Dear Prime Minister:
Your friendship and “profound attachment to the State of Israel” are undoubted and highly appreciated. It is a sad fact of life, however, that great prime ministers like you come and go and, as one of your predecessors put it with brutal frankness, “[n]ations do not have permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” A brief review of the ebb and flow of the United Kingdom’s support for the Jewish state over the past century proves his point.
Thus, while the U.K. “favour[ed] the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” in the Balfour Declaration (1917), less than four years later, Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill detached from Palestine the territory east of the Jordan River and bestowed it to Emir Abdullah—in violation of the San Remo Resolution, to which the U.K. was a signatory.
Shortly thereafter, the U.K. accepted from the League of Nations the “Mandate for [the remainder of] Palestine” and undertook to “facilitate … close settlement by Jews on the land.” But instead of implementing this mandate, the U.K. issued White Papers in 1930 and 1939 that severely limited Jewish immigration to Palestine with tragic consequences for millions of Jews forced to remain in Europe.
In 1956, after Egypt blockaded Israel’s port of Eilat (an act of war), the U.K. rallied to Israel’s side. But in 1973, after Egypt (and Syria) attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, the U.K. not only imposed an embargo on arms transfers to Israel, it refused to provide landing rights for U.S. aircraft to refuel on their way to supplying the Israeli military with much-needed supplies.
After the Six-Day War, the U.K. enshrined Israel’s right to “secure and recognized boundaries” when it drafted and submitted U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 calling for the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” According to George Brown, foreign secretary at the time, “[Resolution 242] does not call for Israeli withdrawal from ‘the’ territories recently occupied, nor does it use the word ‘all,’ ” and U.N. Ambassador Lord Caradon explained that “[i]t would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” Sadly, the U.K. reversed this position in 2016 when it voted for U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, all but sanctifying the June 4, 1967 lines as Israel’s border.
No peace-loving person can disagree with your statement that “we must … strive to hammer out a solution [to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict].” The question is how. The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected all proposals that have been put on the table. Israeli and other world leaders share part of the blame, as every time a Palestinian leader said “no,” they received a better offer.
The major contribution of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan is the message it sends to the Palestinians that time is no longer on their side. The reward of better offers with every “no” is henceforth replaced by diminishing returns with every rejection. Is it still your position that the Trump plan contains “serious proposals for peace?” Will your government give the new paradigm a fair chance or insist on the same unsuccessful approach of the past?
In closing, Honorable Prime Minister, there are many factors that Israel should weigh when considering whether to apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, as contemplated by the “Peace to Prosperity” plan. The notion that “the U.K. has always stood by Israel and its right to live as any nation should be able to, in peace and security,” unfortunately, is not one of them.
Julio Messer is a former president of American Friends of Likud.