Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

How can ‘needy’ Britain help Palestine when it can’t help itself?

A senior civil servant gave Andrew Rawnsley a haunting description of Brexit Britain’s new place in the world. When Theresa May visited Washington, he said, she looked ‘needy’. The diplomat summed up our future to perfection. Britain is now a needy country. The importuning Mrs May tours foreign capitals looking for emergency trade deals like a poor relation. Begging bowl in her hand and a wheedling note in her anxious voice, she can think of nothing but making ends meet.

If it were not for Brexit, which never forget Mrs May opposed, the PM could act with European allies and try to bring a minimum of order to the chaos Trump is causing. When Benjamin Netanyahu visited London today, for instance, she might have told him that unlike the leader of the Labour party she does not associate with anti-Semites. She is not a racist or a friend of racists. Rather, as a friend to Israeli Jews she wants him to know that the occupation and settlement of the West Bank is a disaster.

There is truth in the accusation from Israel’s opponents that the country is starting to look like an apartheid state, she might continue. Not Israel proper, where there is the rule of law and legal equality, but in the occupied territories, where Arabs, unlike Jewish settlers, have no vote. What is he going to do?

If Israel were to annex the West Bank without the approval of Palestinians living there, it would be naked imperialism. If it went ahead anyway, and did not give the Palestinians full citizenship and the vote, it would not just look like apartheid, it would be apartheid. If Israel were to annex and grant citizenship, Netanyahu would fundamentally alter the character of the Israeli state, and open the possibility of an Arab government coming to power.

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