POLITICAL commentators sought new superlatives in 2016 to describe the astonishment value of victory for the Leave camp in the EU referendum, followed by Donald Trump’s election as US president.
But no “shock horror” hyperbole for these events could match the bombshell unleashed by Theresa May yesterday. When was the last time a British prime minister disagreed openly over a major issue with a US administration?
White House poodle Tony Blair gave graphic expression to normal US-British relations, telling ambassador Christopher Meyer: “We want you to get up the arse of the White House and stay there.”
May’s rebuke to John Kerry for describing Benjamin Netanyahu’s government accurately as Israel’s “most right wing in history” provides eloquent testimony that Barack Obama’s administration has passed its sell-by date. Her apparent show of national independence is merely a device to impress Trump.
The president-elect has shown through rhetoric and nominations for office that he will agree with whatever Netanyahu and his coalition of anti-Arab racists and zionist expansionists propose.
President Obama promised in 2008 to be more even-handed but swallowed in the face of hostility from the Israeli government and the massed ranks of the US Congress. Obama’s decision to order abstention on a UN resolution critical of Israel and to let Kerry tell Netanyahu his fortune was born of frustration and wounded pride.
Netanyahu viewed Kerry’s speech, predictably, as a knife in Israel’s back, while Tory MP and Commons foreign affairs committee chairman Crispin Blunt called it “completely on the money.”
Blunt was right. The worst mistake is to understand the US Secretary of State’s comments as pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel. His priority is to defend what he sees as Israel’s long-term interests, which he understands as a two-state solution in which Israel retains as much of the land it occupied in 1967 as possible and enjoys such military, diplomatic and economic superiority as to dictate to its neighbouring “sovereign” Palestinian state.
Netanyahu is so intoxicated by the persuasive nature of Israel’s military prowess, shored up by the US, that he accepts no limits to expansion of West Bank settlements, Jews-only housing and roads, monopolisation of water resources and consequent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians through drought, water-borne diseases, poverty, house demolitions and expulsions.
Kerry’s crime was to recognise that the emperor has no clothes, that neither the Palestinians nor the rest of the world will countenance that scenario in perpetuity.
He stressed that agreeing a two-state solution now, while the Palestinian Authority is weak and without authority, is Israel’s best bet rather than driving a single-state solution in which Jews rapidly become a minority or pursue an endgame denying all rights to Palestinians.
That was the import of Kerry’s reference to Israel having to choose between being Jewish or democratic. Theresa May’s efforts to ingratiate herself with Trump and Netanyahu make it incumbent on her, in light of her ritual reference to a two-state solution, to explain where she expects a Palestinian state to be situated.
At one time, Israeli leaders paid lip service to the limits of their state being the pre-1967 borders, but that was long ago.
If the international community is sincere in its assertions that Israel’s West Bank settlements are illegal, how, short of a sanctions regime, does it propose to persuade Tel Aviv to remove them?
The Palestinian people deserve better in 2017 than to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s six-day war of aggression with bucketfuls of sympathy and no justice.