Opinion: Pressing Israel

Six months ago Israel was engaged in action which Nick Clegg described as ‘deliberately disproportionate’, killing over 2000 Palestinians – many of them women and children – and the lives of 70 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

During the war Nick said that nothing would be solved without talking.  And now’s a good time to remind Israel’s PM Benyamin Netanyahu about that, especially given events since then.

Like Britain, Israel will have elections, in March.  The parties are trying to outdo each other on security.  Recently the right-wing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said that “A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable.”  With views like that, the likelihood of negotiations being restarted – let alone a peace deal being achieved – is extremely remote.

Things are no better on the left of the political spectrum.  No Israeli leader sees anything more than to continue the current siege of Gaza.  And almost none of them are willing to negotiate with perhaps the last remaining Palestinian who actually believes in the Oslo ‘peace’ process: PLO president Mahmoud Abbas.

Recently Abbas showed Israel what a non-Oslo future might look like.  A Jordan-sponsored resolution to the UN Security Council to end Israel’s 48 year occupation of Palestinian territory by 2017 failed by a single vote.  And Britain’s contribution?  Despite a majority of MPs supporting Palestinian statehood last October, the Foreign Office didn’t get the message and abstained, on technical grounds.

The resolution defeat was quickly followed by a Palestinian application to join the International Criminal Court.  That even the Hamas leadership in Gaza agreed to the move, even though it opens them up to potential prosecution at The Hague, shows the lack of options available to Palestinians.

Israel has reacted by ridiculing the move in public.  Then it started lobbying big ICC donors – Canada, Australia and Germany – to cut funding to the court.  Britain is also one of the ICC’s larger donors.  Has it also been approached?  Israel’s behaviour suggests that its leadership is beginning to worry: that politicians and soldiers may stand charged with war crimes in Gaza.

Israelis believe they can’t get a fair hearing in the ICC.  And they probably wouldn’t, although few realise that it’s international exasperation at their disproportionate behaviour and intransigence that has led to this point.

All of which points to it being a good time for Nick and those Lib Dems with contacts in the Israeli government to remind them what was said last year.  If Israel doesn’t genuinely engage with the Oslo process then it will face greater international uncertainty and risks.  Far better for it to return to the negotiating table and make genuine concessions.  That way it will have some control over the process – and recover much of its lost goodwill.

All comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

* Guy Burton is Assistant Professor in the School of Politics, History and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus. Between 2010 and 2012 he was a researcher at Birzeit University in the West Bank. Previously he was a researcher for the Liberal Democrats in Parliament and was a GLA candidate for the party in 2004.

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  • Before the stalwart defenders of the IDF come out of the woodwork—I’ve heard at least one Lib Dem say, without irony, that the IDF were as careful as possible to reduce the amount of civilian casualties during Operation Protective Edge—let this sink in:

    One side has glorified fireworks. The other side has nuclear weapons.

    Even Margaret Thatcher said that if her country were under occupation by a hostile power, she would resort to desperate tactics such as guerrilla warfare. Just keep that in mind.

  • Last week’s debate in The House of Lords has received no coverage in LDV but it is worth checking out what was said —
     In the opening speech David Steel made these telling points —

    “…Unfortunately, the present Government of Israel under Mr Netanyahu have consistently rejected those initiatives and continue to build settlements on the West Bank, now occupied by half a million citizens of Israel. 

    They are, of course, totally illegal, as defined by the international court. Mr Netanyahu rejects that court: he even rejects the Israeli Supreme Court when it criticises the route of the security wall. 

    Israel does not like the reference to apartheid, but the separate roads on the West Bank that can be travelled on only by Israeli citizens, and which I saw on recent visits, are strongly reminiscent of what I used to find in South Africa, as is the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel itself. 

    In 2012, the 27 European Foreign Ministers issued a report saying that the attitude of the present Government of Israel threatens, “to make the two-state solution impossible”.

    “If Israel doesn’t genuinely engage with the Oslo process ….”

    Since the 1940s all the governments whatever their supposed political outlook have never “genuinely engaged” with any peace process.   

    The governments of Israel for generations have all followed the illegal, expansionist militarism of the Irgun terrorists who have been consistently fighting for a ‘Greater Israel’ and the expulsion of Palestinians. 


    The Government of the State of Israel was recognised in the 1940s when it was little more than a collection of Irgun terrorist gangsters.
    Whilst the State of Palestine has had to wait 70 years for recognition.   Why?

  • A Social Liberal 7th Feb '15 - 8:21pm

    John Tilley

    In those 70 years that Palestinians have been waiting – who held the land which Palestinians now widh to call their own? Was it not Trans-Jordan and Egypt until 1967? After 1967 how many of the 6 day war enemies of Israel declared that their hostilities were at and end? Indeed, did not the arab states – amongst them Egypt and Jordan – have another try at wiping out the nation of Israel?

    MIght I suggest that those actions and the non stop acts of terrorism were why the international community were unwilling to proffer statehood on Palestine.

  • A Social Liberal 7th Feb '15 - 8:22pm


    Can you tell me what weapons the UK has sold to Israel in the last year? The last 10 years?

  • A Social Liberal 7th Feb '15 - 8:39pm


    One side indeed has nuclear weapons – have they threatened to use them?

    As for the glorified fireworks. Yes, improvised rockets have been used, just like the PIRA used improvised mortars to kill men women and children in Ireland and in England – just because they are improvised doesn’t mean they are not lethal. However, HAMAS is now making greater and greater use of GRAD rockets – the same as the separatists are using to kill civilians in the Ukraine – and 81mm mortars. Both those weapons systems are light years away from glorified fireworks.

