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Editorial: The new British-Israeli pact maintains the dangerous foreign policy delusions of Donald Trump

THE government’s decision to sign a 10-year trade and defence deal with Israel on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People looks like a calculated insult.

Yet student protests at universities around the country show that solidarity is growing, despite Tory bids to ban the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

We should be clear about the thoroughly reactionary purpose of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s European tour. In seeking continued crippling sanctions on Iran, it aims to sabotage talks on reviving the 2015 deal on Iranian nuclear energy development.

Even Britain’s Tory government opposed Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to tear up that deal in 2018. 

Washington’s reimposition of harsh sanctions on Iran, despite Tehran having stuck to the terms of the agreement, was typical of Trump’s contemptuous attitude to international treaties.

It echoed his withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate change or the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. 

That disregard for international law was not particularly novel from the United States, which violated international law regularly under previous presidents whether by unprovoked wars such as that launched on Iraq by George W Bush in 2003 or through the drone assassination programme most identified with Barack Obama.

But it did display an aggressive contempt for the attitudes and interests even of US allies that saw Trump widely condemned by liberal as well as socialist opinion across the West.

The obnoxious braggart in the White House has been replaced by a more collegiate president, but if anything his destructive and inhuman policies have since become normalised.

We see that in the way the EU’s proposed funding for a wall to shut out refugees barely attracts notice in Britain, when Trump’s border wall attracted hostility and mockery in equal measure.

We see it too in the willingness of the monopoly media to take conspiracy theories about Covid being cooked up in a Chinese lab seriously when raised by Joe Biden, though this was dismissed as absurd when aired by Trump.

Socialists should remain focused on the politics rather than the personalities. 

That means opposing punitive sanctions on Iran which United Nations special rapporteur Javaid Rehman pointed out earlier this year have had a devastating impact on that country’s healthcare system, significantly worsening the impact of coronavirus on Iran at a cost of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of lives.

The Trump administration’s heightened aggression against Iran was welcomed by an increasingly hard-right Israeli administration led by Benjamin Netanyahu, just as was its bid to permanently crush aspirations of a viable independent Palestine with a ludicrous “deal” awarding the whole of Jerusalem to Israel.

But Netanyahu, like Trump, is no longer in power and pressure should be put on our government to make it clear to his replacements that egregious violations of international law — whether the murder of Iranian scientists or the demolition of Palestinian neighbourhoods — are crimes with consequences.

Today’s pact does the opposite. That is not surprising and is in line with the whole bent of a Boris Johnson government that saw itself as an outrider for Trump and has repeatedly tried to suppress expressions of solidarity with Palestine, especially in our universities. 

Its supposed fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon — though Iran has always maintained its nuclear programme is for civilian energy purposes — is hypocritical given the decision to massively increase Britain’s warhead stockpile in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

It is a sop to an Israel whose own possession of nuclear weapons makes its stance equally hypocritical, and in undermining rapprochement with Iran makes the Middle East a more dangerous place.

The left and labour movement should condemn Liz Truss’s love-in with Lapid and its negative consequences both for international peace and — with the new pact’s condemnation of protesters against Israeli ambassador to Britain Tzipi Hotolevy as “anti-semitic” — for freedom of speech and solidarity with Palestine over here.

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