|The British government and parliament are |
well aware of the broiling complexity of the
situation and what they have got themselves
into Image Credit: REUTERS
Netanyahu’s UK visit should be scrapped
By Marwan Asmar,
Special to Gulf News
If push comes to a shove, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could well cancel his visit to Britain this month and try and avoid embarrassing the British government. Although the two parties say the visit is to go ahead, with the British Prime Minister David Cameron insisting the Likud leader has diplomatic immunity and cannot be touched, the visit is getting such a bad press that both could well retract from their positions once the date gets nearer. They would almost probably plead a full agenda and pressing government business as a way to get out of a slippery diplomatic situation that may open a can of worms.
The situation is becoming unbearable because of the ever-increasing popularity of the petition Damien Moran posted on British parliament website, branding Netanyahu as a war criminal who must be arrested and tried, if he steps on British soil, for Israel’s 2014 war involving the “massacre of over 2000 civilians”. The petition has already received 10,000 votes since it was posted on August 7. This meant that, as per rules, the British government needed to make a statement about the visit. It made Cameron express support to Israel and say the Israeli prime minister enjoys full diplomatic immunity as a foreign political leader.
But it gets worse at least on the popular level, with British people voting all the time against Netanyahu, picking up speed at terrific rates. And Britons are not afraid to put their name, email and postal code to say ‘yes’ to the petition. The number of votes has now crossed 85,000 and we are still counting. Nobody is now talking about the petition reaching the 100,000 breaking barrier, which is seen as a further diplomatic embarrassment to both the Israeli and British governments. This is because at that level, the British parliament is required to consider the petition for debate in the House of Commons, the country’s top legislative making body.
That would certainly, and to use an antiquated English phrase, put the cat among the pigeons, possibly turning things around and creating a very large hole in what is being dubbed as a growing cushy relationship between London and Tel Aviv. In fact, the British government recently lifted its military export ban against Israel and signified its kick-start with a $6.3 million (Dh23.17 million) arms deal and the exchange of cultural, scientific and academic visits between the two countries.
Could the relationship conceivably be thrown asunder? Not so easily! Everyone, including Moran, is being very cautious, playing things down and daring not be hopeful that his petition could now make not headway but heat-waves and headaches. Lips are sealed apart from the odd tweet here and there. Moran tweeted to the Israeli leader last month asking: “How many kids have you killed now, you have a short, sharp shock coming your way soon, you vile excuse for a human being.” Whilst he and many of those of his persuasion are watching cautiously, there is a very large vocal movement that is being built against Netanyahu.
If the 100,000-mark is reached, imagine what might happen when the petition runs its full six-month course until February 7, by which time, hundreds of thousands more are expected to vote for criminalising and bringing the Israeli prime minister to justice.
One should also not forget the parliamentary debate that could be called if the total number of petitions reaches 100,000, and the political, diplomatic and even constitutional implications it would have if indeed such a drastic step is taken. Imagine! A full-frontal debate by the same British government that once gave the Jews a “homeland” in Palestine under the besmirched Balfour Declaration in 1917.
It is also the same British Government that commissioned MI6 to sabotage ships carrying Jews to Palestine in 1947-48. Government anti-Semitism may be directly linked to which party is in government at the time. In 47-48, it was Labour.
The British government and parliament are well aware of the broiling complexity of the situation and what they have got themselves into. Hence, the government will have to consider any step it takes carefully. Israel is its friend, which it clearly wants to hold on to for many reasons, but the petition on the parliamentary website introduced major developments in the political system. Politicians may not have considered the potentially grave consequences of the petition up until now; it includes controversial issues like Israel’s bloody treatment of the Palestinians of Gaza.
Mr Asmar neglects to point out that much of Israel's 'bloody treatment of the Palestinians' was a consequence of Hamas choosing to launch rockets into Israel from Hospitals, schoolyards, residential buildings, etc. They were deliberately setting Palestinian civilian (including children) up as targets for Israeli fire. The more Palestinian casualties, the more anti-Semitism came into play around the world. Some of the Palestinian casualties came from Hamas' own rockets which managed to miss Israel and land in Gaza. They also increased the casualty numbers by murdering several people suspected of being Jewish informants. Of course they blamed all these deaths on Israel. Another of their tricks was to dress soldiers in civvies so that if they became casualties, they would look like civilians.
It's unfortunate that fools like Moran actually believe anything that Palestinians say; it ten times more unfortunate that ordinary Brits believe idiots like Moran.
Is Britain now trying to play the role of an honest broker and thinking it could be time to put things right? Indeed, one of the topics Cameron will be discussing with Netanyahu in London is ways to reignite the long-stalled peace process and the now Britain-favoured two-state solution with the Palestinians. However, the pitfalls ahead could be long and dangerous. If he does make the visit this month to Britain, Netanyahu could be walking into a minefield that no one can control.
Marwan Asmar is a commentator based in Amman. He has long worked in journalism and has a PhD in Political Science from Leeds University in the UK.