Befuddled Britain

It was encouraging to hear British Prime Minister David Cameron voice his unequivocal support for Israel.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
May 6, 2011 16:16
4 minute read.
Netanyahu and Cameron in London, Wednesday.

netanyahu and cameron_311. (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

It was encouraging to hear British Prime Minister David Cameron voice his unequivocal support for Israel, during Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday.

“Britain is a good friend of Israel and our support for Israel and Israel’s security is unshakable,” declared Cameron.

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Unfortunately, Cameron was worryingly vague regarding his position on the new Fatah-Hamas unity deal. True, contrary to initial reports, Cameron did say that the Palestinians must accept the principles of the Mideast Quartet – the US, UN, Russia and the EU – as the basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Cameron said that any new Palestinian government must reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and engage in the peace process, and that Britain would judge it by its actions.

However, Cameron’s reiteration of the Quartet conditions is grossly inadequate. Hamas repeatedly and outspokenly rejects Israel’s right to exist. And just days ago, far from signaling the faintest intention to moderate, the terrorist organization attempted to convince Fatah to rescind its recognition of Israel as well. Hamas also continues to engage in lethal terror attacks. A Hamas missile attack on a clearly marked school bus on April 7 – which resulted in the death 10 days later of Daniel Viflic, 16, from head wounds he sustained – is just one recent example.

One wonders, therefore, what additional Hamas “actions” must be “judged” before Britain, and the rest of the international community for that matter, reach the conclusion that any Palestinian government that willingly includes Hamas as an equal partner has sacrificed its legitimacy.

Another testament to Britain’s underinformed and unrealistic policy on Israel and the Palestinians, if true, is the report that Cameron tried to pressure Netanyahu during their meeting to return to negotiations with the Palestinians. According to an anonymous British diplomatic source quoted by The Guardian, Cameron warned Netanyahu that the British might support a September UN declaration recognizing a Palestinian state on the basis of the June 4, 1967, lines. Britain’s threat to support the declaration was described as a “lever” over Israel to pressure it into coming back to talks with the Palestinian leadership.

Apparently, the British government doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, that Netanyahu has been consistently imploring PA President Mahmoud Abbas to enter substantive talks with him, and took the unprecedented step of freezing West Bank settlement construction for 10 months in 2009-2010 in order to facilitate such negotiations, to no avail.

Now, in the wake of the Palestinian “reconciliation” accord, it is simply risible for Britain to put pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians while at the same time demanding that “any new Palestinian government... reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and engage in the peace process,” when it is obvious that Hamas has no intention of fulfilling any of these conditions.

Sadly, albeit far from uniquely, Britain has failed to show the moral courage to unequivocally denounce the Fatah-Hamas unity deal as both illegitimate and as the obstacle it emphatically constitutes to a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.

The conservative British government may well truly consider itself a friend of Israel. But, like its Gordon Brown-led Labor predecessor, its unhelpful actions speak louder than its reassuring words. Brown’s Britain failed to oppose the despicably skewed Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead. Now, Cameron’s Britain fails to condemn Abbas’s partnership with the murderers of Hamas.

Despite promises to the contrary, furthermore, Conservative- led Britain has still failed to amend a universal jurisdiction law that permits pro-Palestinian NGOs to bring lawsuits against Israeli politicians and military personnel for purported war crimes. Back in December 2009, shortly after a warrant was issued for opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who served as foreign minister during Cast Lead, then-foreign secretary David Miliband expressed “shock” at the warrant, and promised to work immediately to undo the law. Nothing was done. In July last year, two months after the present British government took power, Israeli officials lauded its announcement of plans to amend the law.

Yet although the amendment process has finally begun, on Wednesday, Maj.-Gen. Yochanan Locker, an integral member of Netanyahu’s circle of advisers, preferred to remain in Israel rather than risk arrest in London. Locker, who was deputy head of the Israel Air Force during Cast Lead, was concerned that he might be arrested on charges of “war crimes” – and no matter that Richard Goldstone, the judge who “legitimized” war crimes allegations against Israel in connection with that offensive, has since withdrawn his most potent charges and acknowledged that Israel did not deliberately target civilians as it sought to smash the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

In the Britain of 2011, Israeli officers and politicians, whose “crime” is defending their country, still face being treated like war criminals. But proven killers, avowedly bent on the destruction of Israel, are given the benefit of the doubt.


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