William Hague calls on Israel to drop its negative stance on Egypt
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has called on Israel to move forward on Middle East peace negotiations and drop the negative posture it has adopted in response to the turmoil in Egypt.
Embarking on a tour of north Africa and the Middle East that will take him to five countries in three days, he said Israel’s attitude meant efforts at peace could “be a casualty of uncertainty in the region”.
Mr Hague said that despite the opportunity for countries like Tunisia and Egypt after their huge people protests, there remains a “legitimate fear” that the Middle East peace process will lose momentum.
Mr Hague acknowledged differences between the Government and both Israel and Washington on the need to reinvigorate peace talks quickly.
“Part of the fear is that uncertainty and change will complicate the process still further. That means there is a real urgency for the Israelis and the United States. Recent events mean this is an even more urgent priority and that’s a case we are putting to the Israeli Government and in Washington,” he told The Times.
Benjamin Netanyahu has responded aggressively to the calls for change in Egypt, which are likely to lead to a new government less supportive of Israel than Hosni Mubarak’s has been.
Mr Hague said: “This should not be a time for belligerent language. It’s a time to inject greater urgency into the Middle East peace process.”
Talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year when Mr Netanyahu refused to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Barack Obama’s administration was struggling to find ways to bring the two sides back to the table even before the protests in Tunisia and Egypt broke out, catching Washington and its allies by surprise.
The Foreign Secretary intends to deliver a nuanced message to Arab leaders, emphasising that Britain will speak up for political and economic freedom, but explicitly acknowledging that in different countries “change will take time according to their cultures”.