Editorial: Britain's pro-Israel pivot

The strong UK statement against the UNHRC resolutions comes just days after London was hit by a murderous terrorist attack carried out by a lone-wolf assailant inspired by an Islamist ideology.

March 27, 2017 09:11
3 minute read.
netanyahu may

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, in London, February 6, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 on December 23 was a low point in Israel’s relations, not just with the US, but also with Britain.

The UK was said to have played a key role in drafting and passing the resolution that describes Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.”

At the time, the Jewish Chronicle quoted an unnamed British political source who claimed the UK’s “yes” vote was part of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s new strategy toward Israel, according to which the Jewish state’s friends have to take a stand against settlements for Israel’s own good.

What seemed to be a continuation of this hardline policy against Israel was Britain’s backing of a French-hosted Middle East conference that took place on January 15 that was seen by Israel as an attempt to force upon it a territorial arrangement with the Palestinians.

But, it has emerged since that Britain’s December vote in the UN Security Council was not an accurate reflection of British policy toward Israel.

Since Resolution 2334, May’s government has made a concerted effort to demonstrate to Israel and the world that it will be adopting a more pro-Israel stance.
UN Security Council passes resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building

The latest example of this change was Britain’s stand against yet another slanted anti-Israel vote by members of the UN.

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council adopted five resolutions critical of Israel. In response, the UK issued the following statement: “We are putting the Human Rights Council on notice. If things do not change, in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories.”

Britain was voicing its displeasure with a particularly outrageous resolution, even according to the UN’s notoriously low standards. A 47-member council singled out Israel for human rights abuses in the “occupied Syrian Golan” while ignoring the Assad regime’s slaughter of civilians, including the dropping of barrel bombs and chlorine bombs on city centers and the egregious use of torture.

“Nowhere is the disproportionate focus on Israel starker and more absurd than in the case of today’s resolution on the occupation of Syria’s Golan,” the UK statement read.

“Syria’s regime butchers and murders its people on a daily basis. But it is not Syria that is a permanent standing item on the Council’s agenda; it is Israel.

“We cannot accept the perverse message sent out by a Syrian Golan resolution that singles out Israel as Assad continues to slaughter the Syrian people,” it said.

The strong UK statement against the UNHRC resolutions comes just days after London was hit by a murderous terrorist attack carried out by a lone-wolf assailant inspired by an Islamist ideology. Like attacks in Jerusalem, the London terrorist used his car to ram into innocent pedestrians and then used a knife to continue his killing spree.

But even before this latest terrorist attack on British soil, May’s government had signaled a change for the better in its policy vis-a-vis Israel.

When then-US secretary of state John Kerry launched a withering attack against the Netanyahu government just days after the vote on Resolution 2334, a spokesman for May said: “We do not believe it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The government believes negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

The Brits’ pivot toward Israel might be partly the result of a realization that both countries face similar challenges – while Israel faces Palestinian terrorism, the British are coping with a growing Muslim population that includes many who reject western culture and values and even a small percentage that advocates violence and terrorism. It might also be connected to a perceived change in the US’s relations with Israel under the Trump administration.

Whatever the cause, since the passage of Resolution 2334, Britain, under the leadership of May, has made a concerted effort to make it clear that its December vote does not accurately reflect the British stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We welcome this change and encourage other western countries to join Britain in combating Israel’s unfair treatment at the UN.

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