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Israel: Britain's fair weather "friend"

The UK is "only a bit-part player in the Middle East", says Jewish Chronicle editor.

The move yesterday by the British Government to expel an Israeli diplomat, who is also a senior Mossad official, following Israel's involvement in the murder of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January has clearly wounded the pride of many supporters of Israel. The editor of the Jewish Chronicle Stephen Pollard wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph this morning in which he feebly attempted to belittle Britain and trivialise the role that it plays in international affairs. He said that the decision made by the British government yesterday "is of little consequence in the Middle East" and that "the crisis in relations between the UK and Israel… is not of enduring interest, let alone impact. It will soon be forgotten, in part because the UK is only a bit-part player in the Middle East." These are clearly the words of someone whose pride has been wounded by the expulsion of a Mossad operative.

Whatever else you want to say about Britain, you can hardly call it a "bit-part player." Even the great USA come to Britain for backing and support before they commit themselves to wars in the region. There would have been no war with Iraq or Afghanistan if it was not for Britain's support, not that this is something to be proud of, on the contrary, but it does at least show that Britain is still undeniably a major player on the world stage.


Pro-Israeli rhetoric implying that Britain is a dispensable ally is mere grandstanding and means nothing. As it is, Israel already has so few friends that you would think that it would be careful not to further alienate those few allies that it has but that is exactly what they are doing. Instead of gracefully accepting the expulsion of their diplomat as a mere slap on the wrist, which is essentially all it is, it has instead gone on to lambaste and insult the UK government. SKY News reported yesterday that member of the Israeli Knesset Aryeh Eldad was so unimpressed with the move that he said, "I think [the] British are behaving hypocritically and I don't want to offend dogs on this issue, since some dogs are utterly loyal, who are they to judge us on the war on terror?"

MEMO called the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) this morning and asked a spokesperson to respond to these inflammatory statements. The FCO spokesperson said that of course the comments were "highly inappropriate". He said that "the relationship between Britain and Israel is based on trust" and that there has been "a fundamental breach of that trust in recent weeks. The ball is in Israel's court if it wants to gradually rebuild that trust."

MEMO maintains that the British decision to expel the Israeli diplomat, while not going nearly far enough, is nevertheless an excellent starting point. It is hoped that this move will embolden other European states to also take stronger measures against Israel. Despite Israel trying to downplay the importance of the United Kingdom, and by association the rest of Europe, the EU still remains one of Israel's most important trading partners and that trading relationship is something that can and should be used to bring Israel into line. As Gerald Kaufman said in his letter to the Guardian this morning, "Only when economic sanctions and an arms ban are imposed will Israel take heed."

It is important to also acknowledge that it is the attitude of utter complacency and the constant turning the other way by Europe and America that has essentially emboldened Israel to act in the arrogant and illegal way that it does. The total disregard that Israel consistently shows towards the rule of international law has only been strengthened by the refusal of Britain and America to enforce the international laws against it and this must now come to an end.

Keep the focus on Israel's crimes.

While apologists such as Pollard may try to downplay Israel's involvement in the Dubai assassination and try to divert attention away from Israel and towards Obama, Iran and anyone else they can think of, we must not let our attention be diverted. The fact of the matter is that our government feels so strongly about Israel's recent behaviour that they are expelling a diplomat; not a minor development by any stretch of the imagination. Furthermore, following an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) into the Israeli cloning of British passports which were used in the commission of the Dubai murder, the FCO have now publishing a warning to British citizens on their website. The FCO website now states "We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary." That manifestly shows how deep the distrust of Israel and its officials now is. This can leave us in no doubt as to how untrustworthy Israel is. If its own allies warn their citizens that they are at risk in Israeli hands when they are guests in their country, what does this say for the "enemies" of Israel? How much more dangerous, untrustworthy and unjust is Israel towards them? Israel constitutes a major threat not just to the Palestinians whose land they are stealing and whose lives they are ruining but also to the rest of the world; including its closest allies. Israel has not acted like a friend to the UK or the USA recently but is has acted like a dangerous rogue state and must be treated as such.

The breakdown of relations is caused by settlement building not Obama, Iran or anyone else

The "crisis" in relations, as we all know, is not merely between Israel and the "bit-part player" Britain, but with America as well, and it is amusing to see the likes of Pollard try to explain why this crisis exists. Israel and those who support it are experts at passing the buck and trying to shift the blame. They love to blame others for all of their problems and are experts at playing the victim.

At present, the illegal building of Israeli settlements is the core reason for the breakdown of US-Israel relations, not, as Pollard tries to allude, Obama, Iran or anything else. Pollard says that "the real problems between Israel and the US began last June, six months into President Obama's term, when he gave a speech in Cairo which had the sole objective of wooing the Muslim world" and he complains that Obama "made no attempt either before, alongside or after the speech to reassure Israelis that he did not regard them and their country as the problem." That is ludicrous! All America does is reassure Israel! From Hillary Clinton's constant reminders of the unbreakable bond between their nations, to the Administrations refusal to uphold its duty and enforce international law against Israel for its constant breaches of Palestinian human rights.

The impasse in relations only really hit rock bottom after Israel's slap in the face of US Vice President Biden when, during his recent visit to Israel, they announced plans to build 1600 new illegal housing units (the timing of which Israel has had to apologise for.) This sort of Israeli arrogance and their increasing disregard for the norms of diplomacy is being further compounded by them on a daily basis with the latest announcement that they are to build more housing units coming just minutes before Netanyahu's meeting in the White House with President Obama on Tuesday. It is about time that America and Britain experienced the true intransigent and self-involved nature of the Israeli authorities. Palestinians have had to put up with Israeli bullheadedness for decades now and they continue to have to endure it 24/7. Maybe finally, slowly, America, Britain and the rest of the world will wake up to the true Israel as it begins to turn its back on its allies and expose its true face.

While attempting to diminish the role of Britain in the Middle East Pollard simultaneously tries to draw attention to the importance of Israel in the region. He says, "Israel is engaged in the front line of the battle that we are fighting openly in Iraq and Afghanistan." Pollard says this as if it in some way should exculpate them from wrongdoing elsewhere. However, Israel's warmongering nature is not something that they should be boasting about. Not only is the war extremely unpopular at home and abroad but Centcom Commander, General David Petraeus has made it very clear recently that Israel's policies against Palestinians are in fact endangering US troops in the Middle East and around the world as they are increasingly seen as the enemy in a large part as a result of their incomprehensible friendship with Israel.

Israel is furthermore so desperate for a scapegoat for all of its problems that it can't even confess to a bungled assassination without bringing Iran into the picture, a country that has absolutely nothing to do with it. Iran is not the problem, as much as Israel would like us to believe it is. The focus at present is Israel's behaviour over the Dubai assassination and the British passport debacle and yet somehow Pollard manages to sneak the issue of Iran into his diatribe.

Regardless of how Israel and its supporters try to spin the issue, the fact is that a major crime has been committed. Israel and its agents have been implicated in the murder of a man in Dubai with the use of cloned British passports. Given the magnitude of its crimes Israel is extremely lucky to escape from this with only the expulsion of a single diplomat instead of its ambassador and many other Israeli officials from London, which may have been a more fitting method of censure.  However, given Israel's characteristic attitude of ingratitude to its allies, we should not really be surprised at the disdain with which Israel has treated the UK government and its citizens. If the Israeli government is happy to insult the Vice President of America last week and then the President of America only a matter of days later, and this being despite the fact that America gives them around three billion dollars a year, how can we expect to be treated any better? It's about time the UK government called its "friend" to account and then let's see if this "friendship" can truly weather a storm.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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