What are Dominic Raab's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Johnson names Raab as top diplomat, and two other ministers with close knowledge of Israel.

By
July 25, 2019 18:33
What are Dominic Raab's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Dominic Raab walks up Downing Street, London, Britain, November 13, 2018.. (photo credit: PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS)

Britain's new Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, is an Oxford and Cambridge educated lawyer who does not hesitate to criticize Israel, but who has shown he understands the complexity of the conflict here, and for whom the rise of antisemitism in Britain is personal.

Raab's father was a Jewish Czech refugee who fled the Nazis with his family in 1938 and came to Britain at the age of six.


In a personal video he posted on Twitter in June regarding the failure of Labor party head Jeremy Corbyn to address antisemitism in his  party, Raab said his father lost his grandparents and most of his relatives in the Holocaust.
His father, he said, learned English, went to grammar school, became a food manager at Marks & Spencer and “married a clothing buyer, Church of England girl from Bromley. But he never forgot what happened to his family.”


In the late 1990s, Raab -- The former secretry in charge of Brexit, who quit in November in protest against Theresa May’s Brexit plan -- studied for a summer at Birzeit  University near Ramallah, and worked for a Palestinian negotiator, assessing World Bank projects in the West Bank.


He referenced this experience in a blog entry he posted in 2010, after the Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turks were killed when trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza.


“Shocked, I sat sweltering in a classroom at Birzeit University,” he wrote. “I was out on the West Bank, in the summer of 1998, studying the Arab-Israeli conflict and working for a Palestinian negotiator from the Oslo peace process. A Palestinian lecturer was asking students provocative questions about the conflict. He paused, and asked the Palestinians present: if you could, who would prefer just to drive all the Israelis into the sea? The overwhelming majority of hands shot up instantly.”


In the nuanced post, Raab wrote that his experience “chimed with a long-held Israel gripe” that Yasser Arafat had “done little to sell the [Oslo accords} deal –or the compromises involved – to the Palestinian people, and scarcely looked any more serious about delivering his promise of security to Israel.


“The average Palestinian I met had far more direct experience of Arafat’s venal regime than Israeli brutality – the university lecturer quipped that he had been imprisoned by the Israelis, but tortured by the Palestinian Authority – a fact that fuelled the rise of Hamas on a ticket of honest government, welfare for the needy and wiping Israel off the map,” he wrote.


He added that, “none of this excuses the actions of Israel – whether illegal settlement building in the West Bank, or this week’s raid on the Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying aid to the Gaza strip, which resulted in tragic loss of life. But, it helps explain their stubbornness.”


Raab wrote that there “is no question” that the maritime blockade of Gaza was legitimate, and that “there is no doubt that Israel has a right of self defence against Hamas, a terrorist group, running the gaza Strip. The real issue is whether Israel could have achieved its legitimate aims, without killing nine people on board the Mavi Marmara.”


He then concluded: “Whatever the legalities of blockades, however powerful Israel may be militarily, the country is losing the struggle for moral authority – and, with it, US goodwill. Utopian dreams of peace and reconciliation between old foes in the Middle East have never looked so distant. But, even realpolitik suggests Israel must find a way to extricate herself from a conflict that saps her strength, and compounds her isolation.”


In 2011 he came out against recognizing a Palestinian state,  saying, “Voting for a Palestinian state at the United Nations risks entrenching intransigence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace requires political leadership, not a legal mirage.”


In 2013, Raab wrote in favor of the West supporting Muslim Brotherhood's Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, a leader deposed by  Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who Jerusalem has come to view as a godsend.


“For all his flaws, Morsi had a mandate, wanted to prise away the military grip over government, and helped broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas last year. For all the fears of theocratic revolution under the new constitution, Morsi had done little to expand sharia in practice,” he said at the time, 


And last year, in a BBC program following the “Nakba Day” riots along the Gaza fence the day the US embassy moved to Jerusalem, Raab condemned the Israeli  response that led to 60 Palestinian deaths, the vast majority Hamas operatives, calling it “deeply, deeply troubling” and “a totally disproportionate use of force.” According to a Washington Examiner report, he suggested that “sanctions” against Israel might be necessary.


Boris Johnson, the new, strongly pro-Israel prime minister  for whom Raab will now work, was the foreign secretary at the time and said following that incident that “we are extremely saddened by the loss of life that has taken place and we understand that some have been provoking that violence but on the other hand there has got to be restraint in the use of live rounds.”


Johnson named two other senior ministers to his cabinet who have a history with Israel.


Sajid Javid, who served as Home Secretary under Theresa May, was named Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his fomer position will be taken up by Priti Patel.


Javid was in Israel earlier this month and was the first British minister to visit the Western Wall in 19 years.


Javid is considered one of Israel's strongest supporters inside the Conservative Party. He is the son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants who is married to a Christian wife with whom he honeymooned in Israel.


His successor as Home Secretary is Patel, who was forced to resign two years ago as Secretary of State for International Development after holding unofficial meetings in Israel with a number of senior officials – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – during a private holiday.


Patel visited a field hospital on the Golan Heights treating victims of the civil war in Syria, and made inquiries in her office whether British money could be sent to assist these activities.


She was forced to resign after being accused of conducting an independent foreign policy. Britain's policy is that ministers must receive permission from the Foreign Office before meeting foreign leaders.


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