How might the rising power of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, reflect on the UK’s Middle East policy?
Four days to go to Britain’s general elections and the Tory majority is far from being certain. It is clear that the conservatives will end up with more votes than any other parties – and it seems that Labour will eventually come second – but the nomination of the PM might still depend on Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats.
The UK is not the most important actor in the Middle East, but it still carries some weight, especially due to its close relations with the US. Many of the calls for boycott and the attempts to arrest and prosecute senior IDF officers come also from Britain.
Mr. Clegg has been a bit ambiguous on Middle East issues recently, echoing the White House’s position that “Israel’s long term peace and security will depend on reaching a settlement with the Palestinians”. But he did have clear positions in the past, especially on Gaza, where he doesn’t share the American administration’s support for the Israeli-Egyptian siege.
On December 22, Mr. Clegg wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian that:
The legacy of Operation Cast Lead is a living nightmare for one and a half million Palestinians squeezed into one of the most overcrowded and wretched stretches of land on the planet. And as Israel and Egypt maintain a near total blockade against Gaza, the misery deepens by the day.
This is not only shocking in humanitarian terms. It is not in Israel’s or Egypt’s interest, either. Confining people in abject poverty in a tiny slice of territory is a recipe for continued bitterness, fury and radicalism.
And what has the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis.
Mr. Clegg’s signature was the first in a letter to the editor of the Guardian on December 2009, which called for “British government and the international community to apply meaningful pressure upon Israel to abide by UN security council resolution 1860, to end this flagrant abuse of international law and lift the blockade.”
…for too long the EU has been an economic giant which acts as a political pygmy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. EU Foreign Ministers have the chance this evening for once to take action and not just issue words.
“EU Foreign Ministers must immediately suspend the proposed new agreement with Israel. The deal cannot proceed until there is a transformation of the conditions on the ground in Gaza.
It is my opinion that only fierce diplomatic pressure might cause Israel’s leaders to confront the rightwing and the settlers and withdrawal from the West Bank (with or without an agreement) or, alternatively, annex the territories and give full citizen rights to the Palestinians. This is in the long term interest of both Israelis and Palestinians. I also believe that Israel should lift its siege on Gaza and end the humanitarian crisis there. I support Mr. Clegg’s positions, and hope he will stick to his words after the elections as well.