Friday, March 14, 2014

David Cameron visiting Israel

David Cameron is visiting Israel for the first time as British PM and he gave a speech to the Knesset. He was well received and there were no negative reactions to his statements. Unlike the American and other European equivalents, Cameron has put a positive spin on his support for a two-state solution. Instead of threatening Israel with boycotts etc. if it doesn't go along with the American positions, Cameron emphasized the positive results for Israel and the Palestinians that could be expected from a two-state peace agreement. Cameron was accompanied by a group of British businessmen and stressed the expanding edconomic and academic ties between the UK and Israel, and he stated that the British Government would never accept any kind of boycott of Israel. Today Cameron is visiting Ramallah to meet with PA Pres Abbas.

As far as Israel is concerned there can hardly be a better diplomat than Cameron, he did not put a step wrong and came across as a highly sympathetic supporter and friend of Israel, on a par with Canadian Premier Harper. The only statement that Israelis could disagree with was Cameron's declaration that further building of settlements in the West Bank might prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State. But, as Netanyahu responded, it's not the settlements that prevent peace but the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel and make peace that leads to the building of more settlements.

The fact that Cameron's visit coincided last night with a barrage of 60 missiles fired into southern Israel from Ashkelon to Rehovot, putting over 1 million Israelis in danger, was a graphic reminder, if any were needed, of Israel's predicament. While one set of Palestinians supposedly talks peace, while demanding concessions, another group keeps firing missiles into populated areas trying to kill Israeli civilians, although luckily noone was killed. The IDF hit back, 3 Islamic Jihad rocket launchers were killed when caught in the act by Israeli tanks and there were many IAFstrikes on targets throughout the Gaza strip. After 24 hrs the Egyptians mediated a ceasefire.

Cameron's visit happened to coincide with several domestic issues being debated by the Knesset and there was a walkout by the haredi religious parties and the Labor opposition before his speech. He handled the situation with aplomb. Netanyahu joked that although Israel is a democracy we haven't yet absorbed the British Parliament's sense of decorum. However, if he has ever watched Commons debates he would know that there is a lot less decorum there than expected.


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