How Donald Trump emerged as Israel’s unflinching champion

On Wednesday John Kerry managed to attract more attention with what amounted to a declaration of failure than any success he has achieved during his tenure as Secretary of State. In his speech blasting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which came on the heels of US abstention on a United Nations resolution condemning settlements, Kerry all but conceded that a two state solution is as dead as the Dodo bird. Leading Democrats such as Senate minority leader Charles Schumer criticised the speech and want nothing to do with anything that might drive traditionally Jewish Democratic voters to the GOP. Obama himself had long washed his hands of any attempt to

High life | 24 November 2016

 New York   If only my wordsmith friend Jeremy Clarke had been with me. What fun he’d have had with the ungallant thing I did last week. Jeremy’s writing thrives on such occasions, but alas he’s in the land of cheese and impressionism. I had just finished lunch with my friend Alex Sepkus, a designer of unique jewellery, and a Catholic priest whose name I will not reveal in view of what followed. After all, the Catholic Church loves sinners, but hooliganism is discouraged. I was walking up Fifth Avenue, which was packed to the gills with shoppers, hawkers and tourists. When I got to 56th Street, it was blocked

There’s one major lesson Labour should learn from Syriza’s anniversary

If a week is a long time in politics what’s a year? A century? A millennium? An Ice Age? If you’re Greek it can sometimes feel like all three. One year ago today, on 26 January 2015, Greece’s Syriza party formed the most left-wing government in the country’s history having (ludicrously) promised the Greek people to take on the European establishment and rid them of the austerity measures that had blighted their lives for close to a decade. If hubris and bombast characterised Syriza’s election campaign, then naivety and disaster characterised its first months in office. The new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had given the job of re-negotiating with Greece’s

High life | 11 June 2015

There’s nothing to add to Martin Vander Weyer’s item about Hellas of two weeks ago in these here pages except a Yogi Berra pearl, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’ The Greek drama will go on and on until the brinkmanship is exhausted. The EU has blinked, as I thought it would. Although Greek accounting arabesques have been known to shame the Bolshoi — Goldman Sachs taught the modern Hellenes how to legally cook the books and screw Brussels, something we are now paying the price for — we Greeks have contributed a few things apart from cheating and not paying our taxes. As Michael Daley wrote in a letter

Why wasn’t the head of Hamas properly cross-examined during his BBC interview?

When journalists have the much sought after opportunity to interview the heads of states and organisations with appalling human rights records the very least we expect is to see such people given a thorough cross-examining. What we don’t expect is for heads of terrorist organisations to be provided with a platform from which to give the equivalent of a party political broadcast and to get away with it virtually unchallenged.  And yet that is precisely what we got when the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen recently interviewed Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas. Hamas leader Meshaal warns of Israeli ‘extremism’ after elections, reads the baffling headline that accompanies Bowen’s

Harry Mount’s diary: Class war with classicists and wisdom from Brian Sewell

I never knew classicists could be so scary! Last week I wrote a Telegraph article saying classics exams had been dumbed down. It followed the news that Camden School for Girls — the last comprehensive in the country to teach Greek A-level — is planning to drop the subject in September. Soon after, the classics trolls came a-calling, on Facebook’s Classics International forum. The insults were impressively high-minded. A classics student at King’s College London called me an ‘antediluvian ape’. A classics teacher at Durham Sixth Form Centre predicted my next book would be ‘bowel-achingly derivative’. My kind former tutor, Professor Greg Woolf, disagreed with my argument but flatteringly suggested

The Conservatives should be the party of immigrants — and here’s how they can be

For a long while, the Conservatives have been puzzled about their lack of popularity among immigrants. In theory, the Conservative party should be the natural home of new voters who are ambitious, entrepreneurial, hard-working and family-orientated. The immigrant vote — to the extent it can be considered a coherent block at all — ought to be fertile Tory territory. By and large, these are families who have moved to Britain to get ahead and to avail themselves of what Michael Howard called ‘the British dream’. Yet at the last election fewer than one in five ethnic minority voters endorsed Conservative candidates and the party is unlikely to fare much better

