By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem
Outgoing British ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips, has been quoted as saying that the British public is drifting away from Israel due to negative impression about Israeli criminal policies against Palestinians.
Speaking during an interview with the right-wing newspaper, the Jerusalem post, Philips acknowledge that as far the British public was concerned, things for Israel were not what they used to be.
“There is a drift of opinion away from Israel. This is not government. This is happening with the popular mood.”
Philips, who is slated to become Britain’s next ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said Israel’s image was undergoing changes in the United Kingdom.
“(The previous image) is that you’ve got plucky little Israel against a sea of non-democratic states as a dominant image out there. Now, the image is the other way around. David has become Goliath and vice versa. The image that is out there is of Israel as the occupying power.”
Philips added: “what people see in the UK is, Ok, Israel has some genuine security concerns and they’ve got to be met. But the answer to that cannot be keeping several millions people without full civil, human and other rights, in a state of occupation. This is not a problem of hasbara. You get a lot of people in Israel who say, ‘let us launch a new hasbara, and change our image in the West, hunky dory.’ No it is a problem of substance.”
Ignoring the immense obstacles impeding the two-state solution strategy, mainly the phenomenal proliferation of Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank, especially East Jerusalem, the British ambassador said he believed the two -state solution was still the only game in town.
“For me, the two state-solution is the only sustainable way for Israel to achieve a secure place in the Middle East. It is also the only way to meet that slow climate of opinion change that is happening in the international community out there.”
Responding to a torrent of tendentious questions about so-called anti-Semitism in the UK, and also the role played by the British Muslim community in formulating the presumed anti-Israeli discourse in Britain, Philips pointed out that while he didn’t want to deny that there was anti-Semitism in the UK, Israel as a state had to take legitimate criticism.
As to the British Muslim community and Jerusalem Post’s snide attempt to link it to terror and the alleged anti-Israeli discourse, Philips asserted that “the vast majority of the Islamic population in Britain was people living law-abiding, creative, helpful, useful lives as my fellow citizens. “
“We certainly do have a problem with some people who do feel for one reason or another disaffected
“And of course with the internet, some guys out there in the tribal areas beaming messages in. there is a problem that some people can be turned, can be radicalized. We have a whole ‘prevent, pursue, protect’ policy approach. We have to uphold the law, and we have to deal very hard with people who are trying to incite terrorism.”
The Israeli intelligence community has been extremely worried about the conceivably dwindling power of Israeli and pro-Israeli hasbara efforts in the UK and other European countries.
Israel is also displeased because the British authorities have made notable successes in arresting or interdicting potential terrorists who would have carried out acts of terror in the UK.
Israel believes that the occurrence and highlighting of acts of terror by suspected Muslim fanatics helps turn the British public against Islam and Muslims and therefore increase support for Israel.
According to reliable sources in the Middle East, the Israeli intelligence has unsuccessfully sought to recruit Arab or non-Arab Muslim students studying at British universities to carry out acts of violence on British soil, with the ultimate goal being to instigate the British public against the British Muslim community.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.