Israeli PM insists Britain must get tough with IranCatherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent
February 7 2017, 12:01am, The Times
Binyamin Netanyahu, centre, in Downing Street yesterday after his first meeting with Theresa MayEPA ShareSave
The Israeli prime minister urged Theresa May to follow the United States in imposing fresh sanctions against Iran as the two met for the first time at No 10.
Binyamin Netanyahu said that “responsible nations” should follow President Trump’s lead in punishing Iranian aggression, citing sanctions unilaterally imposed by Washington after Iran’s ballistic missile test last week.
“Iran seeks to annihilate Israel. It says so openly. It seeks to conquer the Middle East, it threatens Europe, it threatens the West, it threatens the world. And it offers provocation after provocation,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“That’s why I welcome President Trump’s insistence of new sanctions against Iran. I think other nations should follow soon, certainly responsible nations.”
Britain has not imposed sanctions on Iran in response to the launch but asked a UN enforcement committee to look into whether it breached a resolution. Diplomatic sources said that Britain regarded the missile test as separate from the nuclear accord, which covers Iran’s nuclear programme.
Israel fought hard against the nuclear deal, which Britain strongly supports. On her trip to Washington last month, Mrs May lobbied Mr Trump not to rip up the deal as threatened, even as he pushed for stricter policing of it.Counter-terrorism police at Downing Street during Mr Netanyahu’s visitPeter Macdiarmid/London News Pictures
After Mr Netanyahu’s intervention Mrs May replied that she was ready and willing to discuss Iran but gave no indication that Britain was ready to support a tougher stance.
Asked if she was considering new sanctions, a spokeswoman said: “The prime minister made clear that we support the deal on nuclear that was agreed.” Before the meeting the spokeswoman also insisted that Mrs May would reiterate Britain’s opposition to settlement-building and its support for the two-state solution.
Mr Netanyahu suggested, however, that that part of the conversation had been brief, despite a huge rise in the announcement of new settlement homes being built since Mr Trump took office.
“The issue came up in our conversation, to the extent that is usual, but not beyond that,” he told reporters.
After a meeting with Boris Johnson Mr Netanyahu flew home as Israeli MPs voted on a bill legalising the expropriation of Palestinian land where settlements had been built. He said he had informed London and Washington of the move, which many thought he would postpone until after his visit to the White House next week.
The legislation passed last night is expected to be struck down by the Israeli High Court. In the same briefing Mr Netanyahu refused to voice a commitment to the two-state solution.
Before arriving in London, Mr Netanyahu spoke of his desire to form a new American-British-Israeli axis to confront Iran. He took credit for what he said was a change of course by Britain after its key role in the passing of a UN Security Council resolution in December condemning settlements.
Britain has since taken a more sympathetic tone to Israel, cleaving more closely to that of the Trump administration with whom it is anxious to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.