Odd cou­ple tie the knot

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY OR­LANDO RADICE

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’

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