Britain and Israel: No more carrots



ORLANDO CROWCROFT | AFP

Published — Tuesday 4 December 2012

Last update 4 December 2012 3:19 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

LONDON: Britain’s very public outrage over Israeli plans to build settlements in east Jerusalem in the wake of Palestine’s United Nations (UN) victory marks a distinct change in UK policy toward Tel Aviv.
It comes mere days after Britain dropped its UN opposition to Palestinian efforts to upgrade the country’s status – abstaining, rather than voting no, on a resolution to classify Palestine as a ‘non-member state’ – and weeks after the UK openly supported Israel actions in Gaza, placing the blame firmly at the feet of Hamas even as the death toll from Israeli shelling spiraled.
Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that 3,000 new homes would be built in E1, effectively cutting the West Bank off from East Jerusalem, has even prompted speculation that Britain would consider recalling its ambassador in Tel Aviv. An unprecedented threat, even if Prime Minister David Cameron quickly played it down yesterday.
In a statement issued Saturday, a day after Netanyahu’s announcement, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “We deplore the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block. This threatens the viability of the two-state solution.
“We have called on the Israeli government to reverse this decision,” it added, revealing that the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, had been summoned to a meeting with Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt.
In the wake of the statement, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that not just Britain, but France had considered recalling their ambassadors in Tel Aviv. A spokesman for Cameron, however, appeared to rule that out in a press conference yesterday, saying: “We are not proposing to do that.”
Despite the denial, it is clear that Britain’s anger is real. A statement from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv has expressly criticized Israel’s punitive response to Palestine’s UN victory – which has also seen Israel deny the Palestinian Authority $100 million in taxes that it collects in the West Bank on the PA’s behalf.
“Strong reaction(s) to Thursday’s UNGA resolution undermine(s) the prospects for negotiations and efforts to build a strong foundation for the peace process,” the statement said.
“It may become the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Hugh Lovatt, Israel/Palestine project coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Arab News.
Lovatt said that the change in tack is partly a result of British dissatisfaction with the US in its failure to engage in the Israel-Palestine peace process. In the run up to the UN vote, he says, there was a “flurry” or activity from Britain and the EU urging the Americans to engage, but this came to nothing. Even now, in the wake of the vote, recent statements by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice seem to preclude the possibility of progress.
“Faced with this situation, it falls to the EU – and most especially Britain, France and Germany — to take the lead, something which they look increasingly set to do,” said Lovatt. “The unprecedented and forceful reaction taken by Britain seems to indicate that it is now prepared to introduce a stick into its relations with Israel to complement the already abundant EU carrots.”
But as British attitudes have hardened toward Israel, so have European, as a comparison of the last week’s UN vote and the UNESCO vote in 2011 reveals. Germany, the Netherlands and Lithuania, who previously voted no, abstained while Italy, Portugal, Denmark and Switzerland moved from abstain to yes. Sweden switched its vote from no to yes.
It comes as the results of a YouGov poll revealed that an overwhelming majority – as high as 86 percent in Germany and 59 percent in Britain – supports Palestinian statehood. Increasingly, it looks like the US and Israel is being left out in the cold, while Palestine is developing powerful allies in Europe.
Both the poll and the vote also came before the recent settlement announcement, which will only serve to isolate Israel further in Europe. Tel Aviv had previously agreed to a freeze on settlements with the EU, which is considered illegal under international law and a deal-breaker for the Palestinian Authority, which has long refused to begin peace talks with Israel until the construction is stopped.
“It will have tremendous consequences for Israel,” said Lovatt. “Unless it is immediately rescinded such a move will likely lose it considerable good will amongst previously supportive EU member states.
“This move also comes at a time when the EU is debating possible action against Israeli settlements. While any unanimous decision seemed unlikely until now, Israeli actions will all but guaranty a strong EU response.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Kingdom and New Zealand have signed an air services agreement to set a comprehensive regulatory framework for air transport, operating on a safe and organized basis.The deal was signed at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) he...
RIYADH: Education Minister Ahmed Al-Issa has called on teachers, educators and other officials of his ministry to work hard for the common goal of producing quality graduates. “I urge you to do your level best in transmitting knowledge to the student...
AL-AHSA: Uncoordinated production resources, lack of risk planning, evaluation, non-study of similar projects and poor planning are among the reasons for failure of projects, an expert has said.“Total quality management (TQM) is an integrated scienti...
JEDDAH: The Specialized Criminal Court has issued its verdict against two Saudis for terrorism-related offenses and for supporting extremist groups, a local daily has reported.The court issued a prison sentence of ten and a half years to the first de...
RIYADH: The second phase of the operation on a Polish child for a genetic heart disease was successfully performed at the King Abdulaziz Medical City (KAMC) of the National Guard Health Affairs on Wednesday. On a directive from Custodian of the Two H...
JEDDAH: A new breast cancer treatment improves survival rates by an average 20 percent, with life expectancy lengthened by 29.9 months.This is according to Ahmed Al-Wabari, breast oncology consultant at King Fahd Specialist Hospital in Dammam, who ou...
RIYADH: The projects of Saudi students at the Technical Trainers College (TTC) is being showcased at the German pavilion in the 30th Janadriyah Festival. With the slogan “Welcome to Your Future”, the TTC is participating in the festival with Germany...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Labor has urged firms to immediately start implementing the 10th phase of the Wage Protection System before it becomes mandatory on March 31.Mohammed Al-Faleh, assistant undersecretary for inspection and development of the wor...
RIYADH: As many as 104 antique items that have come from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, have gone on display at the National Museum here. The exhibition coincides the Janadriyah festival for heritage and culture.According to local media, the...
RIYADH: A visiting Kuwaiti delegation has praised Saudi Arabia for collecting and preserving various heritage items at the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center in Riyadh.The delegation, led by Kuwait’s Education Minister Bader Al-Essa, was given a tour...
RIYADH: Road security forces in Madinah apprehended two Asian expats who were caught in possession of a huge amount of money totaling SR1.6 million and talismans.“The two Asians were riding in a Japanese-made car when they were stopped at the Yanbu-...
RIYADH: Good news for the 25,000 British expatriates in the Kingdom, who will get their franchise to participate in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.In an announcement on Thursday, the British Embassy here said that the Uni...
JEDDAH: Jeddah Municipality, with cooperation of the Check Safety First British company, launched an award of excellence for services in restaurants under the name E-Cristal to support the establishment of best services in restaurants and eatery shop...
JEDDAH: Well-known Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan married Safa Baig, an Indian woman, who was born in Jeddah and raised here by her Hyderabadi parents.The marriage was solemnized at a simple ceremony at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Wednesday. Only a...
RIYADH: The Ministries of Interior and Islamic Affairs are considering appointing security guards at all the mosques in the Kingdom where Friday prayers are held.The move comes as a precautionary and regulatory measure to protect the mosques from at...

Stay Connected

Facebook