While Charles Moore does not doubt the sincerity of Theresa May’s expressions of friendship toward the Jewish state, he finds her decision to support the recent anti-settlements resolution at the UN Security Council an unjustifiable exercise in “virtue signaling”—a meaningless display of commitment to popular pieties. He writes (free registration required):
“Virtue-signaling” is a useful modern term to describe a modern mania. Its greatest practitioner on the international stage is the outgoing president of the United States. Barack Obama has elevated virtue-signaling into a strategy—or rather, his substitute for a strategy. . . . [But he] is leaving office. He looks forward to his political afterlife touring the world as the saintly anti-American American, and he hates poverty, war, and injustice. The resolution will make some neat paragraphs in the final chapter of his memoirs.
What is harder to understand is why Theresa May’s Britain is choosing to indulge him. [On December 22,] Egypt dropped the resolution, deciding it would damage its relations with Israel and the incoming Trump presidency. This would have been our moment to kick the whole idea into touch. Instead, British diplomats reportedly helped do the Obama ancien régime’s work for it and put pressure on New Zealand to push the resolution forward. . . .
Britain, being a permanent member [of the Security Council], has the power of veto. Think how our use of that veto on this issue could have transformed the landscape of the international order at this time. . . .
Although the passing of Resolution 2334 could not have happened without President Obama, it would not have been seemly for him to signal his virtue too explicitly. So this was left to his Secretary of State, John Kerry. Kerry made an emotional speech on [December 28]. He criticized the Netanyahu administration for being “the most right-wing in Israel’s history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.” At which point, 10 Downing Street suddenly decided to get cross. A spokesman criticized Kerry, saying “We do not believe it is appropriate to attack the democratically-elected government of an ally.” He added that “We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements.” He did not deal with the plain fact that the British government had just supported a resolution with exactly that focus on exactly that issue.
Some may see this as a welcome, if belated attempt by Mrs. May to make up for her government’s earlier mistake, though it would look more impressive if Britain were to refuse to attend the let’s-bash-Israel international conference in Paris announced for January 15. It could equally well be the prime minister’s effort to make the noises necessary to placate critics without altering the actual policy at all.