Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Blaming ‘mercurial’ Trump, UK lawmakers urge Palestine rethink
House of Lords panel says US no longer a leader in region, calls for recognition of Palestine if Washington makes two-state solution impossible
The United Kingdom can no longer rely on the US as a global leader in the region and should seriously consider recognition of a Palestinian state, a UK parliamentary committee said Monday, urging a rethink of London’s policies toward the Middle East.
A major report by the House of Lords International Relations Committee pointed a finger at US President Donald Trump, saying his moves could further inflame the volatile region.
“The mercurial and unpredictable nature of policymaking by President (Donald) Trump has made it challenging for the UK government to influence US foreign policy so far, a challenge that is not likely to ease,” the report stated.
“The new US administration has the potential to destabilize further the region… The US president has taken positions that are unconstructive and could even escalate conflict.”
Committee chairman David Howell said in light of Trump’s unpredictability in dealing with Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other challenges, “We can no longer assume America will set the tone for the West’s relationship with the Middle East.”
He added that: “In a world less automatically dominated by the US underpinning security in the region, it is no longer right to have a stance at every stage of ‘if we just get on with the US everything will be alright.’”
The committee warned that “the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is on the verge of moving into a phase where the two-state solution becomes an impossibility…In the absence of US leadership, it is time for the Europeans to play a more active role.”
It added that if Israel “continues to reduce the possibilities of a two-state solution, the UK should be ready to support (Security Council) resolutions condemning those actions in no uncertain terms.
“The Government should give serious consideration to now recognizing Palestine as a state, as the best way to show its determined attachment to the two-state solution.”
Trump will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday for their first face-to-face talks.
Abbas makes the trip to Washington while politically unpopular back home, but hoping Trump can pressure Israel into concessions he believes are necessary to salvage a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.
PA officials have seen the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overshadowed by global concerns such as the Syrian war and the Islamic State terror group, and want Trump’s White House to bring it back to the forefront.
“Palestinians are hoping that Trump’s unpredictability might play in their favor,” one Jerusalem-based European official told AFP on condition of anonymity. “They are going to be very disappointed. They can’t be sure of anything.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is ready to resume peace talks without preconditions, but accuses Abbas of inciting hostility and terrorism against Israel, and of encouraging terrorists by paying salaries to them and their families.
“Terrorists attack innocent people, Jews and non-Jews, in Israel and abroad,” Netanyahu said on Monday. “These awful terrorists get a monthly wage from the Palestinian Authority,” he continued. “The more you kill, the more you get.”
The PA spends $350 million a year paying wages to terrorists imprisoned in Israel or the families of terrorists killed during their attacks, the prime minister said. Over the past few years, it has spent some $1 billion on those payments. “Think what could have been done with a billion dollars,” Netanyahu said. “How can you talk about peace when you at the same time fund murderers who murdered Israelis?”
The prime minister called on the PA to abolish the laws that require the funding of terrorists and their families. “Fund peace,” he implored.
Much like the US, London has sent mixed signals regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Prime Minister Theresa May took over the government last year.
In December, the UK supported a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement activity as illegal, apparently drafted with the help of British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.
Days later, London refused to endorse a closing statement at a Paris peace conference, and May attacked outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry for his focus on the settlement issue.
However, May insisted in a meeting with Netanyahu in February that the UK is committed to the two-state solution.
Trump had appeared ready to back away from the US commitment to the two-state solution when he met Netanyahu in February.
He said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting many Israeli right-wingers who want to see their country annex most of the West Bank. Trump also vowed to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a prospect that alarmed Palestinians but which has been put on the back burner for now.
At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and the international community, who view settlements as an impediment to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state
One of Trump’s top advisers, Jason Greenblatt, held wide-ranging talks with both Israelis and Palestinians during a visit in March.
Trump has spoken of reviving the idea of a regional peace initiative, pulling in countries such as Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab nations to have signed peace treaties with Israel.
Both Abbas and Trump have recently met Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
After meeting Abbas on Saturday, Sissi urged Washington to help restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.