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What Made Britain Break Its 70-Year Ban on Royal Visits to Israel?

March 13 2018

Since its founding the Jewish state has never received an official visit from a member of the House of Windsor, although some have come to Israel in a private capacity. Recently, however, Britain announced that Prince William, the eldest grandson of the queen, will make an official trip to Israel later this year. Elliott Abrams speculates as to what caused this change in policy:

There are various theories. One is that Prince Charles was the wrong royal to send, and time had to pass until someone in the next generation came along. Another theory is that the Foreign Office, [which coordinates such visits], simply could no longer maintain its claim that a visit would sour relations with the Arab states when those states are improving their own relations with Israel. Finally, it has been argued that the Foreign Office and royal refusal (and it is not clear whether the “no” over the years came from the bureaucrats or the royals, or both) was based on Zionist violence against British colonial administrators in the pre-1948 years of the Palestinian mandate. That obstacle would seem very odd when the queen in 2012 was willing to shake the hand of Martin McGuinness, who had been a very senior IRA commander in 1979 when the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten, to whom she was close and who was Prince Philip’s uncle. . . .

[The visit] is very much in line with President Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, acknowledging that it has the right every other nation has to choose its capital city, and the American effort at the United Nations system to stop the unfair and unequal treatment of Israel. Seventy years is a long time to wait for normal treatment, and of course Israel is far from achieving it even now. But these steps are symbolic of real progress.

Read more at Pressure Points

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

 

The Future of a Free Iran May Lie with a Restoration of the Shah

June 25 2018

Examining the recent waves of protest and political unrest in the Islamic Republic—from women shunning the hijab to truckers going out on strike—Sohrab Ahmari considers what would happen in the event of an actual collapse of the regime. Through an analysis of Iranian history, he concludes that the country would best be served by placing Reza Pahlavi, the son and heir of its last shah, at the head of a constitutional monarchy:

The end of Islamist rule in Iran would be a world-historical event and an unalloyed good for the country and its neighbors, marking a return to normalcy four decades after the Ayatollah Khomeini founded his regime. . . . But what exactly is that normalcy? . . .

First, Iranian political culture demands a living source of authority to embody the will of the nation and stand above a fractious and ethnically heterogenous society. Put another way, Iranians need a “shah” of some sort. They have never lived collectively without one, and their political imagination has always been directed toward a throne. The constitutionalist experiment of the early 20th century coexisted (badly) with monarchic authority, and the current Islamic Republic has a supreme leader—which is to say, a shah by another name. It is the height of utopianism to imagine that a 2,500-year-old tradition can be wiped away. The presence of a shah, [however], needn’t mean the absence of rule of law, deliberative politics, or any of the other elements of ordered liberty that the West cherishes in its own systems. . . .

Second, Iranian political culture demands a source of continuity with Persian history. The anxieties associated with modernity and centuries of historical discontinuity drove Iranians into the arms of Khomeini and his bearded minions, who promised a connection to Shiite tradition. Khomeinism turned out to be a bloody failure, but there is scant reason to imagine the thirst for continuity has been quenched. . . . Iranian nationalism . . . could be the answer, and, to judge by the nationalist tone of the current upheaval, it is the one the people have already hit upon.

When protestors chant “We Will Die to Get Iran Back,” “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My Life Only for Iran,” and “Let Syria Be, Do Something for Me,” they are expressing a positive vision of Iranian nationhood: no longer do they wish to pay the price for the regime’s Shiite hegemonic ambitions. Iranian blood should be spilled for Iran, not Gaza, which for most Iranians is little more than a geographical abstraction. It is precisely its nationalist dimension that makes the current revolt the most potent the mullahs have yet faced. Nationalism, after all, is a much stronger force and in Iran the longing for historical continuity runs much deeper than liberal-democratic aspiration. Westerners who wish to see a replay of Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 in today’s Iran will find the lessons of Iranian history hard and distasteful, but Iranians and their friends who wish to see past the Islamic Republic must pay heed.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Iran, Nationalism, Politics & Current Affairs, Shah