Theresa May has attacked the current US administration over its condemnation of the Israeli government, in comments which appeared to align her with Donald Trump.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman criticised John Kerry, the outgoing US Secretary of State, after he described the Israeli government as the “most Right-wing in history”.
Mrs May does “not believe that it is appropriate” for Mr Kerry to attack the make-up of the democratically elected Israeli government, the spokesman said.
Her decision to speak out came as president-elect Trump accused Barack Obama and his government of treating Israel with “total disdain and disrespect”.
Mr Kerry had criticised Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, for undermining the two-state solution with his settlement policy in the West Bank.
Britain also recently angered Israel by backing a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to Israel’s construction of settlements in the disputed region.
The US broke with tradition by abstaining rather than vetoing the text, in what was seen as a hostile act by President Obama.
Mr Trump defended the Israeli government, urging them to “stay strong” until his inauguration as president next month.
Downing Street has made clear that Mrs May was still opposed to Israel’s “illegal” construction of settlements in the West Bank.
It said her criticism was directed at Mr Kerry’s decision to attack the make-up of the Israeli government.
“We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said.
“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”
The spokesman added: “The British Government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”
Mr Kerry’s speech drew a furious reaction from Mr Netanyahu, who said the US diplomat focused “obsessively” on Jewish settlements and “barely touched” on Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any form.
A US State Department spokesperson told the Telegraph: “We are surprised by the UK Prime Minister’s statement given that Secretary Kerry’s remarks – which covered the full range of threats to a two state solution, including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlements – were in-line with the UK’s own longstanding policy and its vote at the United Nations last week.”