasting peace, stability and prosperity. And more than anything we can deliver hope.”

The Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, welcomed the clarification on the embassy move, saying: “We would like thank the UK government, faith leaders, activists and members of the public whose efforts have helped keep the UK in line with international law in this matter. The question about the location of the UK’s embassy should never have been asked for in the first place.”

At a Conservative Friends of Israel event in August, Sunak said Jerusalem was “undisputedly the historic capital [of Israel]. Clearly, there’s a very strong case for it to be recognised … so it is something I would like to do.”

He said: “You will have my total commitment that I will fight very hard for the security of people in Israel.

Patrick Wintour is diplomatic editor for The Guardian