Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Israel’s false friend.


by  Melanie Phillips

Five years ago, anti-Israel campaigners tried to arrest the then Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz for 'war crimes' while he was on a visit to London. Melanie Phillips

Since then, a steady stream of senior Israeli officials have either narrowly escaped similar arrest in Britain through diplomatic immunity, or have had to cancel planned visits because such an arrest was all too likely.

In all that time, the government has sat on its hands. Only now that Tzipi Livni has had to cancel her trip to London following an attempt to arrest her over her part in Operation Cast Lead has the British government said it will change the law, probably by making the Attorney-General the gatekeeper for any such arrest attempts.

Why is it only now that the balloon has gone up? One reason is that this is the first time the Israeli government has responded with unbridled fury at Britain. But also, for British diplomats, Livni is 'one of us'. That is because, since she is one of the most appeasement-minded politicians Israel has ever produced, it is considered an affront to try to arrest her, of all people, for her part in warfare.

'Livni supports a two-state solution. This attempt to secure her arrest has really set alarm bells ringing,' a horrified senior Foreign Office source reportedly told the Guardian. The unpleasant implication is that the Foreign Office cares far less about attempts to arrest Israeli politicians with more hawkish views.

This telling remark shows how the Foreign Office circles the wagons when one of its ideological soul-mates is under attack — and is wholly unable to see how the amoral and unprincipled view of the world it believes it shares with Livni may actually be contributing to the problem.

The British refusal to see Israel's predicament as an existential siege, insisting instead that the Middle East impasse is a boundary dispute, perpetuated by Israel's refusal to compromise, is the false analysis fuelling the poisonous atmosphere giving rise to these arrest warrants.

After all, Gordon Brown's government has been displaying the most hostile attitude towards Israel that many in Britain have ever seen.

It is leading a boycott of Israeli goods from the West Bank, singling out its democratic ally Israel for condign punishment that it dishes out to no other country, however tyrannical. It has similarly imposed a limited arms embargo on parts for Israeli warships. It refused to vote against the Hamas-leaning Goldstone report at the UN.

It denounced Cast Lead as disproportionate, thus endorsing Hamas propaganda and effectively denying Israel the right to defend its people against attack. And it supported the vicious Swedish proposal pre-emptively to hand half of Jerusalem to Israel's Arab attackers.

It puts out the false view that Israel is still occupying Gaza and that the settlements are illegal — legally illiterate claims which derive entirely from Britain's time-hallowed policy of sucking up to the Arabs.

Whether or not they are wise or desirable, the settlements are legal, not least because the 1922 mandate for Palestine, whose provisions are still legally binding, laid down that the Jews should have "close settlement" of the land from the Jordan to the sea.

The unpalatable fact is that, ever since the 1920s, when Arab terror first began against the Jewish presence in Palestine, the British responded by appeasing it and reneging on its own treaty obligations, thus giving such terrorism every incentive to continue.

That despicable tradition continues today in Brown's government, even as it claims that Israel is Britain's "strategic partner and close friend".

In fact, its hostility has contributed enormously to the climate of rabid hysteria, irrationality and bigotry towards Israel now consuming British public debate and in which these arrest attempts are being made.

With a 'close friend' like this, who needs enemies?


Melanie Phillips

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