Forget Geneva: the real US-Iran carve-up is happening in Iraq

 Washington DC and Iraq   We stood on a bleak hillside in eastern Iraq looking at a makeshift grave. It held a dozen Shia Arabs, according to the Kurdish troops escorting us. The dead were men, women and children murdered by fighters from the so-called Islamic State as they retreated, said the Kurds. We stepped gingerly around scraps of women’s clothing and a bone poking out through the dirt. In the town on the dusty plain below, Shi’ite militias were busy taking revenge on Sunnis, our escorts said, looting and killing. The town’s Sunni Arab population had fled to a miserable camp. Streams of sewage ran between their tents. But

We can’t just blame Benjamin Netanyahu for the lack of peace in the Middle East

The re-election of Benjamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu in Israel has not gone down well in the chancelleries of Europe, let alone the White House. During his terms of office, a majority of western politicians and commentators have become opposed to Netanyahu, viewing him as an obstacle to peace. BBC reporters claimed that his win was down to ‘scare tactics’. The shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said he found Bibi’s success ‘depressing’. But the election results are a reminder that, although outside the country there is a vast industry focused on the unresolved Israel-Palestinian border dispute, inside Israel other issues dominate. Fifteen years after the failure of negotiations at Camp David, Israeli


Andy Burnham burnishes his foreign policy credentials

If Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham’s future leadership aspirations were ever in doubt, then take a look at his reaction to the news of Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election as Prime Minister of Israel last night: Burnishing his foreign policy expertise: tick. Cat-nipping the Labour left: tick. About as subtle as Burnham’s recent attempts in The Spectator to rebrand himself as ‘mainstream Labour’. The general election campaign has barely begun, and already potential Miliband successors are getting their ducks in a row.

Was Netanyahu’s message worth the diplomatic damage it caused?

For weeks before his plane set off for Washington, Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress was exhaustingly analysed here in DC. Did Speaker Boehner adequately notify the White House about the invitation? How angry was the President really about this fait accompli? Were the Republicans using the invite to try to show themselves to be more pro-Israel than their Democrat rivals? Or were certain Democrats talking of no-shows and walk-outs during the speech only in order to show themselves more critical of Israel than the Republicans? By the day of the speech it seemed both sides had need of the fight. Of course Netanyahu had not single-handedly created this

Portrait of the week | 5 March 2015

Home The man seen in several Islamic State videos of hostages being beheaded, nicknamed Jihadi John by the British press, was revealed as Mohammed Emwazi, aged 26, born in Kuwait but raised from the age of six in London. He was said to have had help with anger management at his secondary school, Quintin Kynaston Academy in St John’s Wood. An advocacy group called Cage produced a recording of him complaining that MI5 had questioned him after he had to turn back from a ‘safari’ in Tanzania in 2009. General Raymond Odierno, the chief of staff of the US army, said he was ‘very concerned’ about British defence cuts. Lance

Clash of the Titans: Rod Liddle calls Piers Morgan a halfwit

Piers Morgan’s claim in the Daily Mail that the Prime Minister of Israel’s reaction to the  terror attacks in Denmark ‘is a disgrace’ has caught the attention of Mr S’s colleague Rod Liddle. Liddle writes in defence of Benjamin Netanyahu in this week’s Spectator, arguing that Netanyahu’s offer of Israeli sanctuary to Jews should not be ridiculed. He also finds time to level a few insults at Morgan, whose face apparently ‘resembles a puckered anus’. ‘The bien-pensant attacks on Netanyahu were epitomised by the idiotic Piers Morgan, writing in the Daily Mail. I suppose one should not be surprised about what emanates from a man with a face which so closely resembles a

Israel has become a life-insurance policy for many British Jews

Weekends are quality time in the Alderman household. On Saturday evenings, following the termination of the Sabbath, my wife and I are accustomed to sit together, review the week that has just ended, and map out the week ahead. But last Saturday the conversation took a very different turn. My wife and I considered the drama that had unfolded in Copenhagen, and asked ourselves, for the very first time in over forty-one years of marriage, whether we should not make plans to leave (flee?) England – this green and hitherto pleasant land in which we had both been born and educated– and seek shelter in some foreign field. We considered

We’re still repeating the mistakes of the first world war

The time-honoured saying that England’s great battles have been won on the playing fields of Eton is a lot of hooey. Blücher was the real winner against Napoleon at Waterloo, and the only thing he said to Wellington after the battle was ‘Quelle affaire!’ (Hardly an Old Etonian expression.) England’s great battles have been won by some Old Etonians, to be sure, but the heavy lifting has been done by England’s allies, such as the Yanks in the first world war and the Russians in the second. If that ogre Woodrow Wilson had not sold his soul to the bankers and kept America out of the war, I am convinced

Hopeless in Gaza; Israel’s tragically futile war

Travelling back from holiday yesterday we had Jeremy Vine’s show on the car radio and the Radio 2 man was talking about the fighting in Gaza and as is often the case with such matters how the subject is framed is at least as interesting as anything that is subsequently said during the discussion. In this instance, the debate was pitched on the premise that there was something unfair about the fighting. Even something grotesque. Israel, after all, is so very strong and Gaza’s Palestinians so terribly weak. What’s more even if you accept – and not everyone does! – that Israel has been sorely provoked there’s still the question

They always come for the Jews

Just over a week ago a gunman opened fire at the Jewish museum in Brussels. Four Jews – including two Israeli tourists – were killed, shot in the face and throat. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said immediately after the killings, and before a suspect had even been identified: ‘This act of murder is the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state. Slander and lies against the State of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored. Our response to this hypocrisy is to constantly state the truth.’ It looks

Israel still needs diplomatic support, even if Iran seems less aggressive

Israel’s Prime Minister revealed a crucial truth about the foreign policy of the United Kingdom and our allies in his speech to the United Nations, the gravity of which is difficult to overstate.  His speech affirmed once more that when it comes to Iran, we and all our allies are negotiating under the cover of Israel’s credibility alone. Mr Netanyahu rightly dispensed with diplomatic charades to speak explicitly about Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.  If you believe President Rouhani’s lies from the same podium that there isn’t one, no Western or Arab government agrees with you.  This is not Iraq or even Syria.  As it happens, these country names evoke something rather

The real significance of Israel’s strikes on Syria

It is hard to overstate the significance of Israel’s surgical strikes against Syrian military positions over the weekend. The raids targeted missiles bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon while also destroying battery launchers and other delivery systems. Beyond the obvious damage this inflicted on Syrian military capabilities, its real significance lies in the broader political objectives it achieved. Benjamin Netanyahu made a strategic miscalculation last November when he launched Operation Pillar of Defence against Hamas operatives in Gaza. He failed to inflict any meaningful damage on the group while the Hamas administration secured a number of victories, not least hitting Tel Aviv. The weekend’s air raids therefore go a long way

Death of the Two-State Solution

At the (rejuvenated) New Republic, Ben Birnbaum has a comprehensive and comprehensively-depressing survey of the last-gasp prospects for a two-state solution to the Middle East ‘peace process’. If the two-state solution (TSS) is not yet on life-support it is hardly a picture of health. The prognosis is not good and time is running out. According to Birnbaum, Mahmoud Abbas and Bibi Netanyahu are, in their different ways, the last remaining men who could make it work. Yet neither man, as he also demonstrates, has much room for manoeuver. The sketched outlines of a deal remain in place (a divided Jerusalem, land-swaps, a symbolic ‘right of return’ for a few thousand