It is remarkable to see how Israeli leaders cozy up to bad, unpopular or even fascist foreign leaders in hopes of bolstering Israel’s perceived position on the global stage. In the past, we saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pursue close ties with the likes of America’s Donald Trump, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. Today we see Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s fascination with his “good friend” Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister of Great Britain.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, Lapid thanked “his good” friend Truss for “positively considering moving the British Embassy to Jerusalem”.
During his Conservative leadership campaign, Truss had promised in a letter to the Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary group to go through with a move to Jerusalem and now seems to indicate that she would keep that promise. Last week, the British Prime Minister declared that she is “a huge Zionist” and a “huge supporter of Israel” in a speech at an event held during the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
Pro-Israel groups in Britain are already lobbying for the embassy move, and the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews supports it. Apparently, land in West Jerusalem has also been earmarked for the embassy move.
The Israeli government and its supporters have naturally been ecstatic, as they were when Trump promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem in December 2017.
That pledge, according to a recently published book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, was lobbied for by American businessman Sheldon Adelson, who had donated about $20 million to Trump’s election campaign. Interestingly, Britain under Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017 joined many other states in condemning his decision when Trump made the announcement.
Today, the consequences for the Palestinians if Britain moves its embassy to Jerusalem are clear. This would be another act by a Western country that violates international law and UN resolutions, which have repeatedly emphasized that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory and that Israel continues to deny Palestinians their rights to their land and to self-determination .
As with Trump’s decision, a move by Britain in this direction would have a strong, destabilizing effect on Palestinian politics. It would further erode the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – a governing body set up specifically to oversee a “two-state solution” to the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” as envisioned under the Oslo Accords. Recognition by countries like the US – and now probably the UK – for Israel’s illegal statement of occupied Jerusalem as its capital makes a Palestinian state – as negotiated in the agreements – impossible. That would make the PA an even easier target for its political opponents and popular anger.
What a British embassy move to Jerusalem would not do is quell Palestinian resistance. The Palestinian struggle has survived decades of British and other Western support for Israel; it would survive another illegal act that violates Palestinian rights.
Perhaps less obvious are the consequences this move would have for Britain. The country has nothing to gain by breaking with its long-term position on Jerusalem and moving, except to satisfy the fringes of the Israel lobby in Britain, as well as the Israeli government. It could even lose a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, as some Arab diplomats have warned.
The move would also cement the country’s position on the wrong side of history and continue its legacy of supporting colonialism in Palestine that began with the Balfour Declaration – for which we Palestinians have yet to receive an apology. Worse, it would normalize toxic, illiberal politics that allow small interest groups to push for policy decisions that are not in the interests of the majority of British citizens.
During his campaign for the Conservative leadership election, Truss sought favor not only from Israeli lobby groups. According to recent reports, she received more than $250,000 in donations from people connected to the financial world. When she became Prime Minister, one of her first decisions was to introduce deregulation policies and tax cuts to benefit the wealthiest in Britain.
These policies have been extremely unpopular. As a result, Truss’s approval rating has fallen to -47, worse than her predecessor Boris Johnson’s at the height of the political scandals he faced. She has been seen as a “walking disaster”, her policies bringing the Conservative government “near total condemnation by experts globally” on a scale not seen since the British invasion of Egypt across the Suez Canal in 1956, according to a commentator.
It is no surprise that the Israeli government would seek out someone like Truss – a conservative, unpopular foreign politician – to help normalize apartheid and the decades-long occupation and illegal annexation of Palestinian territories. It does so in the United States as well.
Ahead of November’s midterm elections, the Israeli lobby group AIPAC has endorsed dozens of Republican congressional candidates who have questioned US President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, and confirmed Trump’s claim that his victory was “stolen”. It has also poured millions of dollars into undermining the campaigns of progressive members of the Democratic Party. For doing so, the lobby group has been heavily criticized by members of the American Jewish community and even accused of undermining American democracy.
Recent polls show Truss is on course to deliver the Conservative Party’s worst election defeat in decades as the Labor Party has gained significant support. But for us Palestinians, a Labor government in London may not bring good news. Just as Biden’s administration did not reverse Trump’s embassy move and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, there are fears that a British government led by Starmer’s Labor Party would also not reverse such a damaging decision by its predecessor.
Starmer succeeded as Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, a pro-Palestinian politician who was the victim of a media witch hunt questioning his fitness for office. Starmer himself believes that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, and supports the IHRA definition, which conflates criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism.
As the British people reject Truss’s unpopular policies, a possible move of the British embassy to Jerusalem should be another alarm bell. As they say, a person is judged by the company they keep. If the British Prime Minister is praised by an apartheid government, it is not good news for Britain.
Israel purposefully seeks close relations with foreign leaders who defy the rule of law and undermine democracy at home and abroad. It does so because apartheid is not an easy sell on the international stage, nor are violations of international law and systematic violations of the human rights of an occupied people.
A principled political leader who upholds democratic values and serves the will of their people would not associate with Israel. They would naturally stand for Palestine – for justice and freedom.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.