The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will push his UK counterpart, Theresa May, to back his call for a tougher international stance on Iran when the pair meet in Downing Street.
Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday he would raise the issue of Iran as a diplomatic priority, as it has become clear that he sees the arrival of the Trump administration in Washington as an opportunity to begin unpicking the nuclear deal with Iran he fiercely opposes.
For her part, May has signalled she will raise UK concerns about a spate of announcements on Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory that drew a mild rebuke from Washington last week.
“I would expect the prime minister to set out the government’s position that we think the continued increase in settlement activity undermines trust,” a No 10 spokesperson told reporters last week.
But the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said that was not good enough. “The Israeli government’s decision to build 3,000 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal under international law and a threat to peace and international security,” he said, claiming it had undermined the prospect of a two-state solution.
Corbyn urged the prime minister to tell her Israeli counterpart that the government stands “unequivocally behind the rights of the Palestinian people, along with the many who support them in Israel”.
Netanyahu is seeing May and her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, as part of a series of visits in which he will travel to Australia, to meet the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Washington, where he will meet Donald Trump.
“We are at the start of a significant diplomatic period for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.
“In the diplomatic sphere, I intend to emphasise the need for a common front against Iran’s defiant aggression which has raised its head in recent days. This must be done on an ongoing basis, but especially in light of Iran’s defiance against the international order.”
The Israeli leader has also made clear he intends to raise the issue of cooperation over cybersecurity when he meets both May and Trump.
Netanyahu’s visit to Downing Street comes amid growing international divisions over the Israel-Palestine peace process, not least following Trump’s inauguration, which Israel hopes to exploit.
At a recent conference in London, David Bitan, an Israeli MP and chairman of Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party, laid out what he suggested were Israel’s aims.
“Netanyahu will try to take advantage of the situation in Europe in order to create a system of support for Israel, which will lean upon the largest countries on the continent, including Britain, France, Italy and Germany,” he told Jewish leaders.
The renewed Israeli focus on Iran comes after a convergence of views between Washington and Tel Aviv since Trump’s inauguration on the question of Tehran and the nuclear deal.
An Iranian ballistic missile test last weekend drew a quick round of new US sanctions against Iran, with Trump warning Tehran it was “playing with fire”.
In the immediate aftermath of the missile test, Netanyahu said: “I will be meeting with President Trump in Washington soon and among other things I intend to raise with him the need to renew sanctions against Iran – sanctions against ballistic missiles and additional sanctions against terror, as well as dealing with this whole weak nuclear agreement.
“I know this agreement bothers not only Israel and not only the United States but many other countries in the region as well and we will move this ahead because Iran’s aggression must not go unanswered.”
Iran, and more recently its 2015 nuclear deal with the international community, has long obsessed Netanyahu and drove his ill-judged visit to address the US Congress against the wishes of the Obama administration, fuelling tensions between the two men.
Although other issues have been more prominent since Trump’s inauguration – including the controversial discussion of whether to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and a surge in Israeli settlement-building announcements – Iran has emerged again as a key Israeli diplomatic issue.
After eight years of the Obama administration, which pushed back against Netanyahu’s concerns about Iran, the Israeli prime minister now believes he has a far more sympathetic audience in the shape of the convergence of May, Trump and Turnbull.
Israeli officials see opportunities for a closer relationship with a UK apparently determined to leave the EU and which will have to restructure its international relationships.