The British government issued new recommendations to its business community last week, warning citizens against doing business with individuals or entities in Israeli settlements.
“EU citizens and businesses should also be aware of the potential reputational implications of getting involved in economic and financial activities in settlements, as well as possible abuses of the rights of individuals,” reads the warning on the U.K. Trade and Investment site, in its “Overseas Business Risk Report” for Israel, which is part of a larger survey by the trade agency that makes recommendations regarding the risks of doing business in various parts of the world.
“The U.K. has a clear position on Israeli settlements: The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights are territories which have been occupied by Israel since 1967. Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible. We will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” the warning reads.
A senior Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem said the British Foreign Office had told the Israeli Embassy in London about the pending recommendations only a short time before they were posted on the UKTI website. The Israeli diplomats in London and the Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem made it clear to their British counterparts that Israel was disappointed by the new recommendation.
“We told them that we are currently holding talks with the Palestinians and thus issuing such a recommendation at this time will only do harm,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official. “There’s also something strange about the fact that no similar recommendations were issued regarding other regions in dispute, like the western Sahara, which is under Moroccan occupation, or Tibet.”
The British government site warns British businessmen that there are risks in doing business in the settlements, and the government will not “encourage or offer support to such activity.
“Financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements as well as other economic activities (including in services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements, entail legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a legitimate part of Israel's territory,” the warning says.
“This may result in disputed titles to the land, water, mineral or other natural resources which might be the subject of purchase or investment,” the warning continues. “Those contemplating any economic or financial involvement in settlements should seek appropriate legal advice.”
The recommendation also sympathetically acknowledges “the concerns of people who do not wish to purchase goods exported from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
However, the recommendation stresses, “The U.K. Government is deeply committed to promoting our trade and business ties with Israel and strongly opposes boycotts.”
The Spokesman at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv said the FCO has placed advice online to raise awareness of the key security and political risks which U.K. businesses may face when operating abroad, including in Israel and the Palestinian territories and this includes guidance on Israeli settlements.
"We are advising British businesses to bear in mind the British Government's view on the illegality of settlements under international law when considering their investments and activities in the region", the British embassy said. "This is voluntary guidance to British businesses on doing business in Israel and OPTs.
Ultimately it will be the decision of an individual or company whether to operate in settlements in the Occupied Territories, but the British Government would neither encourage nor offer support to such activity."