David Cameron looking both ways

British PM apparently believed that by condemning Israel, he could curry favor with Turkey.

Cameron red face 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Cameron red face 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
British Prime Minister David Cameron raised diplomatic eyebrows the other day when he accused Pakistan of “looking both ways on exporting terrorism.”
This may well be true, but a few days before, in Turkey, it was Cameron himself who was looking both ways, condemning Israel for the way it had dealt with the “humanitarian” flotilla to Gaza and equating the Strip to a “prison camp” (never mind that a state of the art shopping mall had just been opened there with great fanfare and that a number of new seaside tourist resorts are being inaugurated).
Cameron recently found himself in an embarrassing situation when he made an erroneous statement about Britain’s World War II history, so perhaps one shouldn’t judge him too harshly for mis-speaking about the complicated issues in the Middle East, including the situation in Gaza.
Be this as it may, he then paid a brief visit to Washington in order to try to extricate his country from the public relations disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (his efforts were not helped by the revelation that BP had been instrumental in getting the Libyan terrorist responsible for the Lockerbie outrage, in which 270 passengers on a Pan Am flight lost their lives, out of jail and flown back to Libya a free man).
AND FROM Washington to Ankara. After all, Britain does have important political and economic interests in Turkey – so, someone may have advised Cameron, why not engage in a bit of Israel-bashing there, which seems to go down rather well with Turkey’s present Islamic regime? Though Britain has in recent years experienced grievous terrorist attacks on its own soil and is still very much a potential target of jihadi violence, the British PM and his advisers apparently believe that by condemning Israel whose civilian population is under constant threat from terrorists (at the time of writing, a medium-range missile launched in the Gaza strip hit Ashkelon, causing severe damage to property, but, fortunately, no casualties) he could curry favor with Erdogan – as well as buy “protection” against terrorism in his own country. Or was he just cynically “looking both ways” when he stated that “the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable”? Nor will this make Britain more popular in America. Even the Financial Times, more often than not critical of Israel, has faulted Cameron for making these statements, attacking third countries in public, adding that he may be accused of “sucking up to his audience.”
Others have blamed him for inexperience, and as the FT also remarked in its editorial, Cameron “has failed to grasp that it is impossible to segment a message in a networked world.”
But reality may be even more ominous. Britain in recent years has become a hotbed of anti- Israel activities, often with anti-Semitic overtones.
Its outgoing prime minister, Gordon Brown, had valiantly, though not always successfully, fought against this dangerous – dangerous to Britain itself – trend and one hopes that David Cameron isn’t indifferent to those blatant expressions of bigotry either.IN AN important recently released book, Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England, Anthony Julius has described the long history of Jew-hatred in the British Isles. Harold Bloom, America’s most prominent and formidable literary critic and commentator, in his extraordinarily cogent review of the book has pointed out in the New York Times Book Review that “the English literary and academic establishment essentially opposes the right of the state of Israel to exist, while indulging in the humbuggery that its anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism”.
To be fair, there is also another, more decent, side to Britain, and the Churchills, the Balfours, the Crossmans are bound to outshine the Chamberlains, the Macdonalds, the Bevins (and the Mosleys) and their present-day imitators and followers on the Left and the Right.
It is up to David Cameron to decide with whom he will choose to be compared by history.
The writer is the former Israel Ambassador to the US, and currently heads the Prime Minister’s forum of US-Israel Relations.