  • On the issue of arms sales, see a complete list of export licences issued by the United Kingdom here: https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/licence?region=Israel

    I have always found the research conducted by CAAT careful and scrupulous.

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Feb '15 - 8:04am

    A Social Liberal

    “the same as the separatists are using to kill civilians in the Ukraine.”

    I’m sorry, but this is a complete inversion of the truth. Residential partment blocks and civilian areas in many parts of the Donbass and east Ukraine have come under attack. Why on earth would ‘the separatists’ do this to the places where they live? It just makes no sense at all, as well as being counterfactual.

    In addition, many of these areas have come under air attack – the ‘separatists’ have no airforce. the only possible perpretrators are the fascists in Kiev.

  • A Social Liberal 8th Feb '15 - 10:50am

    With all due respect Tsar, I do not agree. Here are some limks to newspaper reports which show seperatist rocket attacks in the Ukraine



    Note that Mariupol is NOT in the territory taken by the seperatists. The debate however is not about the Ukraine and seperatists killing Ukrainian citizens but about Israel.

    Kathz – I have seen this website before but cannot see any links in it to any government website. Following the hyperlinks takes you to other sites in the CAAT website

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Feb '15 - 12:00pm

    A Social Liberal

    But it was you who brought up Ukraine, not me.

    And the articles you link to concern Mariupol, thus ignoring the Kiev junta’s attacks on places like Donetsk.

  • @ A Social Liberal, CAAT explains the sources of its data and the way it has organised it here: https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/faq
    I think you need to subscribe to the information to get it in raw form – and you then need to trawl through a series of pdfs with expert knowledge of what is relevant. If you wish and have several hours you can check their data.

  • I strongly agree with Guy. The government of Israel cannot be forgiven for their bloodthirsty actions because of the memories they think they have of actions taken against their ancestors 70 years ago.

    I am a man of love, and would accept any individual into my house and I hope have a peaceful discourse with them. I’ve been a Quaker for nearly 10 years, and was very emboldened by the discovery that Mary Fisher visited the Sultan of the opposing forces in the 17th century and described him a man of god. We as Quakers also took great actions to bring away from the Nazis Jews suffering under them to our nation not generally willing to accept them. (KinderTransport).

    To compare with all recordable actions, the Israelis have been killing the armless opposition at least to a similar degree than to any other nations within the Middle Eaast, and they cannot even get an agreement settled within the UN as to the geography over which the Israeli nation exists (and under which according the Balfour declaration, the Jews were meant to be equal to the other inhabitants).

    If that is not a reason to point to a degree of scrutiny over a nation, and indeed sanction them (as we as Quakers have done to some extent with respect to occupied territories), then I’m afraid I really struggle to think of an example that would warrant it. The acts of aggression taken by the Zionist nation are unequaled in their inhumanity, and totally unjustifiable. For example I think the actions of the Saudi Arabian state have been terrible.

    We should be struggling to bring our different religious beliefs into some form of concordance or irrelevance. I don’t see why “Jews” can have any more right to a certain area of land and to exclude and eliminate “non-Jews” in that area than “Germans” did of “non-German’s”‘ in an area a few decades earlier. And I struggle to see any difference in approach.

  • A Social Liberal 10th Feb '15 - 6:04pm

    Let me deal with the replies easiest to hardest.

    Kathz – I don’t have the inclination to subscribe to an organisation I share no allegiance to. It would be a great help and rather easy to link straight to the relevant document in the owning website.

    Tsar – the only mention of Ukraine was in the context of separatists using manufactured russian ordnance. It is so, time to get back to the thread.

    Guy – with regard to your question asking if I am suggesting that Palestinians aren’t Palestinian. No. I know that there were (and, obviously, still are) people who identify with being Palestinian who live in both the West Bank and the Gaza. Indeed – if you knew your history you would know that the Israelis, after the war, handed over control of Gaza to the Palestinians and that the Egyptians wrested control from them.

    You are quite right in that both Jordan and Egypt sued for peace with the Israelies. However, there is at least one Arab state who is still at war with the state of Israel and until very recently prosecuted that war with bombing raids, shelling of Israeli civilians and fighting their war by proxy with a terrorist organisation which is not even Palestinian in origin.

    You are also quite right in that the region has moved on. Iraq no longer has a dictator intent on destroying Israel, Fatah and their subsidiaries are no longer murdering Israeli civilians and Hamas have moved from murdering their political opponents attempted murder of their neighbours.

    Dan – I struggle with your contention that the state of Israel ” . . . eliminate[s] “non-Jews” in that area”. Are you referring to the settlements, because whilst I see very few jews in Gaza city I would hesitate to suggest that ordinary Palestinians have “eliminated them”. As to you not seeing the difference in approach between Nazi Germany and the situation in the near Middle East – well, words fail me.

    I will end by stating, once again, that I believe in the two state solution and that settling the West Bank is wrong and against the Geneva Conventions (unlike some commentators I have had parts of that drummed into me). However, I do not believe in giving HAMAS, Hezbollah or any other arab terrorist organisation carte blanche to murder their neighbours OR their political opponents. When Israel does wrong I will (and have) speak out against her – it is telling that some on here appear to support terrorism by refusing to speak out about terrorist atrocities.

  • @A Social Liberal. Are you not aware of the Nakhba?

  • A Social Liberal:

    Sorry, but Israel never ‘handed control of Gaza to the Palestinians and the Egyptians wrested control from them.’

    Israel and Egypt signed an armistice in 1949. Egypt occupied Gaza. The Palestinians were never involved.

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