UK signals its proximity to America

April 01, 2017 11:22

UK foreign policy took a significant and welcome shift last week when it called out the UN Human Rights Council’s bias against Israel as unacceptable and disproportionate.

By voting against what it labelled a “perverse” resolution that condemned Israel for the “suffering” of Druze “Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan”, the UK broke with both the EU and prior British practice.

On past votes on the same absurd text — historically introduced each year by Syria’s Assad regime and, more recently, to avoid embarrassment while Damascus is murdering its own citizens, by the Islamic group together with Cuba and Venezuela — the UK had abstained, together with France, Germany and other EU states.

This time, however, the UK joined the US in voting “no” in what appears to be a move by London to further align itself with Washington. With Brexit beginning, the UK increasingly needs to rely on close ties with America.

More significantly, the UK also declared that if the UNHRC did not change its anti-Israel bias, the country would vote against all five of the annual resolutions concerning Israel.

“Today we are putting the Human Rights Council on notice,” said British envoy Julian Braithwaite before the 47-nation body, sounding more like a US Republican than a Foreign Office diplomat.

In language and tone, therefore, in addition to votes and policy declaration, the UK is signalling its proximity to America in the international arena.

Indeed, the US ambassador struck an almost identical note at her appearance before the annual conference of Aipac, America’s pro-Israel lobby.

Have Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson abandoned London’s harsh criticism of Israeli practices and policies?

Hardly. The statement issued on Friday made clear that the UK regarded the Golan as “occupied” Syrian territory, and criticised the “negative” trend of “Israeli conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories over the past year.”

Hence the UK justified its continued support for two UNHRC resolutions on Friday condemning Israel, and abstention on two others — even as it noted that these texts failed to address Palestinian incitement or terrorism.

To see if the UK is serious and principled in opposing the bias that it has now called out at length, the test will be in future votes.

When the World Health Organisation in May will absurdly single out Israel as the only country in the world that violates health rights, will the UK change its position and vote against? For the credibility of the UK — and of the UN — let’s hope so.


Hillel Neuer is Executive Director 
of UN Watch

April 01, 2017 11:22

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