Diplomacy & defense
In an exclusive interview with i24news, Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Monday said that Israel cannot "leave Britain as hostages of BDS and all these small and vocal groups" ahead of his upcoming address before the British parliament on March 2.
Edelstein will speak with members of the House of Lords and House of Commons at an event organized by the British Inter-Parliamentary Union and thereby become the first Israeli Knesset speaker to speak before British parliament.
Edelstein stressed the importance of his visit, saying that "we have ongoing relations with Britain, less so with the British Parliament. And I think that we have to improve the bilateral cooperation with the British Parliament because it's just not doable to leave Britain as hostages of BDS and all these small and vocal groups."
"We have to tell them the truth about Israel and I'm going to do so," he added.
Edelstein's planned visit was met with protest by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to London, who harshly criticized the invite to the Knesset Speaker, claiming Edelstein’s appearance in Westminster would legitimize Israeli settlement policies.
“Mr. Edelstein lives on an illegal Israeli settlement built on Palestinian land and he publicly opposes Palestinian statehood,” Hassassian wrote in the Independent last week.
“He even supports initiatives such as the Lobby for Greater Israel, whose members want to colonize what is left of Palestinian land.”
He added: “I am quite incredulous that Mr Edelstein is being given a platform in Parliament itself… the self-same Parliament that only a short time ago voted to recognize the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and a state of their own.”
Edelstein rebuffed the criticism, saying that opposition to his address was an effort to create “cheap, popular headlines and garner support for extremist groups.”
“I am proud to represent the Knesset and the State of Israel, including as a settler of Judea and Samaria,” Edelstein said, referring to his residence in the settlement of Neve Daniel in the Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.
Edelstein also hoped to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron to "describe the complexity and the situation and the way it really is in Jerusalem."
When asked whether he believes Cameron might give in to pressure by pro-Palestinian groups to cancel the meeting with the Israeli Knesset speaker, Edelstein said he does "not believe that would happen because of where I live."
"When I was hosting Prime Minister David Cameron as well as, I would dare say, hundreds of different leaders over the last three years, no one ever said to me that he wouldn't meet me or wouldn't come to the Knesset because of where I live."
Edelstein told i24news he was optimistic about his visit and hoped that "after these meetings people will probably understand the situation in the Middle East as a little more complex than how it is sometimes presented.
During his visit, Edelstein will also meet with the British Foreign Minister, the shadow Foreign Minister, and the speakers of both the House of Commons and House of Lords.