How the British Conservative Party Came Around to Supporting Israel

July 22 2015

Although Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill, both Tories, famously supported Zionism, Britain’s Conservative party has a long history of chilly relations with the Jewish state; only in recent years has it become decidedly more pro-Israel than its rivals. Alan Mendoza traces the gradual change in British Conservatives’ attitudes:

[T]he explanation for the transformation of the Conservatives . . . can be linked to Prime Minister David Cameron’s own evolving views on foreign policy. . . . As early as 2008, when Russia went to war with Georgia, Cameron not only—presciently as it turned out—argued for strong opposition to Russia’s behavior but went as far as to visit Tbilisi in a show of solidarity. . . . When Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to massacre his own people in August 2013, it was once again Cameron who led calls for a military response, although in this case he was stymied by a reluctant House of Commons. His increased support for Israel can be seen as a corollary of this general assertiveness, particularly in the context of the fallout from the Arab Spring. . . .

Of course, there remain other voices in the Conservative party today. The party’s old “Arabist” wing remains alive and well, led by MPs such as Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Alan Duncan, and Crispin Blunt. . . . Dissenting voices are still raised in Middle East debates and over Middle East policy. Yet the striking fact is how few these voices are when compared to the past, and how far removed they are from the position of the party’s leadership. . . .

All this does not amount to some illicit “neoconservative” seizure of the Conservative party, as [some journalists have] alleged. . . . Rather it reflects a more mature and reasoned viewpoint on the benefits of alliance with Israel. British MPs and leaders do not support Israel on account of activities of lobby groups or parochial voting concerns but because they have concluded it is in the national interest to do so.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Arthur Balfour, David Cameron, Tories, United Kingdom, Winston Churchill

Reviving the Peace Process Brings Great Costs and Little Potential for Success

June 26 2017

Now that President Trump has sent envoys to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, it seems clear that he will try to revive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which he has declared to be “maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Even those less sanguine argue that there is little harm in trying. Not so, writes Elliott Abrams:

To begin with, it is always harmful for the United States to fail—and for a president to fail. Influence in the world is hard to measure, but when a president devotes himself . . . to any project and fails to pull it off, his influence and that of the United States are diminished. . . .

What’s more, the United States has been championing the “peace process” now for about 30 years. . . . On the Palestinian side many view the “peace process” as a formula for sustaining the occupation. Many Israelis see it as a shield protecting Palestinian malfeasance and worse: when they demand a stop to official Palestinian glorification of terrorism, they hear, “Don’t rock the boat now, negotiations may start.”

A further reason to be wary of another big peace effort is the opportunity cost. When each successive American administration works for a comprehensive peace deal, it tends to neglect the many opportunities to make less dramatic but still consequential real-world progress. . . .

During the George W. Bush administration, those of us on the American side often demanded concessions from Israel to “set the tone for talks” or to “get things moving in the talks.” These steps often gave Abbas symbolic victories, but they rarely contributed to state-building. For example, we were more concerned with getting Israel to release some Palestinian prisoners—who may have committed acts of violence—than we were about getting Israel to remove checkpoints or barriers that prevented Palestinian mobility in the West Bank and thereby made both normal life and economic activity harder. How returning convicted criminals to the streets contributed to building a Palestinian state was never explained.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process