Alex Salmond 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron took a highly unusual
step. Meeting with visiting PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Her
Majesty's Government departed from the usual diplomatic blather and went out of
his way to underline his insistence on a two- state solution for the Israel-
"Britain," he said, "wants to see a two-state
solution come about. We are passionate about this; we do everything we can to
push and promote this agenda at every available opportunity."
was matched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who accused the Jewish state of
carrying out "deliberate vandalism" by building homes for Jews in Judea and
Samaria. "The continued existence of illegal settlements risks making facts on
the ground such that a two-state solution becomes unviable," said Clegg with an
amused Abbas at his side.
How nice it is to see that Britain's top
officials are so adamant about the right to self-determination and the principle
that nations should be able to freely choose their form of political affiliation
and assert their national sovereignty. With a growing national independence
movement right there in the United Kingdom (or, should I say, in the
not-so-united Kingdom), I guess we should now expect to hear similar statements
by the Cameron government regarding Scottish independence.
TO BE SURE,
the independence movement is gathering steam in Scotland. Last week, Scottish
First Minister Alex Salmond said that Scotland's government would hold a
referendum on independence in the autumn of 2014. The date coincides with the
700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, when Scottish armies defeated
After centuries of tension, Scotland and England joined
together with the Treaty of Union in January 1707. But Scottish nationalists
have long suspected that the balloting on unification was less than pure and
that those who supported the move had been bribed to vote in favor. As
Scotland's most famous poet, Robert Burns, put it, "We are bought and sold for
English gold. Such a parcel of rogues in a nation."
But the dream of Scottish
autonomy did not die, and after a vote in September 1997, the Scottish
Parliament convened in July 1999 for the first time in centuries, with the
British government transferring various powers to Scottish
Today, 13 years later, not all Scots are satisfied with the
greater autonomy they currently enjoy, and Salmond hopes to build support for a
complete and historic break with the English.
In light of the British
government's pronounced backing for the Palestinians' right to determine their
own political fate, one would have expected a similar openness to the idea of
Scottish self- determination.
Incredibly, that has not proven to be the
case. While Cameron has agreed to give the Scottish parliament temporary powers
to hold a vote, he wants it done on his terms. He has demanded the vote be held
as soon as possible and insists on the right to approve the wording of the
yes-or-no referendum question that will be put to Scottish
Moreover, in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph on January 8,
the British premier made clear that he does not think Scotland should secede. "I
don't want to be Prime Minister of England, I want to be Prime Minister of the
whole of the United Kingdom," he said, describing himself as a "passionate
believer" - there is that term again - in a united Great Britain.
WHICH is it, Mr. Cameron? Are you really all that passionate about the principle
of self-determination? Shouldn't it be left to the Scots to decide when and how
they will determine their own national destiny? Or does your passion only apply
to the Palestinians?
Put simply, the British are trying to have it both ways,
insisting that Israel give the Palestinians unfettered freedom on their own
terms, even as they apply a very different standard in their own Scottish
This outlandish and transparent double-standard only serves to
undermine the integrity of Britain's stance. Indeed, speaking about the
Middle East, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned a few months ago
that, "'The consequences of failing to arrive at a two-state solution could be
catastrophic. so we have to keep trying."
The same could be said of Scotland and
England, where uncertainty over the future of the UK will do nothing to help
Britain climb out of its deepening recession.
Before preaching to Israel,
London would do well to put its own house in order and let the Scots go free,
should they choose. As Winston Churchill once noted, "It is always easier to
discover and proclaim general principles than to apply them."
That is a lesson
that David Cameron apparently has yet to learn.
The writer is Chairman of
Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish
communities seeking to return to the Jewish people