Barak Ravid
November 3, 2010 - 12:00am

British Foreign Secretary William Hague will on Wednesday meet with a group of Palestinian activists campaigning against Israel's West Bank barrier, as part of a tour of Jerusalem.

Hague, a rightwing Conservative minister in the United Kingdom's coalition government, was scheduled to arrive in Israel late Tuesday for a trip for secret roundtable discussions on the Iranian nuclear program with a long list top Israeli officials.

But the former Conservative party leader will also take time to meet in East Jerusalem with activists who take part in regular protests at Bil'in, the site of weekly demonstrations against the barrier, which have often turned violent.

He will meet other Palestinian activists in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a regular flashpoint in confrontations between local Arab residents and Jewish settlers.

Foreign ministry sources said Hague's schedule had raised eyebrows among Israel's diplomats, but that a decision had been made to refrain from any public criticism.

Hague's tour is the latest in a series of British diplomatic gestures that signal the U.K.'s opposition to the barrier. Two weeks ago, the British embassy in Tel Aviv lodged an official protest against the one year jail sentence handed to Abdullah Abu Rahma, a leader of the Bil'in protests. British diplomats attended all of Rahma's court appearances.

The foreign secretary's visit comes at a time when Israel seems increasingly unable to count on the support of the U.K., a traditional ally.

In July, British Prime Minister David Cameron sparked Israeli anger when he referred to the Gaza Strip as a "prison camp" during a visit to Turkey, another long-term ally, where Israel recently fell out of favor after its May raid on a Turkish-flagged aid convoy to Gaza.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017