Middle Israel: Britain’s twin divorces

Armed with the parliamentary majority and ideological motivation that his predecessor lacked, Johnson will complete Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attend the State Opening of Parliament in London (photo credit: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/REUTERS)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attend the State Opening of Parliament in London
(photo credit: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/REUTERS)
"When your enemy falls do not rejoice,” said King Solomon, but Jews worldwide couldn’t help rejoicing this week, faced with Jeremy Corbyn’s fate.
Britain last week divorced two spouses, but before we get to the more important of the two – Europe – a few words about the man the Brits just chased away from 10 Downing Street’s threshold.
The fallen Labour leader’s affront to us in a speech earlier this decade, in the presence of “thankfully silent Zionists,” that they “don’t understand English irony,” has now been replied by 37 million Brits – 68% of the turnout – who did not vote Corbyn.
Now the British irony we were not supposed to get is that this self-declared friend of Hezbollah and Hamas, the one who doubted English Zionists’ Englishness, is the one who proved to misunderstand Britain.
Even more importantly, Britain’s Jews responded to Corbyn’s challenge the way European Jews seldom did previously in such situations: they attacked.
Rather than excuse Corbyn’s conduct as unintended or taken out of context, British Jewry went to war, deploying all its guns: from Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who warned in The Times of Labour’s “poisoning from the top”; through MP Louise Ellman, who ended her 55-year membership in Labour; to the three Jewish newspapers, which ran a joint front page warning of “an existential threat to Jewish life” in Britain.
Britain’s election thus provided one lesson to non-Jewish politicians, who will think twice before setting out to impress Muslim voters by abusing their Jewish neighbors, and another lesson to Diaspora Jews, who were served a reminder that turning the other cheek is not only no Jewish value, but also a bad strategy.
Having said this, the blow British voters dealt antisemitism pales compared with the blow they dealt to the idea of a united Europe.
BORIS JOHNSON has elicited comparisons with Donald Trump – the buffoonery, the hairdo, the womanizing, the lying – yet Johnson is no Trump.
As noted here previously, Johnson speaks French and Italian, has working knowledge of Spanish and German as well as foundations in Latin and Greek, and is an eloquent Oxford graduate who wrote a biography of Churchill and presented TV documentaries on ancient Rome and the Islamic faith. His silliness is a façade behind which lives a thinking man who understands the past and has plans for the future.
Armed with the parliamentary majority and ideological motivation that his predecessor lacked, Johnson will complete Britain’s departure from the European Union and open a new chapter in British history.
That chapter will be driven by the liberal nationalism that he and his voters espouse, and the Eurocrats they face abhor. It will mean that London will first create solid trade deals with Washington, Delhi, Ottawa, Canberra and the rest of the Anglophone world, then with China, Japan, Brazil and all other significant economies.
Vis-à-vis Europe, Johnson would be wise to unilaterally avoid duties on imports from the Continent. Brussels will be unable to reject such a gesture, the markets will welcome it, and the voters who sought Brexit will also not mind, because what they want is their sovereignty’s restoration, not their kingdom’s isolation.
Whatever its mechanics, Britain’s departure from Europe is now irreversible. The EU must therefore take its loss of Britain as a given, and do what its leaders have so far failed to do: search their souls.
HISTORIANS WILL debate what caused Britain’s divorce of Europe, and whether it was inevitable, manipulated, or accidental, but some facts underlying it will be irrefutable, especially these three: that Germany announced its sweeping admission of Syrian refugees in August 2015; that the EU decided to impose on its members refugee quotas in September 2015; and that the British people decided to leave the EU in June 2016.
There will be no arguing that the British public’s vote in 2016 was made under the impression of the two events that happened so soon before it.
Coupled with previous years’ steady erosion of EU states’ judicial independence, millions of Brits felt that the experiment they joined back when it was merely an economic association had spun out of control, and now threatened their personal security and national identity.
Brussels, meanwhile, indulged in mourners’ denial. It negotiated harshly, with its commissioners bandying deadlines to British leaders’ faces in reprimanding tones, as if what drove British diplomats was their personal whim, not the people’s will, and as if the people’s verdict was a nuisance that London was to somehow twist, the way other European governments did when faced with referenda that didn’t go Brussels’s way.
Now the British people spoke even more unambiguously, and Brussels has no choice but to proceed from denial and anger to acceptance.
Yes, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opening of Germany’s doors to refugees was an act of nobility, humility and humanity, and the jury’s verdict concerning its wisdom will take years to arrive. Still, to a critical mass of Europeans, it has been disagreeable, and fatefully so.
With Corbyn gone along with his plan for a repeat referendum, it is too late now for Brussels to repatriate London. Now Brussels should move cautiously and humbly, so that other EU members don’t follow Britain’s lead.
A telling red light in this regard is Poland’s emerging refusal to replace the zloty with the euro, another vestige of European unification’s messianic version. With Britain gone, Poland will be the largest EU economy outside the Eurozone. Its message – economic harmony yes; national retreat no – is much the same as Britain’s, and heeding it will be Europe’s next big test.
Some of Brussels’s mandarins will now begin to revert to this pragmatism, the one originally formulated by Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. Others, like good messianic believers, will await Jeremy Corbyn’s second coming.

The writer’s best-selling Mitz’ad Ha’ivelet Hayehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sfarim, 2019) is a revisionist reading of the Jewish people’s political history.
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