I don’t like it when Boris Johnson speaks Hebrew

Boris Johnson. (Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire via Jewish News)
Boris Johnson. (Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire via Jewish News)

Am I alone in feeling profoundly uncomfortable with the spectacle of Boris’s op-ed intervention in Hebrew in Israel’s most popular newspaper?

Excuse me Boris? Are things going so well in the UK that you have the time to give your tuppence worth on relations between Israel and the Palestinians?

65,000 people dead in the UK. 65,000 broken and grieving families. The worst in Europe. The worst in the world apart from the US and possibly China. More Jews have died in the UK than in Israel.

Boris’s handling of Covid has been appallingly bad. As Piers Morgan rightly says Boris dithered and Brits died.

At the start of Covid, maybe Boris was emulating Trump? Maybe it was traditional British stoicism when it comes to ill health that promoted inaction? Go and visit your GP in the UK and Israel and contrast the response.  The British GP will invariably send you home saying come back in two weeks if it is still bothering you and are having trouble breathing. Compare that to a GP visit in Israel where you will walk out with a prescription and potions and advice to go to A&E if you are not better in the next half hour. Israel locked down much earlier and people lived. Boris dithered and Brits died.

Until Covid and this latest Hebrew escapade, I was a big fan of Boris. I have worked closely with him. I loved his style. A refreshing politician that would get Brexit done and move Britain on from the EU quagmire. Boris that battled Red Ken Livingstone and won, not once but twice.

Boris that mocked the BDS’ers on the far left calling them “corduroy-jacketed, snaggle-toothed, lefty academics.” Boris that eviscerated Corbyn. Not anymore. 65,000 deaths and not a shred of humility.

Suddenly Labour’s Sir Kier starts to look statesmanlike. Swift action against Rebecca Long Bailey. Strong sober leadership in these difficult times. Don’t get me wrong. Sir Kier’s appointment of Lisa Nandy MP as Shadow Foreign Secretary, chair of the Labour Fiends of Palestine is a mistake. As was bringing back Ed Miliband onto the front bench. Also a mistake. Don’t forget Tony Blair had lefties like John Prescott, Robin Cook and Clare Short on his front bench too, and it is maybe what’s needed to keep the left and right together inside Labour. But suddenly Sir Kier for PM starts to look like an attractive proposition.

Look, I don’t know who put Boris up to this stunt – writing in Hebrew in Israel’s largest circulation newspaper trying to sway Israel’s voters.

These are not the actions of a friend. When a buddy is going through a tough time at home, you don’t broadcast your disagreements on Facebook.

I don’t know who was behind Boris’s op-ed. I don’t know if it was Sir Mick Davis who has made no secret of his opposition to Bibi, but is also a major donor to the Tories and is a former CEO of the Tory Party.

I don’t know if it was someone connected to the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates that placed a similar article also in Hebrew in the same paper just a few days earlier.

But what I do know is the way to influence Israel is not through megaphone stunts like Boris’. It is only by appreciating Israel’s tough dilemmas, and the dangerous neighbourhood in which we live that Israel will feel bold enough to make the tough compromises needed.

But all that is academic. Let’s break this down. As Tony Blair never tires of saying – everyone serious knows what a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians looks like. President Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and even Obama have all tried and come up with essentially identical resolutions.

Even the Trump plan is very similar, more or less. But time after time after time it is the Palestinian rejection of every peace plan that is the reason there has not been progress.

Newsflash folks: The Jordan Valley will always remain under Israels’ control whether you asked Yitzhak Rabin or Shimon Peres (my political hero). Newsflash folks – the Jewish settlements will remain under Israel’s control.

I don’t know who leant on you Boris. But it was a stupid action, that may have forfeited a meaningful place around the table when discussions do actually resume.

The point of the Trump plan was to say the following loud and clear to the Palestinian leadership: Peace between Israelis and Palestinians will no longer be held hostage by Palestinian rejectionism. Trump and Kushner said this loud and clear. The train is leaving the station. Come and talk tachlis.

And lo and behold, guess what the Palestinians have just announced? They want to sit down with Israel. Maybe there is wisdom in the Trump plan after all. But it is no thanks to Boris’ stunt.

About the Author
David Mencer is a communications specialist and former LFI Director who moved to Israel in 2017 when Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader.
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