Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has apparently snubbed Theresa May over the UK’s support of a highly critical UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement building.
The move is the latest in a series of diplomatic retaliations by Israel against the countries that supported a UN security council resolution describing Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as a “flagrant violation” of international law and an obstacle to peace.
Reports in the Israeli media said Netanyahu had told ministers at his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that he did not intend to meet May in Davos at the forthcoming World Economic Forum.
Responding to the reports, the UK’s deputy ambassador, Tony Kay, said he regretted the decision. “It is a disappointment that the Israeli government has announced that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not want to have a conversation with Theresa May,” Kay told Israel Army Radio on Monday.
Kay had been called in with other ambassadors and senior diplomats of the other members of the security council who voted for the motion or abstained, including the US ambassador Dan Shapiro, to be reprimanded for supporting a resolution that reiterated the view of the international community that Jewish settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace.
“I’m sure there will be many conversations between the two prime ministers moving forward and we look forward to having those conversations, and we’ll certainly continue to have those conversations in Tel Aviv,” Kay said.
In response to the reports, Israeli officials said no meeting had been scheduled with May. “No meeting with the UK prime minister had been set therefore no meeting was cancelled,” a spokesperson said.
However, the Israeli media later reported that – despite the official denial – there had been discussions about May and Netanyahu speaking in Davos, although Britain had not been officially informed of the cancellation.
The prime minister is regarded as one of the most pro-Israeli leaders in Europe, recently describing it as “a remarkable country” and “a beacon of tolerance”.
Kay’s comments came as the fallout from Friday’s vote continued to reverberate, amid growing fears in Israel that the US and the security council may be considering further moves against Israel before Donald Trump is inaugurated as US president on 20 January.