Israel/Palestine and the General Election

I started to write this post in reaction to a piece in Ha’Aretz that begins

The very real prospect of David Cameron’s Conservative Party losing Britain’s general election on May 7 is causing a shudder of dread to pass through Israeli diplomats and lobbyists in London. Officially, of course, they are not involved in the United Kingdom’s internal politics. But the consensus is that “we have never had such a pro-Israel prime minister.”

and goes on to list some of the ways in which Cameron has personally intervened to ensure that British government policies over the last five years have been closely aligned with Netanyahu’s aims. These include, amongst others

  • the effective ending of universal jurisdiction, which allowed arrest warrants to be issued in Britain against anyone suspected of alleged war crimes if there was no reasonable prospect of them being investigated by their own government;
  • taking advantage of London’s status as a global financial centre to cut off Iran’s banking system from the world, making it extremely difficult for the Iranian oil industry to arrange insurance for its tankers;
  • steadfastly resisting Lib-Dem demands to end Israeli bombardment of civilian targeting during last summer’s Gaza war. He’s still defending them now, even as the UN releases a report documenting the deliberate targeting of schools and shelters used by civilians.

The article concludes that people who know Cameron’s views believe that he sees the Middle East “very similarly to Netanyahu”.

Of course, I shouldn’t be giving this any space; nothing could be more irrelevant to an SJJP blog post than the Conservative leader’s position on Israel/Palestine—I’m sure that no readers of this blog will decide whether or not to vote Conservative on this basis! So what about the candidates that you might actually consider voting for? The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has written to Parliamentary candidates to find out their attitude to Palestinian human rights. It’s interesting to see who has taken the trouble to respond, and very interesting to see what each one says, not always in line with their party policy. You can check the responses, constituency by constituency, here.

The formal policies of the main parties don’t help much. Party manifestos have to play it safe, of course, and the (nearly universal) formula of pressing for a “return to meaningful negotiations” for “a two-state solution” doesn’t suggest that they think voters attach much importance to the matter, or know much about it. The outstanding exception (possibly excluding the smaller left-wing parties) seems to be the Green Party, whose policy actually shows some understanding of the situation. They call for repeal of the Law of Return, for dismantling of the separation barrier, for equal sharing of water resources, and for Israel to abandon its claim to exclusive possession of Jerusalem. And they actually suggest using, in the interests of Palestinian human rights, the most significant lever that a British government has (or could have) in the conflict: the European Union Association Agreement with Israel, which is worth more than £1 billion a year.

I know that, in deciding how to vote, everyone takes into account many issues, and a party’s position on the Middle East is not usually high on the list. And if you know anything about the situation there, you aren’t likely to find any British party with whom you’ll agree on very many points. But I would like to reserve a special place in purgatory for anyone who asks me to be interested in reviving the grisly corpse of “the peace process” and, by the same token, I give a little more credit—and perhaps even a vote—to people who at least aren’t consciously lying to me on an issue that I care about.

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