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The most recent set of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, mediated by US Secretary of State John Kerry, began in August 2013 but collapsed in April 2014 following the decision by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah, to sign a reconciliation agreement with Hamas. Israel was opposed to such an agreement and withdrew from the talks in protest. There has been no resumption of formal peace talks since.

Theresa May’s government’s approach to talks between the two sides, is largely one of continuity with previous UK government policies. The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Peter Wilson, reiterated this position on 20 June this year:

The United Kingdom’s longstanding position on the Middle East Peace Process remains clear and unchanged: we support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state; based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees.

He also supported the new Trump administration’s approach to the peace process, saying:

The leadership and engagement that President Trump and his administration have demonstrated in reinvigorating the Middle East Peace Process must have our support.

On 13 June 2017 the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson condemned plans by the Israeli government to build 3000 settlement units in the West Bank, saying ‘this spike in settlement activity makes a two state solution, with an Israel that is safe from terrorism and a Palestinian state that is viable and sovereign, harder to achieve’.

On 21 June 2017 the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Theresa May to offer his condolences over the recent terrorist incidents in London. According to an official statement:

They agreed the relationship between the UK and Israel would continue to go from strength to strength.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to a two-state solution enabling an Israel free from terrorism and a viable Palestinian state. The Prime Minister noted that settlement-building was an impediment to the progress of peace talks.

President Trump during his election campaign put a particular emphasis on a policy of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – something other Presidential candidates such as Bill Clinton and George W Bush suggested on the campaign trail, but didn’t put into action in office.

However, since taking office President Trump has started treading a more orthodox path in his dealings with Israel. On 15 February 2017, in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Trump asked Mr Netanyahu to ‘hold back on settlements for a little bit.’

Despite his campaign promise to move the American Embassy in Israel on 1 June 2017, President Trump signed, as all his predecessors since 1998 have done, a waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act, to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. The administration was keen to emphasise:

No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance.

In a less orthodox approach, President Trump has appointed his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner to lead the administration’s efforts to kick-start the peace talks. He is being supported by Jason Greenblatt, who President Trump has appointed as the United States Special Representative for International Negotiations. Mr Kushner and Mr Greenblatt met with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on June 21.

The White House has played down prospects for any early breakthrough in getting formal peace talks between the two sides started, saying in official statements after meetings with both sides that: ‘forging peace will take time’.

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