Sunak warns Netanyahu of ‘international concern’ over West Bank clashes.

Rishi Sunak warned Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday of “international concerns” over “rising tensions” with the Palestinians and a controversial judicial overhaul, as the Israeli prime minister’s visit sparked protests from members of the British Jewish community.

The UK prime minister issued the unusually blunt message after events in Israel, prompting a leading Tory MP to call on London to become a “critical friend” of the country.

In recent weeks, protests over hotly contested reforms to weaken the judiciary have drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators across Israel and sparked political turmoil. On Friday, hundreds of Jewish protesters stood near pro-Palestinian groups and heckled Netanyahu as he arrived at Downing Street for bilateral talks.

Jonathan Wittenberg, the senior rabbi of UK Masorti Judaism who attended Friday’s rally, said it was vital to defend Judaism against “nationalist, literalist narrowing”.

According to Downing Street, Sunak referred to the issue with Netanyahu and “stressed the importance of respecting the democratic values ​​that underpin our relationship, including the proposed judicial reforms in Israel.”

Pro-democracy protesters protested in London during Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to 10 Downing Street on Friday.
Pro-democracy protesters protest in London during Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit on Friday © Stefan Rousseau/PA

He added that the UK prime minister had also “outlined her international concern about rising tensions in the West Bank and the risk of undermining efforts towards a two-state solution” following comments this week by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who claimed there was “no such thing as a Palestinian people”.

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A number of British politicians from Sunak’s own party have questioned the visit, and Alicia Kearns, the Tory chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, has previously questioned whether it should go ahead.

Kearns said it’s important for allies to speak “plainly.” “This could be the start of the UK having a relationship with Israel where we can be critical friends,” he said.

Steve McCabe, a Labor MP and chairman of the party’s Friends of Israel group, also expressed concern, telling an Israeli TV channel that Netanyahu’s reforms to the country’s supreme court “appeared to be an extraordinary attack on the independence of the court and the very essence of the court. Israeli democracy’.

Number 10 said Sunak expressed “solidarity” with Israel during recent terror attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and that London always “stands by Israel and is able to defend itself”.

But Downing Street expressed concern that rising tensions in the region could undermine efforts to achieve a “two-state solution” that would see full Palestinian and Israeli states living side by side.

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Embassy of Israel in London he wrote on Twitter that the two leaders met and discussed “the Iranian nuclear issue.”

“The Prime Minister of Israel thanked Prime Minister Sunak for his country’s position on this matter,” the statement said.