UK religious leaders urge Liz Truss not to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem, warning of threat to peace

Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster speak out against proposed move and threat to UK’s ‘international reputation’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 08 October 2022 15:26 BST
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The UK’s religious leaders have urged Liz Truss to drop her plan to move the British embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, warning it will damage hopes of peace in the Middle East.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Westminster have both spoken out against the proposed move – which would copy the controversial step taken by Donald Trump during his presidency.

A spokesperson for Justin Welby said he was “concerned about the potential impact” before “a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis has been reached”.

The most senior Catholic in England, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has also written to Ms Truss to say he can “see no valid reason why a move needs now to be considered”.

It “would be seriously damaging to any possibility of lasting peace in the region and to the international reputation of the United Kingdom”, the letter from the Archbishop of Westminster reads.

The criticism comes after Ms Truss raised the prospect of moving the British embassy from Tel Aviv with the Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, in New York last month.

The prime minister first floated the idea during the summer Tory leadership campaign, in a letter to the Conservative Friends of Israel.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships consider Jerusalem to be their capital city, and most countries have kept their diplomatic presence in Tel Aviv until a two-state solution can be reached.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both also criticised the relocation, the latter warning against a “provocation” that risks inflaming tensions.

Ms Truss has said she understands the “importance and sensitivity” of the embassy’s location but has shown no sign of backing down.

In a statement to Jewish News, Mr Welby’s spokesperson said: “The archbishop is concerned about the potential impact of moving the British embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis has been reached.

“He is in touch with Christian leaders in the Holy Land and continues to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Cardinal Nichols’ letter to Ms Truss states: “I ask you earnestly to reconsider the intention you have expressed and to focus all efforts on seeking a two-state solution, in which Jerusalem would have a guaranteed special status.

In a Twitter thread, he called for “the international status quo on Jerusalem to be upheld, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions”, adding: “The city must be shared as a common patrimony, never becoming an exclusive monopoly of any party.”

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