Malcolm Rifkind
Malcolm Rifkind

Foreign policy shift looks unlikely after Israel’s latest vote

Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Bahrain, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates sign papers during the Abraham Accords Signing Ceremony at The White House on Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA via Jewish News)
Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Bahrain, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates sign papers during the Abraham Accords Signing Ceremony at The White House on Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA via Jewish News)

Traditionally it has taken quite a long time to put together a coalition so we’re not going to know for at least a few weeks whether Netanyahu is capable of getting a majority. But the question of a change in Israeli foreign policy if he vacates the office, and any change in relation to the Palestinians has, if anything, become less likely. This is because of the establishment of Israeli diplomatic relations with the UAE, Bahrain
and Morocco.

Remember that Benjamin Netanyahu at one stage was proposing to annex the Jordan Valley: part of the arrangement that led to diplomatic relations was that that idea was going to be dropped.

The reasons why these countries have decided to recognise Israel have got nothing to do with the personality of the current Israeli prime minister. It is because of the way in which Middle Eastern politics as a whole has changed fundamentally because of the anxiety of Arab states as to the policy of Iran. When you have Israel and Arab countries sharing the same views as to the nature of the Iranian threat, then it is not necessarily that surprising.

There was a similar, much more important development during the Second World War when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and Stalin became an accepted ally of Roosevelt and Churchill, not because they had any illusions about Stalin but because there was an overriding imperative which all free countries shared.

I don’t want to take the comparison far, but there is some parallel here: it’s not that the Arab states have suddenly decided they love Israel, or Israel loves the Arab states, but they do have a deep strategic interest.

Although Netanyahu is entitled to claim a significant amount of credit for that diplomatic breakthrough having been achieved,  I don’t think its future depends  on Netanyahu.

 

About the Author
Sir Malcolm Rifkind is former UK Defence and Foreign Secretary
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