(June 19, 2020 / JNS) Ahead of Israel’s planned application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria starting on July 1, British experts and Jewish leaders spoke out about their support for Israel’s claim and right of sovereignty in the land, and the Jewish state’s democratic decision to carry out its policies.
Retired British army officer Col. Richard Kemp challenged the assertion that Israel’s proposed action would be a violation of international law, which was made by Member of Parliament Crispin Blunt, and other British MPs and members of the House of Lords, in a letter addressed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the foreign secretary.
Based on Kemp’s lengthy experience working on the Israel-Palestinian issue at the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee, as well as many years observing, monitoring and studying the situation on the ground in Israel, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East, he assessed in the letter “that the U.S. Administration’s current peace proposals, including sovereignty implementation, represent the best chance for a lasting peace between the two sides, as well as a future two-state solution.”
“I believe that this plan also has the potential to bring much-needed prosperity for the Palestinian people, as well as greater stability to the region,” he wrote.
Kemp further claimed that Blunt’s proposed sanctions against Israel if sovereignty is applied is harmful to Britain’s trade relationship with Israel and the United States. “The security of British citizens at home and overseas relies heavily on the continued strong intelligence, defence and technology relationship with Israel,” he wrote in the letter.
In the midst of economic uncertainty from coronavirus and Brexit, he told JNS, “the last thing we need is to damage relationship with U.S. and Israel, our important trading partners that share a mutual benefit in our security relationship.”
Israel’s application of sovereignty, which will infuse the Palestinian economy with massive investments and Israeli cooperation, will urge the Palestinians to “act more constructively”—an encouraging new idea in the context of “trying to achieve the same thing for decades and achieving nothing.”
The typical route to pursuing a two-state solution, he explained in the letter, has “proven not only fruitless but has also increased suffering for the Palestinian people and heightened danger for Israeli citizens and the Jewish diaspora.”
In an additional letter addressed to the MPs, who asked for punitive actions against Israel regarding so-called annexation, Kemp, banker and philanthropist Lord Simon Rufus Isaacs (the fourth Marquess of Reading) and filmmaker of “Whose land?” Hugh Kitson spelled out the legality of sovereignty under international law. They cited the international law of acquisition of territory through war, the San Remo Resolution of 1920, The Mandate for Palestine, the 1939 White Paper, Article 80 of the U.N. Charter, the 1947 Partition Plan and UNSC Resolutions 242 and 2334.
Even despite the legality, Kemp said, because Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership led to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism with the Labour Party, it has a strongly held anti-Israel views now being applied to the question of sovereignty. While some MPs are inclined to oppose anything Israel does—and there are indeed Jewish leaders against the plan as well, explained Kemp—some British Jews are hesitant to support the plan out of fear of being scapegoated for Israel’s decisions.
“When Israel is accused of illegal war crimes, as it is so frequently is, that has an impact in the world and in Britain as well, with fears of increased violence in Israel and anti-Semitism in the U.K.,” said Kemp.
‘A lot of hostility’ towards Israel in Europe
Royi Gutkin, an Israeli-born Londoner who has lived in England for 30 years, told JNS that he supports the decision “with a heavy heart.”
Though he is a religious Zionist and not ideologically opposed, he admitted having “grave concerns about the potential response of West Bank Palestinians” and would have favored instead a slower, staged process.
Additionally, he stated, those outside of the “Jewish Orthodox bubble” are likely to be unsupportive given the poor PR on Israel’s part, and “because it sounds like a very aggressive move that would never have gone ahead with any other republican or democratic US administration.”
Though the concern of backlash is understandable, Kemp said, he doubts that “the sky will fall,” predicting only minor attempts at violence and increased rocket fire, “similar to the reaction to the U.S. embassy move and recognition of the Golan Heights.”
According to British Jewish researcher David Collier, who works to combat anti-Semitism online and within the British Jewish community, while the vast majority are Zionist, is a “vocal minority of people on the left that make far more noise, put petitions together and have a well-oiled machine,” that makes the news, “silencing the majority of people who don’t have knowledge and who stay quiet.”
British Jews fall into two camps, he told JNS. The first opposes the application of sovereignty, applying the Oslo and land for peace paradigm. “They, sitting in London in their comfortable coffee shops, dictate ethically what is best for Israel. And to them I say if you want to make a difference in Israeli policy, go make aliyah, you have the right.”
The other camp, which he believes is the majority of British Jews, believes that the land is Israel’s historically and legally, and acknowledges that Israel is a functioning and competent democracy that has the right to decide.
This majority, said Kemp, is vital to Israel as Israel is to Britain.
In the context of “a lot of hostility” towards Israel in Europe, said Kemp, Britain helps to mitigate the negativity with a vast amount of trade and diplomacy with the Jewish state. “Britain is Israel’s closest friend in Europe and has worked to stop countries from supporting anti-Israel diplomatic measures in the U.N.,” he emphasized. “It can only be beneficial to maintain good relations.”
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