A couple of weeks ago we were all delighted with Theresa May’s hearty support of Israel in her heart-warming speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel.
We were equally gratified when Theresa May strongly condemned John Kerry’s anti-settlements speech last week:
May’s office retorted that “we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.” It said in an emailed statement late Thursday that “we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”
And yet we must not forget that not only was Britain among those who voted in favour of UNSC Resolution 2334 which effectively outlawed all Israeli presence beyond the 1967 lines (or rather, to be more precise, the 1949 Armistice lines), but it was one of those who actually shaped and helped word the resolution as the WaPo article notes:
British diplomats worked as go-betweens in shaping the measure to ensure that the language was acceptable to the United States, Britain’s Guardian and Israel’s Haaretz newspapers reported this week.
So which Britain are we supposed to believe? Are they blowing in the wind? Are they susceptible to outside pressure and swing according to whoever is in power at the moment? In other words, did Britain vote in favour of the resolution in order to curry favour with the Obama administration, and then condemn Kerry’s speech as a sop to Donald Trump’s incoming administration?
The Washington Post article I linked to above posits that possibility:
The rare diplomatic spat between Britain and the United States, which was met with surprise by the State Department, highlighted the fast-collapsing influence of the lame-duck White House. It also pointed to a vast reordering of international affairs expected after Donald Trump takes office in three weeks, as U.S. allies position themselves to curry favor in the new order.
The Elder of Ziyon also has an interesting theory concerning Theresa May’s about-turn and rebuke of Kerry:
Most reports about the behind-the-scenes drama of the UNSC vote show that the delegates were very surprised at the US abstaining from vetoing the resolution.
That hadn’t happened in many years.
The loss of the automatic US veto seems to have caused two new reactions:
One is that Israel responded harshly towards those who voted “yes,” even though they had done it many times before without any complaint when the resolutions were vetoed. (That was a tactical error on Israel’s part.)
The other is that other members of the Security Council were blindsided by the US decision. For so long, they had assumed a US veto on anti-Israel resolutions, so they had an easy decision to make: vote “yes” and keep their friends in the Arab world happy, while knowing deep down that the obsession that the UN has with Israel is absurd and counterproductive to its mission and one day they could become the victims of a witch hunt, too.
But when the US abstains, suddenly the other members of the Security Council – and specifically its permanent members – have a new responsibility.
They need to consider doing the right thing themselves instead of relying on the US to take the lead. Suddenly, their importance has increased as well as their responsibility.
If you take May’s statement at face value, then the UK might have voted “no” had they known the US intended to abstain. The entire calculus of the Security Council just changed from relying on a US veto to learning that there are actual consequences to one-sided resolutions that pass.
Douglas Murray at the Gatestone Institute writes of Britain’s Little Lies, and warns Theresa May’s government about the unforeseen complications of playing these political games:
The most obvious interpretation of this fact is simply a reflection that friends do not kick friends in the back. Especially not in the world’s foremost international forum for kicking that particular friend. But some people are putting a kinder interpretation on the facts. The kindest to date is that the May government believes that a sterner line on the issue of Israeli settlements would give the British government more leverage with the Palestinians.
If that is so, then it seems that the May government will have to learn abroad the same lesson that they must learn at home. Both will come about because of the same strategic mistake: a reliance on the short-term convenience of what must seem at first to be only convenient little lies. The problem is that such little lies, when tested on the great seas of domestic and international affairs, have a tendency to come to grief with exceptional rapidity and ease.
Politicians are keen on taking stands. But if you take a stand that is based on a lie, then that stand cannot succeed. If you try to oppose anti-Semitism but pretend it is the same thing as “Islamophobia,” then the structure on which you have made your stand will totter and all your aspirations will fail. If you try to make a stand for Israel while simultaneously conniving at the UN to undermine Israel, then your duplicity will be exposed and admiration for this and other stands will falter. If you try to make a stand based on the idea that settlement construction rather than the intransigence of the Palestinians to the existence of a Jewish state is what is holding up a peace deal, then facts will keep on intruding. They have before — at home and abroad — and they will again.
Thank goodness for Australia, which slammed Kerry for his speech and said that they would not have voted for UNSC Resolution 2334 if they had a seat at the Security Council. Together with Britain, it is more supportive of Israel than the outgoing US Administration.
Still on the subject of Britain, but from the British Jewish angle, I was astounded – in a good way – by the Jewish Chronicle editorial thoroughly condemning Obama’s last kick at Israel. The Jewish Chronicle takes a very left-of-center stance, which goes to prove all the more how out of line Obama was:
It is certainly true that British — and US — policy has always opposed settlements. So, too, has this newspaper. But those Zionist groups who have supported UN Resolution 2334 because they also oppose settlements miss the point quite spectacularly. Resolution 2334 was not part of some finely crafted peace process or a simple repeat of long-standing policy. It was gesture politics of the worst kind in a forum that has raised Israel-bashing to a fine art. It had nothing to do with peace and everything to do with these being the last moments of the Obama administration.
As for Britain: our role in this unsavoury incident has been tawdry. Mrs May’s claim is simply nonsense. True friends can indeed disagree. But they do not join in secret with enemies in order to grandstand and bully. UN Resolution 2334 will not, of itself, change much. But it has thrown a light on the hypocrisy and double dealing of our current political leaders.
Well said, JC editors! It is an extremely important leader precisely because it shows to Obama, Kerry and the UN that support for Israel is bi-partisan. It is not connected to settlements, Jerusalem, or left vs. right politics.
It is a matter of natural justice, historical and legal rights, and religious freedom for everyone – including the Jewish People in their homeland.