January 03, 2013

Margaret Netanyahu

Margaret Thatcher was an incredibly divisive British prime minister. Personally, I could never warm to her. She was, however, credited with standing up to the unions. Although she had the immense good fortune to come to power as North Sea Oil provided the UK with a financial bonanza, she certainly changed the mood of the country from depressed hopelessness to one of optimism. Under her, Britain regained its mojo. Another of her great jingoistic triumphs was the successful Falklands War in 1982. It was perhaps the last hurrah of the British Empire.

President Ronald Reagan loved her, and in general she was held in greater affection by the United States than she was by most Britons. So it came as a great surprise to me to learn that Reagan nearly scuppered the Falklands campaign.

Here is an extract from an article that appeared in the British Sunday Telegraph on December 28, 2012:

“The United States wanted to give Argentina advance warning that Britain was going to retake South Georgia in 1982 in a move that would have spelt disaster ahead of the Falklands campaign, according to newly released files. The proposal, by US secretary of state Alexander Haig, was intended to show the military junta in Buenos Aires that America was a neutral player and could be trusted to act impartially during negotiations to end the conflict.

Ronald Reagan, then US President, made repeated attempts to persuade Margaret Thatcher to negotiate a truce so the Argentinians could save face and avoid "complete humiliation". He was told by the State Department that support for a European colonial power would undermine ties with Latin America and hamper Washington’s covert campaign against communism in the western hemisphere. Thatcher refused, telling Mr. Reagan in a late night phone call on May 31st, 1982 that she would "not contemplate" a ceasefire after the loss of "precious British lives".

Separately, Mrs. Thatcher found herself subject to demands from the Pope John Paul II. In one telegram, he calls on God to help "secure an immediate ceasefire. Thatcher, however, stood her ground, replying that Argentine aggression "cannot be allowed to succeed".

While US defense secretary Caspar Weinberger proved a staunch ally of Britain from the outbreak of war on 2 April 1982, authorizing secret shipments of weapons vital to the task force, the US state department was anything but sympathetic to British interests.”

You will notice that it was the US State Department that was the source of the anti-British sentiment, as indeed it has always been, and remains today, against anything pro-Israel. The same was true during the Yom Kipur War, when again the State Department wanted the USA to stay out of the conflict and Kissinger (uncharacteristically and surprisingly) overruled them. It has always been the same in Britain. The Foreign Office’s civil servants have always been Arabists. It has always been the politicians, including Margaret Thatcher, who have tended to overrule them. Indeed, today the majority of the frontbench of the conservative British government is sympathetic towards Israel; the Foreign Office is not. Bureaucrats think with statistics, weighing up numbers and spheres of influence. They think with their minds rather than their hearts. Politicians are more likely to decide emotionally or as a result of personal pressure.

So it is with Israel. All logic goes against it. More Muslims in the world, Arab oil, greater Arab wealth, world opinion (or some would say prejudice), all militate against supporting Israel. Yet time and time again, when it really comes down to the crunch, against the odds, decisions go Israel’s way. There may be two reasons for this.

The first is that Israel is still more like the West than the East. It is surrounded by a sea of hatred and yet manages to survive. It is hated because it is a military power and an occupying power. Give me any example of anyone who likes to be occupied? Rather a failed government of their own than a successful one imposed from without. Yet it remains very much the underdog in comparison to the numbers, wealth, and power of the Arab and Muslim world. And counter intuitively, it is still both admired and hated.

But secondly, it is led by men who will fight for it, be prepared to be unpopular, refuse to curry favor with the international community and its journalists if they perceive its best interests are not being served. I don’t like Netanyahu any more than I like any politician. I dislike right-winger politics wherever it is. And I believe no stone should be unturned in the pursuit of peace, and making inflammatory statements or actions is dangerously infantile if not counterproductive. But I have to hand it to him. Netanyahu is prepared to fight and be unpopular in the process. So was Margaret Thatcher. That is why the majority of the Israeli public and I would rather have someone like that as a leader than a nominal Jew who cares little for our heritage, who would put Hollywood’s values over Judaism’s.

