Odd couple tie the knot
THE MOOD-SWINGING US administration is a conundrum for every government on the planet. Britain and Israel, however, have their own domestic political storms — and as such stand particularly exposed to vicissitudes of Donald Trump’s foreign policies.
Which was why this week’s meeting between the British and Israeli prime ministers was more of a shotgun wedding than long-planned matrimony.
Theresa May is grappling with the monumental political and bureaucratic Brexit puzzle and the urgent need to find reliable new global business partners. She must be concerned Mr Trump could at any point tweet a U-turn on his pledge to do a “fast” post-Brexit deal.
Israel, with its digital prowess and well-established high-tech business links to the UK, is an important candidate for a bilateral accord.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu has his own serious problems. He is the subject of a series of police investigations into claims he accepted bribes. And the right-wing of his government is agitating to use the Trump administration’s relaxed view of settlement-building to annexe large new chucks of the West Bank, a move that could precipitate the break-up of his coalition.
Despite this chaos — and partly as a distraction from it — Mr Netanyahu spent a large portion of his time with Mrs May urging her to support him against terror-sponsoring Iran.
While Mr Netanyahu was more than happy to embrace Mrs May’s push on trade, and she echoed some of his sentiments on Iran, their agendas look very different, especially when it comes to settlements.
Only a month and a half ago, British diplomats helped draft UN Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli West Bank settlement-building as a “flagrant violation” of international law. John Kerry, the departing US Secretary of State, later came under fire from Mrs May, who called his attack on the Israeli government “inappropriate”.
However, her apparent U-turn was widely seen as a move to please the pro-settlement Trump administration rather than to reach out to the Israelis.
Despite these mixed messages, amid the maelstrom kicked up by Mr Trump, Israel and the UK must now see each other as relatively reliable partners.
The two leaders have much in common. Both are playing to their nationalist base at home, both are early friends of Mr Trump, and both are as confused as each other about his next move.
The newly-weds could still have a happy future.
Israel is an important candidate for an accord’