Peter Oborne

Notebook | 2 November 2017

Also: my Audible cure for insomnia and why we need to stop being gloomy over universal credit

There are many reasons political journalists get so many things so badly wrong. One is our tendency to overvalue liberal politicians. This explains why we have misunderstood Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, who has flown to London this week to join Theresa May at a dinner to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. Frequently dismissed as a political thug, Mr Netanyahu is arguably the most successful Israeli premier of all time. If he wins the next election, he will overtake David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s father figure, as his country’s longest-serving prime minister. He has seen off all his domestic rivals. He faced down Barack Obama, and anticipated the rise of the alt-right. He has secured international alliances that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Saudi Arabia is today one of Israel’s closest allies, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India recently visited Israel without even bothering to travel to the Palestinians in Ramallah. Inside Israel, the peace process is dead. Not even the Israeli Labour party bothers to complain about the settlements. This is a staggering achievement.

Should we celebrate Balfour? Britain has honoured the first half of Balfour’s letter, which promised to deliver a Jewish homeland. But we have miserably failed to keep our second promise to protect the civil and religious rights of Palestinians. Last month I visited East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Above the Jordan Valley I spent an afternoon with a Bedouin chief for whom Balfour has been a disaster. He told me how he tried to build a school, but the Israelis knocked it down. So he tried to construct a road to the nearest school, but the Israelis destroyed the road. They bulldozed his encampment. They have taken his water supply.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in