TEL AVIV – Senior Palestinian Authority officials told a group of British lawmakers on Wednesday that the MPs were responsible for causing the entire Israel-Palestine conflict, the Times of Israel reported.
“It’s difficult to see that these people could be a basis for negotiation,” Vice President of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) John Howell said. His remarks followed a meeting in Ramallah at which a CFI delegation of nine conservative MPs met with Palestinian officials, including veteran PA negotiator Nabil Shaath.
The meeting turned hostile when Shaath and other Palestinian officials charged the MPs with implicitly supporting the 1923-48 British Mandate in Palestine, the Times of Israel reported.
James Gurd, executive director of the CFI group, noted the “fireworks” at the meeting, which was also attended by Palestinian Ambassador to the Vatican Issa Kassissieh and PLO executive committee member Hanna Amira.
John Howell MP, vice president of CFI, led the delegation. He said the topic of Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city, sparked a tense debate after the MPs suggested that construction of additional planned cities, which provide affordable housing and top-notch amenities, could lead to a more contented population. However, many critics of Rawabi maintain that building a modern, comfortable Palestinian city contributes to the “normalization” of Israeli control over the West Bank.
“But I think the real fireworks came from the suggestion that the PLO would lose an election in the West Bank tomorrow to Hamas. That really put them at unease,” Howell said.
“The specific accusations that came out from the meeting were the attempt to blame us, as being ‘the British,’ for the entire situation in Israel and Palestinian territories as a result of having the Mandate, years and years before I was even born,” Howell said. “It’s such a naive view of things.”
According to the report, Howell, who is visiting Israel for the fifth time, said he believes dialogue is the key to a long-term peaceful resolution, but Wednesday’s meeting made him doubt the viability of negotiations with the PA.
“It’s difficult to see that these people could be a basis for negotiation. I think there would have to be some agreement about how so many things in the world have genuinely changed before we can start talking.”
The group also attended a ceremony marking UK Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock’s announcement of new international trade guidelines that prohibit “discrimination against Israeli suppliers” in an attempt to combat anti-Israel boycotts.
The Palestinian Authority blasted the move, saying it “empowers Israeli occupation.” A statement released by PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said the decision sends “a message of impunity” to the Israeli government.
“In order to accommodate the Israeli occupation, the British government is undermining British democracy and their own people’s rights. Such a law would have prevented British citizens from taking peaceful actions against South African apartheid,” the statement read.
A spokesman for UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn charged Hancock with harming local democracy and freedom of expression. “The Government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy,” he said.
Corbyn, who was elected leader of the party in September, is seen as one of Britain’s most hostile MPs in regard to Israel. Corbyn, who sympathizes with terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, publicly endorsed a blanket weapons embargo on Israel and the boycott of Israeli universities involved in arms research.
“I think that Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude to Israel is almost unintelligible,” Howell said.
“If the man had come here to see the facts on the ground, I have no doubt he would have a different opinion,” Howell added.