Pivots and change

September 22, 2011

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, our thoughts naturally turn to the year gone by and the possibilities that lie ahead. The chagim are a pivotal annual moment.

Not that the Middle East needs any more pivotal moments. Whatever the eventual outcome of the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, what the region needs more than anything is stability and liberty.

Stability is one thing. But what matters is how it arises. And that is why liberty is so critical: liberty for Israelis to go about their lives in peace; liberty for those who have lived under despotic regimes; and, yes, liberty for the Palestinians to live in their own state. The Palestinians have never, to use Abba Eban's famous words, missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This time, they appear to have created an opportunity to make things even worse - for themselves, for Israel and for the region as a whole. The British government deserves credit for attempting to take the sting out of the issue with its diplomacy.

We have had cause to criticise the coalition this past year. But the decision to pull out of Durban III and the legislation over universal jurisdiction - which, for all its huffing and puffing, Labour flunked in office - reflect well on David Cameron. As for Labour: it now appears intent only on making itself irrelevant.

It would be an undeserved insult to describe its unconditional backing for a Palestinian state as student politics - undeserved, that is, to students, given that the UJS has shown great creativity in its attempt to change the entire narrative on campus. The government has, sensibly, waited to see what, if anything, is actually on the table before committing its vote. Labour has simply ignored legitimate Israeli concerns - over the remit of the International Criminal Court and security, for instance – and said yes, without waiting for the specifics of any Palestinian proposal. That is both irreponsible and dangerous.

Last updated: 11:30am, September 22 2011