LONDON (JTA) — The British government will warn its citizens against buying property in settlements in the West Bank.
A spokeswoman at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed reports that the warning will be published on its Web site early this week, explaining that future peace agreements "could have consequences for that property." She added that "this is not a change of policy."
The British government has long claimed that the settlements in the West Bank are illegal and an obstacle to peace. This would mark the first time, however, that this kind of warning has been made to British citizens.
Palestinian Authority Ambassador Manuel Hassassian in the Dec. 18 Guardian newspaper said "this is a dramatic change of policy by Great Britain. They have gone a long way in being critical of Israel’s policies. In the past they have talked about settlements being an obstacle to peace and so on. But this is a milestone. They are now being proactive and very serious."
The British newspaper also reported that it had obtained a copy of a letter written by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier this month to his Palestinian counterpart Salam Fayyad in which he shared his frustration at the increased settlement activity, and added that "the UK is now looking at what effective action we can take to discourage settlement expansion." Brown also wrote, "Given our clear position on settlements, it follows that we would not want any British national to purchase property inside an illegal settlement."
Brown met Fayyad in London last week a day before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London expressed disappointment at the British move and said that when Brown and Olmert met, they "held frank and detailed discussions of the measures Israel is willing to take to advance the peace process with the Palestinians."