Why Britain Matters to Israel

By Rob Brown

Parliamentary by-elections in Britain are usually the last thing on the mind of citizens of this country, but Israelis should be cheered by the news that the Labor Party, led by Gordon Brown, has beaten back the Scottish National Party (SNP) in a crucial contest in the commercial city of Glasgow.

The SNP is mounting the most serious challenge to the Union of Scotland and England in three centuries. The next British general election will be a battle for Britain, and the outcome could matter immensely to Israel.

Gordon Brown is probably the most pro-Israeli British premier ever. As he recounted in an emotional address to the Knesset shortly after taking office, he has had a deep affection and respect for Israel dating back to his boyhood. His father was a minister of the Church of Scotland who learned Hebrew and travelled back and forth to the Holy Land at least twice every year, as chairman of the Israel committee. After each trip, he would roll out an old film projector and regale young Gordon with favorable images of Israel.

"There was never a time as I was growing up that I did not hear about, read about or was not surrounded by stories of the struggles, sacrifices, tribulation and triumphs as the Israeli people built their new state," Brown told the Knesset. "And I am proud to say that for the whole of my life, I have counted myself a friend of Israel. To those who mistakenly and outrageously call for the end of Israel let the message be: Britain will always stand firmly by Israel's side."

But Brown has been struggling to save his own premiership almost from the moment he took over from Tony Blair and Britain got battered in the global economic storm. He isn't out of the woods yet just because Labor held a seat in its heartlands. Few pundits would bet against David Cameron ousting him from Downing Street by next May, the date by which the Labor leader must meet his fate by calling a general election.

If Cameron leads the Conservatives back to power in London, a constitutional crisis could swiftly ensue. From the days when they were led by Margaret Thatcher the Tories have been totally detested by most Scots, who view them as right-wing Little Englanders.

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Forget about Braveheart (in which the English were demonized as much as the Jews in The Passion of the Christ). Scotland's nationalists these days are spearheaded today not by a kilted warrior but by a besuited former bank economist.

Alex Salmond is a calculating clan chieftain who would slyly channel Scottish fear and loathing of a Tory government in London into support for separation.

SO WHY, you might still be asking, should any of this matter to Israelis? Why should anyone in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv give a fig whether Britain loses a large chunk of its northern territories?

Israelis should buck up because, if Britain breaks up, it would become a much weaker player on the world stage and almost certainly be stripped of its permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Citizens of this state should be uneasy about that because Britain has been a staunch ally of Israel - usually.

Lamentably, in sad contrast to the US, the UK shirked its responsibilities recently when some of the most repugnant regimes on the planet called for Israel to be referred to the Security Council over its conduct in Gaza. Still, leaving aside that lapse of geopolitical judgement, it would surely be better for Israel to have Britain on than off that powerful body.

Israelis certainly have nothing to gain from the creation of an independent Scotland led by Salmond. As proven by its careless handling of the Lockerbie bomber case, Edinburgh's nationalist administration is, at best, extremely naïve about the mendacity of certain Middle East regimes or, at worst, prepared to curry favor across the Arab world for its own narrow objective.

Some analysts suspect that the Scottish Government (as it now calls itself) is keen to cultivate popularity with desert sheikhs in the hope that they might invest in the Scottish independence project and thus make it more economically viable (though there is little direct evidence of this).

Salmond has certainly snuggled up to politically motivated local Muslims. One of his first actions upon becoming Scotland's First Minister was to give a massive public grant to a murky organization called the Scottish Islamic Foundation, established by a young Muslim named Osama Saeed who campaigns in the industrial city of Glasgow for the restoration of Scottish statehood - when he isn't working for the restoration of the Caliphate.

The SNP leader has schmoozed with Scotland's Muslims for the same reason he has courted his country's Roman Catholic hierarchy: to get the big ethnic blocs behind independence. There are far more chapels and mosques than there are synagogues in this small northern nation. Scotland has always had a tiny Jewish population, which is why Salmond will never take any sort of stand for Israel.

An independent Scotland led by this man wouldn't care if Israel were wiped off the map, which is why Israelis should care about Britain being wiped off the map by his band of anything but bravehearts.

The writer is a Scottish journalist and academic now based in Dublin.

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