A few days ago, a group of former British ambassadors and consuls published a letter asking Liz Truss, the current Foreign Secretary and the main contender for the leadership of the Conservative Party and successor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, not to move her country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in order to please the Zionist lobby. The letter to the editor of a national newspaper warned of the consequences of this dangerous step.
The list of signatories and their background reveals their rich experience in the Middle East, and thus their accurate reading of the situation, which should be taken seriously. They include Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former British representative to the UN; Sir Vincent Fean, the British Consul General in Jerusalem; Sir Andrew Green, the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran; Sir Harold Walker, the former British ambassador to Iraq; Sir William Petty, the former British ambassador to Afghanistan; Robin Kealy, the former British ambassador to Tunisia; and Sir Edward Clay, the former British commissioner-general in Kenya.
Their letter wasn't an in-depth analysis and intellectual examination; it simply warned of the potential disaster of such a move, not least because it suggests strongly that Britain hasn't learned from its own history and what it inflicted on the Palestinian and Arab people as a whole with the 1917 Balfour Declaration and what followed. The empire on which the sun never set relinquished Palestine resulting in catastrophes, setbacks and frightening political scenarios, the effects of which are ongoing.
The distinguished signatories made reference to the bitter leadership election battle between Truss and her opponent Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the free gifts being handed out willy-nilly to attract votes as they seek to succeed Johnson. Such gifts to the pro-Israel lobbyists will have disastrous consequences, not only in occupied Palestine, but also in terms of Britain's overseas relations with those who blame Britain for every drop of blood and tears shed for the sake of the Palestinians. Such people and states still outnumber those which have normalised relations with the occupation state.
The whims and aspirations of Truss and Sunak, who are both keen to give something away that is not theirs to give as they emulate the worst of their colonial predecessors, effectively write off entire nations or peoples in exchange for getting a foot in the door of 10 Downing Street. There is also a close connection with the discredited "Deal of the Century" put together by Donald Trump, who went on to lose the latest US presidential election, in case anyone has forgotten.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is not like increasing military aid, or developing economic ties, because it flies in the face of international law and conventions and Britain's own stated position on Jerusalem and ways to resolve the conflict based on UN resolutions. It would be a radical change of policy in line with the wishes of the far-right in Israel, which treats international law with contempt.
The steadfastness of the Palestinians who still cling to their land and their rejection of the Israeli occupation for decades confirms that the old certainly die, but the young don't forget, contrary to Zionist predictions and wishful thinking. They continue to struggle for liberation from the yoke of Israeli settler-colonialism and push for comprehensive compensation for their stolen rights and lives. Today, Israel has the audacity to campaign through its well-funded lobby groups in the West to rob the Palestinians of even more of their rights. Peace is not on Israel's mind; its actions stoke the fires of conflict in the region and perpetual war.
Is the world ready to pay the price of promises made by British politicians vying for power in a country which has had such a damaging influence in the Middle East? Are the British people ready to break with their government's long held positions on the occupation of Palestine in order for politicians to attract funds and votes from extremist pro-Israel lobbyists? And are we all ready for another century of no apologies from Britain for the Balfour Declaration and more tragedies and setbacks as a direct result of that calamitous letter?
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 16 August 2022
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.