No one can deny the need to keep the USA sweet. Britain has known that since the First World War and Israel knows that now. But when push comes to shove, no one else cares as much about a Jewish state as it does. Every now and then the world needs to know that, warts and all, the Jews will fight to the bitter end no matter who refuses to support them. They might not have liked Thatcher but they admired her guts. Who knows one day history might be kind to Israel.

7 Comments:

At 5:52 AM , Blogger Robert M. Soran said...

Yeah, the the only thing Margaret and Benji have in common is the shmok. But Margaret's is bigger and harder. Because she had nuts, too. Benji is still waiting to get his eggs.

 
At 10:42 AM , Anonymous William Papke said...

Would you please define "right winger politics"? Every point you made that SEEMS to laud Thatcher or defend Israel is usually considered "right winger politics". There is virtually nothing, short of handing the arabs the keys to the nation, that ISrael can do that is NOT inflammatory. The very existence of Israel is inflammatory to the arab world. How many decades has Israel bent over backwards to appease the arabs and what has it gotten her, peace? Hardly. How vulnerable does Israel have to make herself in order to avoid being inflammatory?

 
At 6:00 PM , Anonymous Dr. David Uri said...

Once those stones have been turned, then what? The opposition betray trust and kill innocent people "ad nauseum" and we are supposed to continue turning stones??? What an expensive way of looking at life and peace to placate the liberal "Walter Mitty" philosophy of those who rarely put their own lives on the line. Whatever happened to the bitter lessons of history of the the Jewish people, from Ur Of The Chaldees, to the present day. Is the example of the Bar Kochba saga to be conveniently ignored?

 
At 9:30 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Thank you David for that response.

Its all in the style. You can say "No I'll never ever make peace" or you can say " Sure I will try" and then wait to see if there's any response. You gain little by presenting a hard line position. My criticism of the Right ( if I leave out any racism, corruption or plain stupidity that most polticians are guilty of ) is that they come scross as unnecessarily unbending. Its the impression they create very much like Enoch Powell in the UK. He wasn't entirely wrong ( but there were no rivers of blood). He just said it wrong!

Whats to be lost by reiterating that we will sit down with anyone? Its just this Israeli myth of DUGRI, say it as it is and play tough. Try some more dipoloimcy. The Israeli Ambassador in the USA Oren is brilliant at it without compromising. Right Wingers like Yishai for example or Lieberman just come scross as bullies and unsympathetic. Perhaps its their genes! You CAN have your cake and eat it.

Jeremy

 
At 9:31 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

William:

By Right Wing I mean the sort of inflammatory way of thinking that indeed got Enoch Powell into trouble in the UK. Right Wing essentially means saying no to negotiation and taking the sort of silly provocative retaliatory steps like cutting off tax revenues, announcing new building etc that gain nothing, change nothing and only invite scorn and enmity. I agree, much of it is in the style. Its a matter of language. You can speak soft but act firm. Right Wingers speak aggressively and I just get turned off by that.

I hate aggression but advocate its use when all else fails.

J

 
At 12:05 AM , Anonymous Raymond in DC said...

"The same was true during the Yom Kipur War, when again the State Department wanted the USA to stay out of the conflict and Kissinger (uncharacteristically and surprisingly) overruled them."

That's not exactly what the record suggests. Rather, Kissinger wanted Israel to "bleed enough" to be more pliant to his diplomatic initiatives before the aid started in earnest. But it was NIXON who ordered Kissinger to make sure anything that would fly would be put to use ferrying supplies.

And Netanyahu has *never* said no to negotiations. He's said no to prior concessions, especially those that would predetermine the end results, before said negotiations. Nor is Israel required to carry the PA's debts on its books, just because the PA prefers to first pay salaries to "security prisoners" and non-working Fatah loyalists in Gaza.

 
At 9:52 PM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Raymond,

Interesting. I have now received three different 'authoritative' versiomns of what actually happened in 1973 and who was really respinsible for the arm lift. I guess it reiterates the assertion that "There is no such thing as history, only historians."

As for what exactly any politician said, denied or asserted, I would not believe one of them or take any statement at face value. Sorry. But I can judge actions.

Jeremy

 

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