Britain must change course and embrace the new Middle East

An Israeli-American delegation at a ceremony ahead of their departure from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, August 31, 2020. Photo by: Tomer Neuberg-JINIPIX via Jewish News
An Israeli-American delegation at a ceremony ahead of their departure from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, August 31, 2020. Photo by: Tomer Neuberg-JINIPIX via Jewish News

‘We the undersigned, recognise the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom.’

The opening words of the Abraham Accords.

The announcement of the deal was the equivalent of a friendly ambush, if such a thing exists, and contradicted everything we have come to expect from @realDonaldTrump.

Nobody knew that the deal was on the cards, and the worlds media that thrives and survives on leaks, speculation and, dare I say it, fake news … was caught off guard.

The deal was greeted with predictable condemnation from the Palestinians and Iran.

Many believe that the accords were birthed by the Arab world’s exasperation with Palestinian leaders, unwilling to negotiate peace, which would naturally allow the door to be opened to wider normalisation agreements; and Sunni Islam’s apprehension over (Shia) Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.

We can speculate about what tipped the scales but most agree that the accord would never have been delivered without an additional factor, Saudi Arabia’s consent.

From a UK perspective the reaction of our own politicians was instructive.

Stephen Kinnock MP, who analyses the Israel/Palestinian conflict through one prism, ‘settlements’, ignored this seismic diplomatic breakthrough and sponsored a debate in the House of Commons about … ‘settlements’, two weeks after the Abraham Accords were signed.

However, it’s the UK government response which merits further analysis and deconstruction.

Foreign Office Minister, James Cleverly, said that the ’normalisation of relations represents a move towards peace in the region’ and that the ‘UK government has supported the Palestinian authority in putting in place the building blocks for a future Palestinian state.’

What connects the two issues?

He is entitled to welcome the accords, but he’s not entitled to ride UK government policy on its coattail’s, as if somehow UK policy contributed to this deal or wider peace ambitions.

It’s time for some home truths.

UK government policy on the Israel/Palestinian question feeds the status quo, inertia.

We send tens of millions of pounds to the Palestinian Authority (PA) every year.

The money is handed over on the condition that the PA complies with the principle of non- violence, and every day of every year the PA breaches that agreement.

They pay salaries to people who have murdered Jewish people, they pay bounties to the families of Shahid, Fatah politicians regularly call for violence on PA TV and children are given lessons encouraging them to hate their Jewish neighbours.

I assume that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office doesn’t have access to the internet because when these breaches take place, the UK Aid tap keeps on running, unabated.

How do Palestinian leaders to react to such weakness?

They exploit it.

They take our money but won’t reveal publicly what their solution to the conflict is.

We keep on stumping up the cash, with no penalties for breach of contract, in a desperate attempt to resuscitate a two-state solution, while the Palestinians keep their ambitions to wipe Israel from map, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, under the table, beside the bombs, guns and rockets.

The lesson that our politicians must absorb from the Abraham Accords is that leaders make decisions based on their own interests.

If the Arab world has reached the conclusion that the Palestinians have overplayed their hand and that Iran represents more of a threat to them than western democracy, why haven’t we?

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About the Author
Michael McCann is a former Labour MP and is now Director, Israel Britain Alliance
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