Monday, July 20, 2009

Great Britain, Like Israel, Finding It No Great Shakes To Be A Friend Of The US

If there is any such relationship [with the US], the British people have seen no reward from it—only subordination and sacrifice.

It seems that Great Britain is catching on to something that has crossed the mind of Israelis: with the advent of the new Obama administration, it is not so clear if it pays to be a friend of the US.

Of course, at issue is also faith in Great Britain's own Prime Minister:
The British are losing faith in the Afghan war. If Barack Obama wants a continued British effort in Afghanistan, he must offer them clear signs of success within six months—and a realistic hope of a pullout.

In Britain’s latest opinion poll, nearly 60 percent of respondents wanted an early British exit from Afghanistan, against 36 percent who wanted the troops to stay. There are some special British factors behind those numbers—especially the low esteem of Gordon Brown’s government—but also some lessons for Obama, on the risks of fighting a war without a clear purpose or measurable success.
The benefit of an alliance with a country is what can be gained both in concrete as well as psychological terms. The latter played a part in the British-US alliance.

No more:
The British people are losing faith not just in the Afghan war but in the underlying assumptions that led them into it, and the war in Iraq—particularly the idea that Britain is a great power because of its “special relationship” with the United States.

If there is any such relationship, the British people have seen no reward from it—only subordination and sacrifice. Only a few days ago, in a little-noticed parliamentary answer, Brown was unable to name a single benefit to Britain from joining the Iraq war and occupation.
In addition, there is the issue of the implied subservience of Great Britain to the US:
If Obama wants a guide to the present British mood, he should study the campaign for the British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, who faces extradition to the United States for the crime of embarrassing the Pentagon. Very significantly, this has been taken up by the Daily Mail, the newspaper of mainstream Middle England. The newspaper condemned the one-sided extradition treaty which Tony Blair agreed with the Bush administration (which essentially forces Britain on demand to yield up anybody for trial in the United States), and the treaty has become a symbol of British subjection.
Bottom line, the people of Great Britain are wondering whether the sacrifices they are being asked to make, the lack of concrete benefits, and the implied subservience to the US are all worth the intangible plus of being allied with the US:
A growing number of British voters no longer care about being on any top table [of nations], and they are certainly not prepared to spend taxes to prove it or ask their soldiers to die for the sake of prestige. They have seen no evidence of special British influence over the United States, or any other country. “Little Englander” parties made important gains in Britain’s recent European elections.

The British people hated fighting George W. Bush’s wars. They still love Barack Obama, but they do not like fighting his wars, either. American voters may make the same discovery, if they too see indefinite sacrifice without reward.
The British are not willing to put up with it any longer--and apparently Israel is not either, the difference being that in the case of Israel, the move to draw back from the US is coming from the head of the Israeli government.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, responding to the reports that Washington had asked Israel not to build 20 apartments in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem, near Mount Scopus and the National Police headquarters, said, "I would like to reemphasize that united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged; this means - inter alia - that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city.

"This has been the policy of all Israeli governments and I would like to say that it is indeed being implemented because in recent years hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods and in the western part of the city have been purchased by - or rented to - Arab residents and we did not interfere," he said.

"This says that there is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city."

Netanyahu said Jerusalem was an open, undivided city "that has no separation according to religion or national affiliation. We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem."
In attempting to apply his ban on settlement growth to Jerusalem, Obama--who sees the Jewish tie to the land defined by the Holocaust instead of the long history of Jewish ties to the land--continues to show a lack of understanding of history.

But if the Israel-US relationship is not what it once was, Abbas may be in for an even bigger shock. Writing in The National Review, Elliot Abrams writes about the consequences of the inevitable compromise on the issue of Israeli settlements:
look at what the Obama administration has done to its friends in Ramallah as well. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiator Saeb Erekat are on record demanding a total freeze — including in Jerusalem, without a time limit, all over the West Bank, every settlement, all sorts of buildings. No exceptions for construction now under way, for kindergartens, not even (or, perhaps, especially?) for synagogues. Where do they stand when the United States government announces its deal — allowing several thousand units to be completed and remaining silent on Jerusalem? Compared with the current situation — daily denunciations of settlements by Washington, while Palestinians are asked to do nothing — all of a sudden the U.S. will seem to have switched sides. All of a sudden the actual construction work you see before you is okay, Washington blesses it; and as to Jerusalem there will be no stated limits at all. “There are no middle-ground solutions for the settlement issue: Either settlement activity stops or it doesn’t stop,” Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio last week. Under all the possible compromises, it doesn’t stop — or so it will seem to Erekat and his boss Abbas, and to any Palestinian listening to Hamas’s radio and TV denunciations of such a deal.

Which is why the actual Palestinian position is to pray for Mitchell to fail.

So, this Obama settlement mania will end up damaging not only Netanyahu but Abbas as well. What a triumph of American diplomacy.
After making a point during his election campaign that the US would once again be respected around the world--by not throwing its weight around, Obama seems to be as intrusive on the world stage as he is domestically on the economic one.

It comes as no surprise that the resentment overseas--and at home--is growing.

Technorati Tag: and and .

Post a Comment