Daily TIP

First meeting between British PM May and Netanyahu

Posted by Tip Staff - February 06, 2017
Face-to-face. British Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held their first in-person meeting together on Monday. Former Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub commended the Israel-UK relationship in an exclusive interview with The Israel Project, saying the meeting is "a continuation of a relationship, which, over decades, has been strong and deepening...We can go back six British Prime Ministers to Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and now Theresa May, each of whom has had a deep, I think an instinctive sympathy, I think for the challenges facing Israel, and an understanding for the potential synergies of benefits of cooperation."

“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,” declared Prime Minister Netanyahu. “I’d like to talk to you on how we can ensure that Iran’s aggression does not go unanswered,” he said to May. May’s spokeswoman said the countries “share concerns” about a recent Iranian missile test. 

The leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are poised to usher in a new era of pro-Israel relations, according to a Times of Israel piece published last month. Their strong support veers on “unconditional,” the author wrote. 

“We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally,” a spokesperson for May said in response to former Secretary of State John Kerry’s December speech, which was largely panned as anti-Israel and a step backwards for the peace process. The settlements “are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”

Seven minutes. An Iranian official threatened on Saturday that Iran could strike Tel Aviv within just minutes and destroy an American military base. “Only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv,” said Mojtaba Zonour, a former official of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who currently is a senior member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. Zonour also said, “The US army’s fifth fleet has occupied a part of Bahrain, and the enemy’s farthest military base is in the Indian Ocean but these points are all within the range of Iran’s missile systems and they will be razed to the ground if the enemy makes a mistake.” The IRGC’s Air Force Commander, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, added, “Should the enemy make a mistake our roaring missiles will rain down on them.”

Hajizadeh made the remark at military exercises held on Saturday in north-central Iran, the purpose of which, according to the IRGC’s website, were to “showcase the power of Iran’s revolution and to dismiss the sanctions” that were put in place by the U.S. last Friday in retaliation for an Iranian ballistic missile test late last month.

UN Security Council Resolution 2231 codifies the nuclear deal and calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” The resolution also says that Iran must abide by previous Security Council resolutions, which placed restrictions on ballistic missile work until 2023.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said over the weekend that Iran is “the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

Retaliation. The Israel Defense Forces targeted Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Monday shortly after a rocket landed south of Ashkelon, in southern Israel. The strikes, carried out by tanks and jets, destroyed six Hamas targets, including a naval base. Hamas militants opened fire at an IDF unit from the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF said that its response was not just to Monday’s attacks, but also to “other incidents from Gaza in the last month.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in London for a state visit with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, said, “My policy is to respond strongly to any rocket fire.” The IDF said, “The IDF will continue working with determination at all times to preserve the security of the State of Israel.”

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said on Twitter that there were no Palestinian injuries from the strikes. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the original rocket into Israel, but the Jewish state holds Hamas, the terror group that has ruled the Strip since it took over in a coup nearly ten years ago, responsible for all outgoing rocket fire.

The IDF believes that Hamas has fully rebuilt many of the military capabilities that Israel destroyed during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. The terror group claimed in its annual end-of-year report that it killed 17 Israelis and wounded 437 more in 2016. The IDF said in December that Hamas is intensifying efforts to surveil Israeli communities by the Gaza border, which the military believes will be targeted for kidnapping attacks in the event of a future conflict.

What a deal. Israel has informed various international bodies that it intends to implement a series of measures to improve the economic situation in the Gaza Strip if Hamas can grant two conditions. Hamas must return (1) three captive Israeli civilians and (2) the remains of two IDF soldiers that it is holding.

One possible step is the establishment of an industrial zone close to the border fence between Israel and Gaza, in which all of the workers would be Palestinians. Another is allowing the entry of Palestinian workers into Israel via the Erez pedestrian crossing in northern Gaza. Together, the two projects would provide employment to thousands of Gazans who qualify for the appropriate security clearance.

Other areas with room for improvement include the electricity crisis in Gaza and establishing a free-trade zone in the northern Sinai Peninsula in Egyptian territory, which Israel supports based on the assumption that such a project would improve the economic situation not only in northern Sinai but also in the Gaza Strip.


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