For the First Time in 70 Years, Britain Will Permit a Royal Visit to Israel

March 5 2018

British officials announced last week that Prince William will pay an official visit to the Jewish state this summer. Although other members of the House of Windsor have come to Israel previously, they did so only in a private capacity—and even this was not allowed until 1994. The British Foreign Office, which coordinates such visits, had previously defended its unofficial boycott of Israel by stating that “many countries have not had an official visit.” To which Andrew Roberts replies:

That might be true for Burkina Faso and Chad, but the Foreign Office has somehow managed to find the time over the years to send the queen on state visits to Libya, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, and Turkey. So it can’t have been that she wasn’t in the area. . . .

At least she could be certain of a warm welcome in Israel, unlike in Morocco where she was kept waiting by the king for three hours in 90-degree heat, or at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda, where they hadn’t even finished building her hotel.

The Foreign Office ban on royal visits to Israel was all the more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged, like so much “club” or “social” anti-Semitism in Britain. As an act of “delegitimization” of Israel, this effective boycott was quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott. Now it is over, and hopefully there will be many such visits, including of Prince Charles and [his wife]. . . .

When he gets back to Britain after his visit, Prince William will be able to tell the rest of his family what a wonderful place they were forced to miss out visiting because of the ban imposed for 70 years by a small group of Foreign Office Arabists. He will hopefully open the door to plenty more such visits, advertising to the world how much Britain values her brave democratic ally in the Middle East.

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More about: House of Windsor, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, United Kingdom

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war