Why Britain's Euro referendum matters to Israel

 SCANNING the headlines in the British Press these last few days – and particularly the more cerebral titles – The Man In The Moon could be forgiven for thinking civil war had broken out in Shakespeare’s sceptred isle.
The Daily Telegraph, usually the essence of Right-wing propriety, is ranting like a demented, down-market tabloid, while Left-leaning papers are trying hard to avoid appearing overly smug as the ruling Conservative Party is convulsed by infighting between pro and anti-European Union factions.
hat’s at stake is whether the UK stays in the EU or chooses the so-called Brexit option to quit in the referendum called for June 23.
News of the vote’s timing was delivered by a visibly-drained David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister having just returned from marathon talks in Brussels proclaiming he’d won Britain vital ‘opt-outs’ that recognize the country’s ‘special status’ as a semi-detached, off-shore member of the Euro Club.
And – rhetorical query – has it ever been anything but thus, as recalled by a headline in The Times, circa the 1930s, reporting, ‘Fog in Channel – Continent cut off’.
All the same, I’d strongly advise neutrals not to bother digging too deeply into the minutiae of the in/out debate, unless they want a cure for insomnia.
What I will say, though, is the issue of an overarching EU bureaucracy has dogged the British political Right since Margaret Thatcher’s day and nearly scuttled John Major, who, uncharacteristically, once lost his rag and called Euro-skeptics rebels ‘b*****ds’.
But Brits have a reputation for being an independent-minded awkward squad and what they see as interminable meddling by faceless Brussels’ Eurocrats – or Europrats in ‘quitter’ speak – has never sat kindly with them.
Which is why current opinion polls show a marginal tilt towards bidding adieu to the EU, though 25% of the electorate are undecided.
Pollsters’ predictions, however, can be notoriously wonky, never more so than in last year’s British General Election when they forecast another hung parliament.
So, personally, I’d rather trust the bookmakers, who have drastically slashed their odds against a Brexit, based on the wagers they’ve taken favoring the great British public’s preference for better the devil they know than a leap of faith into the dark.
Normally, this little, local difficulty wouldn’t bother anyone other than those immediately involved. Some, though, just can’t help stirring it.
US President Barak Obama – renowned for having one gear on his foreign policy motor: reverse – has waded in, urging Britain to stay in the EU. Ditto Turkey, with a snippet of its huge territory in Europe and a craving to be part of a wannabe EU utopia.
Israel, however, has largely chosen the path of impartiality, that someone else’s squabble is no business of ours. Yet, if any outsider had much to lose by the impact of a Brexit, it’s arguably the Jewish state.
The nation’s relations with Brussels are currently frosty. And that status quo isn’t likely to change unless the omnipotent EU Commission stops buying into the Palestinians’ sob story, begins to understand Israel’s tribulations facing an implacable foe and accepts historical fact.
And, even if Europe’s churlish words are occasionally sugared, there’s no disguising its deeds in pumping untold millions into the pockets of the PA kleptocracy and filling the war-chests of archly anti-Israel NGOs.
Meanwhile, nobody in the EU does downright duplicity quite like France, whose latest wheeze – the handiwork of (now ex) Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius – is to resurrect from the mangled car wrecks of multiple, failed ‘peace processes’ the notion of yet more talks towards a ‘two-state solution’.
At a time when even Obama has given up the ghost of Israel-Palestinian conciliation, if France’s stunt wasn’t crass enough, it has waved a big stick at Israel, threatening to recognize Palestine if agreement wasn’t reached within four years.
All of which has been music to Mahmoud Abbas’s ears, since the PA boss knows he can bluster until the clock runs down and still get his ‘statelet’.
Small wonder the Israeli government reaction could best be summarized as telling France: ‘Stick to making smelly cheese.’
Not that Jews need reminders of French perfidy passé.
As Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris and author of 27 books on Europe, recent wrote of his nation: ‘France today is one of the main enemies of Israel – maybe its main enemy – in the Western world. France’s disregard of the threats faced by Israel is more than simple wilful blindness. It is complicity.
‘At a time when Abbas constantly encourages terror and hatred against Israel, and when murders of Israeli Jews by Palestinian Arabs occur on a daily basis, France's anti-Israel relentlessness can only be seen as the latest extension of France’s centuries-old anti-Semitism.’
Against this backdrop of entrenched EU animus towards the Jewish state, Britain has brought to bear on Brussels a greater measure of objectivity over Israel’s rights and few have been stauncher allies than David Cameron.
Yes, from time to time, the UK premier parrots mainstream EU pap, rapping Israel for ‘illegal’ West Bank settlements.
In the House of Commons last week, he went even further and criticized ‘construction in East Jerusalem’, which prompted Bibi Netanyahu to respond, ‘My friend David Cameron, who is undoubtedly a friend of Israel, probably forgot some basic facts about Jerusalem.
‘Only Israeli sovereignty is preventing Isis and Hamas from setting fire to the holy sites in the city, like they do elsewhere across the Middle East.
‘Only Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem guarantees the rule of law for everyone, something that doesn’t exist in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya or other wide parts of the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority and also Gaza.’
Cameron, however, continues to describe ties between his Conservative Party and the Jewish state as ‘unbreakable’.
Immensely proud of his Jewish heritage – one of his ancestors was a German Jewish migrant to Britain and another was Elijah Levita, who, Cameron told the Knesset in 2014, reputedly wrote the first Yiddish novel – he mirrors the sentiments of his immediate predecessors, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, in displaying a greater regard for Israel than most EU heads put together.
And the most recent demonstration of that was Cameron’s announcement to stop local councils from backing the Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment movement, prompting BDS hard-liner, Riya Hassan to rail, ‘This is the most pro-Israel UK government in a generation.’
So, should a Brexit vote win the June referendum, the loss of Cameron’s voice of reason at the EU’s high table could impact badly against Israel.
There’s much, then, for Israelis to hope the bookmakers, not the pollsters, are right.