While there’s much, good and bad, to sort out about Brexit’s impact on the UK and Europe, it may, presumably unintentionally, be good news for the Palestinians:
In a last minute pandering for votes, British Prime Minister, David Cameron — who, to his credit, had the dignity to resign after the vote — made a passionate appeal before a Jewish audience on Monday, June 20. He told the Israel supporters in the charity Jewish Care that staying in the EU is actually good for Israel.
He presented his country as the safeguard of Israeli interests at the Union. The gist of his message was: Britain has kept a watchful eye on Brussels and has thwarted any discussion that may be seen as hostile towards the Jewish state.
“When Europe is discussing its attitude towards Israel, do you want Britain — Israel’s greatest friend — in there opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes place?” he told the largely Jewish audience.
Predictably, Cameron brought Iran into his reasoning, vowing that, if Britain remained in the EU, his country would be in a stronger position to “stop Iran (from) getting nuclear weapons.”
While the ‘Leave’ campaign was strongly censured for unethically using fear-mongering to dissuade voters, Cameron’s comments before Jewish Care — which were an extreme and barefaced example of fear-mongering and manipulation of Israel’s so-called ‘existentialist threats’ — received little coverage in the media.
Indeed, Britain has played that dreadful role for decades, muting any serious discussion on Israel and Palestine, and ensuring more courageous voices like that of Sweden, for example, are offset by the ardently and unconditionally pro-Israel sentiment constantly radiating from Westminster. Who can forget Cameron’s impassionate defense of Israel’s last war on Gaza in 2014, which killed over 2,200 mostly Palestinian civilians?
With Britain out of the picture, the thinking goes, the EU loses a major country that took a largely one-sided view of the Israel-Palestine conflict. EU foreign policy could shift in the Palestinian direction as a result.
I’m not sure I buy this argument, to be honest. The flip side of this coin is that the EU is already seen, at least on the Israeli right, as anti-Israel. It’s been particularly critical of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, insisting last year for example that some goods made on those settlements had to be labeled as such before they could be imported into Europe (the Israeli government sees labeling as the first step to boycotting). And, of course, the EU helped facilitate the Iran nuclear deal, though the UK was intimately involved in those negotiations and, if anything, was a softer touch on Iran than France. So anything that weakens the EU, like the departure of one of its three most powerful member states, could alternatively be seen as a good thing for Israel. And there are plenty of other EU member states, Germany in particular, who are just as one-sided as the UK, if not more so, in their approach to the I-P conflict.
Obviously any Brexit impact on Israel-Palestine depends on Brexit actually happening, which is a little up in the air at the moment to say the least. It also depends on Brexit happening in a way that doesn’t leave the UK with leverage over EU foreign policy, though it’s hard to imagine why the EU would want to give a non-member, or associate member, or whatever, that kind of power.