Various points on all this. Firstly, to deal with Jonah’s question from earlier yesterday, I too am a reluctant supporter of the security fence. However, in building it, the Israeli government needs to demonstrate that security is not being used as cover for a land grab. I have no doubt that some, maybe even the majority, of the complaints about the route are (in the circumstances) unfair. Others, it seems, are not.
Mark, of course, Israel is ultimately entitled to decide its own destiny. However, as an ally that is not only sending Israel large amounts of money, but is also attracting a great deal of opprobrium (and worse) for sticking (and, in my view, quite rightly sticking) with Israel, the US is perfectly entitled to have a say in all this. Israel is entitled to decide its own destiny, but in the end, the US is entitled to decide how to spend its money. Yes, that’s pressure, but is it unfair pressure? Step back for a second to the years of the Cold War. The US often strong-armed allies no less democratic than Israel, and it was usually right to do so. The same is true now.
Finally, the question, again, about Beilin – and his role. In essence, Beilin is an opposition politician putting forward an alternative foreign policy. Oppositions oppose. That’s what they do. Foreign governments often talk to opposition leaders. That’s what they do – George Bush did it during his recent visit to London. Legally, however, nothing that is ‘decided’ in Geneva will have any force without the approval of Israel’s democratically government – that’s how democracy works. To suggest that the current discussions somehow ‘bypass’ Israeli democracy is nonsense. On the contrary, the mere fact that they can take place shows the strength of that country’s democracy, and the existence of that democracy (particularly in such an inhospitable region) is, we should always remember, an important (and entirely legitimate) justification for America’s continued support of Israel.