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May to host Netanyahu in London next week

The British Prime Minister will welcome Israel’s Prime Minister to London next week for the first meeting between the two leaders

Prme Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to fly to London on Sunday evening to meet with British PM Theresa May on Monday.

Not only will it be their first meeting since May entered Downing Street, but their first ever official meeting. May visited Israel in summer 2014 as Home Secretary,  but this coincideding with a security crisis, which prevented her from meeting Netanyahu.

The two leaders were thought to have scheduled a meeting at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, but Netanyahu did not attend the conference.

At a Conservative Friends of Israel lunch in December, May pledged to further strengthen “crucial” ties with Israel and praised Israel as a “beacon of tolerance”.

She also recently took the unusual step of criticising a speech by John Kerry, which took aim at Israel’s government and its policies in his final major address as US Secretary of State.

May said at the time: “We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements.”

Last month, the government declined to send a high-level delegation to a French-spearheaded peace conference in Paris, expressing “reservations” over the event itself, in part because it took place “against the wishes of the Israelis”.

Israel had urged allies to send relatively low-level delegations to Paris, arguing that such a multi-lateral conference would further encourage the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reject direct talks with Israel.

But Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood yesterday condemned an announcement by Israel’s Defence Ministry on Tuesday, which approved the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank.

In a statement, Ellwood called the announcement “part of a growing trend which we condemn,” adding “we have consistently been clear that settlements are illegal under international law, and not conducive to peace”.