There is a parallel, I think, between the British Prime Minister's visit to Washington and the Israeli Prime Minister's visit to London. Both visitors, I venture to suggest, were looking for help from someone they don't actually like. Well, naturally Theresa May doesn't like Donald Trump, because who does? She had to go, but I should not have liked to have been in her shoes. Enough said about that.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been to my country, the UK, to make friends with the woman who tried to make friends with Trump. It's a game politicians play, and good luck to them. As I say, rather them than me.

Netanyahu, I suspect, has a better understanding of the relationship, historical and current, between Israel and Britain that Mrs May does. Israel is perhaps barely on her radar at all. She has the EU to worry about, and then there is the US, and on top of that her country is in a horrible mess, which is something politicians are paid to sort out, and along comes the Prime Minister of Israel, a country she surely knows very little about and probably cares less about, and she is expected to DO SOMETHING.

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Which is tricky, when her own Foreign Office have just engineered a hostile vote against her visitor's country in the United Nations. What did she say to Mr Netanyahu about that one? I'm sorry, but my hands were tied?



I have little doubt that Mrs May believes what she says, that the 'settlements' are the problem. The Middle East is a completely intractable problem, and so I do understand that she would like to pin it all on this one issue rather than actually address what is going on. It's not very intelligent, but we are, remember, talking about politics.

So much for Britain's ignorance, wilful or otherwise, but there is another issue which I suspect Mrs May and her advisers really don't get, and it's a little thing called history. If I were Mr Netanyahu, or any Israeli politician, or indeed any Israeli at all, I am fairly sure I know what my attitude to the former Mandate power would be, and it's something like this: the UK is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I could write endlessly about why that is but I'm not going to iterate what has been said so many times already. I should like instead to address one particular issue, one problem, if you will, that actually fails to get a fair hearing. It's Jordan.

In 1921 Great Britain unilaterally cut Palestine in two unequal parts and gave the far larger part to the Palestinian Arabs for their national homeland, a fact that is never mentioned in discussion of how 'Palestine' should be shared between Jews and Arabs. That was Britain's doing, and it was shameful. What was equally shameful, or perhaps I mean more shameful, was that Britain then backed the army of Transjordan, the Arab Legion, with money, arms, training and officers (headed by General Sir John Glubb – Glubb Pasha) against the new State of Israel. Why this is never discussed I simply don't know, but British Jews live in a country that effectively went to war against the State of Israel. The fact has been swept under the carpet, but it hasn't gone away. How could it?

I have very little doubt that Mr Netanyahu has a clear understanding of the UK's culpability. Theresa May makes all the right noises, but she is the Prime Minister of a country that Israel has absolutely no reason to trust, both because of the history and because of current hostility. Making the right noises is all very nice, but it is dishonest. The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, may not be very bright but he is at least honest (he can afford to be, he's not the PM). He despises Israel and he says so.

Mrs May, conveniently, I am sure, buys into the Zeitgeist, that with the Middle East in flames, with half a million dead in Syria, with the old cold war enemies facing up to each other in the region, Israel is in some way everyone's problem. It's convenient, because it's easier to make the right noises about 'the settlements' than actually contribute anything meaningful about the mayhem in the Middle East, but it is dim-witted and it is dishonest.

There is, though, one more thing I should like to say on this subject. It is not simply that the UK has no right to hector Israel because it is the former mandatory power with all I have been saying here, it has no right to hector Israel because, and this might come as a shock to Mrs May and her Foreign Office mandarins, Israel is a sovereign state. It is not Britain's problem. It is not even in Europe (it's not the European Union's problem either, but more of that another time perhaps). The United Kingdom, as I said, has horrendous problems of its own. Mrs May is not going to resolve those problems, because she can't. She simply doesn't know how to. So I need hardly say, then, but I shall, she cannot resolve the problem of the Palestinians. Nothing, absolutely nothing, she says or does is ever going to help them at all. They might think it will, but it won't. They might think that if the UK is seen to support them this will somehow bring about a Palestinian state but they are sadly deluded.

The establishment of a Palestinian state is not something the British Prime Minister, or even the United States President, is ever going to bring about. Not even Israel has the power to create a Palestinian state. The only people who can do that are the Palestinians, because they are the people who rejected it when it was offered to them. So Mrs May haranguing the Israeli Prime Minister on the matter is not only a waste of her time and his, it shows a worrying lack of understanding of the realities. Israel cannot be bullied by Britain, and Israel cannot create Palestine.

Which leaves me to finish by asking my Prime Minister for just one thing, which is that she should spend her time and presumed abilities on the problems she was elected to resolve, those of the United Kingdom. Or to put it another way, to mind her own business.

 


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