The UK’s New Prime Minister Has a Strong Pro-Israel Record. But What Will This Mean in Practice?

Sept. 19 2022

While the world’s attention has been focused on Britain’s new king, the country also got a new prime minister just two days before the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Toby Greene investigates Liz Truss’s approach to both domestic politics and diplomacy—which he argues are not unlike those of Margaret Thatcher—and how these will shape policies toward the Jewish state:

In Truss’s mental map of the world, in which decent, honest, sovereign, free-trading nations are pitted against aggressive authoritarians, Israel sits firmly in the former category. Israel’s inclusion in Truss’s list of “friends and allies” in her October 2021 conference speech was not an isolated example, with Israel referred to repeatedly as an example of a (non-EU) democratic partner that excels in innovation.

Truss’s attitude towards Israel cannot be separated from that of her party, in which a view of Israel as a democratic, economically successful, and strategically significant partner has become increasingly dominant.

Whilst Israel is a pariah for significant chunks of the [British] left—and bursts negatively into the public eye during periodic rounds of violence [in the Middle East]—for the right this is more grist for the mill in the culture wars. Conservative pro-Zionism helps expose Labor’s internal rifts over the legacy of [its former leader Jeremy] Corbyn, who got the party bogged down in his anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.

Like much of Truss’s politics, her philo-Semitism carries echoes of Thatcher, whose cabinet famously included more “old Estonians than Old Etonians.” . . . . But that does not guarantee plain sailing for UK-Israel relations under a Truss premiership. First there is the issue of Iran. While Truss talks tough on Iran, like many Western leaders, she is unlikely to stand in the way of the Biden administration’s determination to return to the [2015 nuclear deal], which Israeli leaders and U.S. Republicans will complain is disastrous.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Jeremy Corbyn, Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth II, United Kingdom

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount