The United Kingdom’s Irrational and Contradictory Policy toward Jerusalem

July 29 2022

 Although Great Britain has good relations with the Jewish state, it insists that the latter has only “de-facto authority over West Jerusalem.” Thus London’s embassy is in Tel Aviv, even as the seat of the Israeli government is in Jerusalem. Stephen Daisley laments this situation:

As recently as 2016, Foreign Office briefing documents were still referring to Jerusalem as corpus separatum. (You know your foreign policy has really kept up with the times when it requires a working knowledge of Latin.) Jerusalem was designated a corpus separatum in the 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly, accepted by the Jews, and rejected by the Arabs, who went on to launch a war for “the elimination of the Jewish state.” You can see why the Foreign Office would consider this a totally reasonable and unproblematic basis for UK policy on the Middle East.

Originally, corpus separatum meant Jerusalem would be run by the United Nations. These days Israel wouldn’t trust the UN to run a shawarma stand, and rightly so. So corpus separatum, as used by the UK government, has come to mean split sovereignty in Jerusalem, with Israel controlling the western parts of the city and a future state of Palestine the eastern portions. Curiously enough, the government only seems to like parts of the doctrine. Somewhere along the way, the part of the 1947 plan that said corpus separatum could be put to a referendum of Jerusalem residents after ten years has fallen by the wayside.

The result of all this ancient history and failed diplomatic dogma is that the UK must maintain the fiction that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel. That the Palestinian Authority has a comparably strong claim to a city which has never been part of any Palestinian state, since none has ever existed. That re-dividing the city is the way to deliver peace and uphold religious freedom, when Israeli control is the closest Jerusalem has come to underwriting religious co-existence. That splitting a capital city between recently hostile nations is a viable policy, or one with any successful precedent in the contemporary world. That by keeping up these pretenses the UK is hastening the arrival of a two-state solution rather than delaying it by pandering to and rewarding Palestinian rejectionism.

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More about: Jerusalem, United Kingdom

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship