Leading article: The humiliating death of an independent British foreign policy

Share

Britain today finds itself more isolated internationally than at any time since the invasion of Iraq. Our official position on the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon is at odds with the European Union, the United Nations and global opinion in general. By refusing to call for a ceasefire we find ourselves with only the United States and Israel itself for company.

We refuse to demand a cessation in hostilities, even though a fair number of our own citizens are in the firing line. We had to get permission from the Israeli military to evacuate thousands of Britons from Beirut this week. We will presumably have to make a similar request to get our remaining stranded citizens out of Tyre, in the heavily bombarded south of Lebanon. How on earth did we get ourselves into such a humiliating position? How did we end up supporting a military operation that is so manifestly against the national interest?

We surely know the answer already. The truth is that Britain no longer has what can be called an independent foreign policy. Our Prime Minister long ago threw his lot in with the Bush administration. And President Bush is adamant that Israel must be given a free hand in Lebanon. It is this - and this alone - that explains our government's refusal to call for a ceasefire. Mr Blair would not dare risk a breach with the White House now, especially considering he is off to Washington next week.

In an echo of the build-up to the Iraq invasion, our leaders are busy coming up with justifications for this perverse stance. Mr Blair claims that the release of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbollah would change British policy. Yet even Israel admits that its operations now have a wider objective. Our Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett desperately claims that the goal of the Israeli operation is to help the Lebanese government to take full control of the country. This is laughable. The Lebanese government has been crippled and the country's infrastructure all but destroyed. Lebanon will be lucky to escape a recurrence of civil war when this is over.

All this is symptomatic of a broader dishonesty from our leaders when it comes to the Middle East at the moment. They make connections only when it suits them. For instance, we have heard much recently about Iran and Syria's support for Hizbollah. But they deny connections when it could be embarrassing. Mrs Beckett was indignant this week when it was suggested to her by an interviewer that the crisis in Lebanon had something to do with the instability radiating out of the catastrophe in Iraq. For the most part, our leaders are reduced to parroting the hopelessly simplistic US line that anyone who opposes US, UK or Israeli policy in the Middle East must be considered an enemy in the great "war on terror".

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in Lebanon gets worse. After 10 days of Israeli bombardment, more than 330 people have been killed, a third of them children. The UN emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland has warned of a humanitarian disaster in the country in the absence of a truce to allow the distribution of aid. Even leaving aside the unacceptable humanitarian cost, the bombardment is not going to enhance Israel's own security. Hizbollah will be damaged but it is not going to disappear. In the long term it may even be strengthened, as Israel creates more enemies for itself through its collective punishment of the Lebanese people.

Guerrilla armies cannot be bombed into submission. But neither President Bush nor Mr Blair will say as much to the Israeli government. Instead our leaders find themselves acquiescing in the shameful notion that indiscriminate violence by Israel can help to deliver justice in the Middle East.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible