Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Israel and the Family of Nations - Editorial

The Guardian, UK, January 14, 2009 - ....Between orderly nations one state can express its disapproval of another by calling in the ambassador for an "interview without coffee" (to adopt the army terminology of the moment) – or by withdrawing its own. Such diplomatic moments send important signals. It is now time for David Miliband formally to request just such a conversation with Ron Prosor, Israel's man in London.

Mr Miliband should run through four arguments for an immediate ceasefire which will all be familiar to Mr Prosor but which still need restating. The first is humanitarian. There is an extraordinary official anger coming from UN and Red Cross officials on the ground in the ­Middle East. Equally, there is something chilling about seeing Israel's representatives appearing nightly on television screens expressing qualified remorse for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian women and children. The two men surely need waste little time agreeing that the slaughter of so many innocent Palestinians cannot be allowed to continue.

The second area they should discuss is security. Mr Prosor may well raise, rightly, the security of British (and European) Jews, who feel threatened by the ugly reaction of some extremists incapable of distinguishing between the actions of a state and the religious or ethnic identities of individuals. Mr Miliband will not need to labour the point that neither the long- term security of British citizens nor of the state of Israel itself will be in any way advanced by the further prosecution of an asymmetrical war in which total victory can never be declared.

Mr Miliband should then move on to concerns about the legality of the military actions being pursued by the Israeli army. There is, as we report today, a growing body of authoritative opinion arguing that the manner in which battle is being pursued in Gaza could well merit future investigation as possible war crimes.

The final area for discussion is Israel's obligations as a member of the community of civilised nations. Israel should take no comfort from the protracted wrangling that led to last week's UN resolution calling for a ceasefire, nor from ­America's abstention or Britain's hand-­wringing. All the signs are that the Obama administration is not going to be sympathetic to a future of failed blockades or the intransigent refusal to talk to Israel's enemies.

None of these arguments will, on past form, cut much ice. That is why the talk elsewhere is now of boycotts, of arms embargos, of revoking trade agreements, withholding financial support and cancelling export credit guarantees. These are not all appealing options, nor should they be yet necessary. But a country which truly rejects the collective concerns of the international community leaves its friends, never mind its enemies, running out of road.

No comments: