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Monday, January 16, 2012

Britain's conservative government just doesn't get it

In the face of all the evidence to the contrary, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said last week that 'freedom is flowering' in the Arab spring.
Electoral success by parties rooted in Islam has led some to fear that change may be for the worse. But to say that Arab Spring has turned into cold winter is wrong. Such pessimism misses the extraordinary opportunities that popular demand for freedom and dignity bring, and could lead us to disengage at a time when we need to redouble our diplomatic and long-term support to the region.

The Arab Spring was always going to be a long process, not an instant fix. It was bound to take different forms in each country. The staging of genuine elections in countries that have been denied them for decades is significant. But it is what happens after elections that will determine success or failure.

The new governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya face enormous challenges as well as sky-high expectations from their people. Having paid a high price for their revolutions, they expect tangible improvements in daily life. As Eastern Europe after 1989 showed, this takes time.
It will be interesting to see what happens when these people discover that they have simply traded one stifling dictatorship for another (that may well be worse).

Douglas Murray comments.
Acknowledging that governments always have to find some compromises between pragmatism and morality, it nevertheless seems that this government is finding it particularly difficult to locate a balance – and even harder to locate the consistency without which almost any efforts in the region are doomed.

Anyhow – doubtless this is all terribly pessimistic. Fortunately in his Times piece Mr Hague riffs on all the ‘positive’ things that those straw-man ‘pessimists’ keep ignoring. Perhaps simple ‘optimism’ is the foreign policy we’ve all been waiting for. So regarding the wider events Hague writes, ‘On the positive side, Tunisia has its first democratically elected parliament since the 1950s, with 24 per cent of the seats held by women’.

True. But then, on the negative side is the fact that the party of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ennahda) won the most seats. One might also add that on January 5th when the leader of the terrorist group Hamas arrived in Tunis (strange choice for such an early visit?) he was greeted by a couple of thousand supporters of the Ennahda party welcoming him with, among other familiar theme tunes, the chant: ‘Kill the Jews’. Anyhow – nobody wants to be a pessimist, so back to the bright side.

Mr Hague informs us of the ‘positive’ fact that ‘Turnout in the first phase of Egypt’s elections was above 60 per cent, compared with 23 per cent in the 2005 elections under the Mubarak regime’. True, that’s a wonderful upsurge in voter turnout. I’m simply not sure this ‘positive’ of increased turnout trumps the ‘negative’ fact that the parties which have been rushed into power are the Islamist parties. Nor, it seems to me, does it over-ride the fact that since March last year more than 100,000 Coptic Christian Egyptians have fled the country. Mr Hague finds an attempt to soften all this. For instance he describes the electoral success of ‘parties rooted in Islam’ and parties ‘drawing their inspiration from Islam’. Yet that is not the case. The Muslim Brotherhood parties coming to power across the region draw their inspiration from violent Islam, political Islam, and totalitarian Islam. For instance the ‘Freedom and Justice Party’ has already committed to withdraw Egypt from the major conventions protecting the rights of women. It is wrong to present them as Islamic versions of the Christian Democratic Union.
But Hague isn't the only British politician to ignore facts. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is also in the running for the dumbest statement of the week.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are "deliberate vandalism," underlining the UK government's hardening line, British The Jewish Chronicle reported Monday.

Speaking alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the UK, Clegg condemned continuous settlement building in the "strongest possible terms."
Vandalism? What exactly are the 'settlements' (whose construction is far from continuous and only within their existent borders) 'vadalizing'? Arutz Sheva reports that Clegg even tried to explain.
Clegg justified his rhetoric and was quoted by the London Jewish Chronicle as saying, "Once you've placed physical facts on the ground that make it impossible to deliver something that everyone has for years agreed is the ultimate destination [peace via a two-state solution] ... it is an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise on which negotiations have taken place for years and years and years. And that is why we have expressed our concerns as a government."
But 'everyone' does not agree, including both of the parties. And as Arutz Sheva points out, the 'negotiations' are not really negotiations.
The peace process has evolved not a long and drawn out diplomatic attempt to grant the Palestinian Authority all of its territorial and political demands under the guise of “negotiations” but which are in essence an ultimatum to Israel. The Palestinian Authority has said that if Israel does agree to its terms, it will make another attempt to win recognition on its terms by appealing directly to the United Nations.
I would suggest strongly that Clegg examine closely what George Brown - Britain's Foreign Secretary at the time that Resolution 242 passed - and Lord Caradan, a Briton who was the chief author of that resolution, had to say about it. They certainly would not take the position that 'everyone' agrees that the solution is a 'Palestinian state' along the 1949 armistice lines.

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At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Drop dead, Britain.

Not that much time left for the UK anyway.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Max Coutinho said...

Hi Carl,

This is a vital post.

Nick Clegg is undermining the British government. The Tory coalition with the Liberals was an unfortunate one (or rather, a vandalism to the British Home & Foreign Affairs).
As odd as it may sound, Britain would've been better off with a coalition between the Tories and the Labour party.

Clegg is an anti-Semitic fascist disguised as a Liberal, and his silly statement proves just that.



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