Britain sticks up for Israel: Is this the Trump effect?

Great Britain has refused to sign a joint agreement supporting negotiations for a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine. Its representatives at a “peace” conference in Paris said the Foreign Office has “particular reservations” about the process, given that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas failed to show up and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the event “the last twitches of the world of yesterday.”

We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them – indeed which is taking place against the wishes of the Israelis – and which is taking place just days before the transition to a new American President when the US will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement.

There are risks therefore that this conference hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace.

Haaretz calls the move “highly irregular,” but the New York Sun prefers to think of it as “unusual, rather than improper.” “Its very irregularity,” the Sun’s editors say, “underscores the sweetness of the moment.”

It must be added that Britain voted in favor of the anti-Israeli U.N. resolution that the Obama administration helped cook up. It seems, though, that the government may be rethinking its approach to Israel and the Middle East.

Why might that be? It probably has to do with president-elect Trump and his stated intention to negotiate a trade deal with the UK. I discussed this development here, in a post called “Trump Likely to Move Britain to the Front of the Queue.”

The Sun’s editors see a connection. They write:

[I]t would not be inapt to see the development [regarding Israel] as a sign of the Trump effect. Two important Tories — Boris Johnson, the foreign minister, and Michael Gove — have been spotted in Trump Tower lately. And Prime Minister May clearly hopes for better relations with America as she seeks to find Britain’s independence.

This won’t be the first “Trump effect” we see in the realm of foreign policy and relations, and I expect that most of them will be salutary.

“Soft power” is real. In the hands, at last, of a president willing aggressively to promote the interests and values of the U.S. and its allies, it can be an impressive force for good.