How the British Conservative Party Came Around to Supporting Israel

July 22 2015

Although Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill, both Tories, famously supported Zionism, Britain’s Conservative party has a long history of chilly relations with the Jewish state; only in recent years has it become decidedly more pro-Israel than its rivals. Alan Mendoza traces the gradual change in British Conservatives’ attitudes:

[T]he explanation for the transformation of the Conservatives . . . can be linked to Prime Minister David Cameron’s own evolving views on foreign policy. . . . As early as 2008, when Russia went to war with Georgia, Cameron not only—presciently as it turned out—argued for strong opposition to Russia’s behavior but went as far as to visit Tbilisi in a show of solidarity. . . . When Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to massacre his own people in August 2013, it was once again Cameron who led calls for a military response, although in this case he was stymied by a reluctant House of Commons. His increased support for Israel can be seen as a corollary of this general assertiveness, particularly in the context of the fallout from the Arab Spring. . . .

Of course, there remain other voices in the Conservative party today. The party’s old “Arabist” wing remains alive and well, led by MPs such as Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Alan Duncan, and Crispin Blunt. . . . Dissenting voices are still raised in Middle East debates and over Middle East policy. Yet the striking fact is how few these voices are when compared to the past, and how far removed they are from the position of the party’s leadership. . . .

All this does not amount to some illicit “neoconservative” seizure of the Conservative party, as [some journalists have] alleged. . . . Rather it reflects a more mature and reasoned viewpoint on the benefits of alliance with Israel. British MPs and leaders do not support Israel on account of activities of lobby groups or parochial voting concerns but because they have concluded it is in the national interest to do so.

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More about: Arthur Balfour, David Cameron, Tories, United Kingdom, Winston Churchill

 

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia