Monday, January 06, 2003
Our Foreign Policy in action - 6th January 2003, 23.47

Jack Straw was addressing a conference of diplomats in London today at a gathering modelled upon the annual conventions of his French and German counterparts. His speech was a model of the spin that ministers excel at: mustering the ideal goals of the government's foreign policy without releasing any new policy details or shining a light on the gritty exceptions. Straw is not allowed a voice of his own to dull his master's limelight.

They're against weapons of mass destruction, proliferation of missiles, terrorism and other Big Bads. They are for the United Nations, the European Union, international law, human rights, peace, etc etc.

How does this idealistic foreign poicy work out in practice? A good example was the interference planned by Blair for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict where he had invited delegates from Arabic Powers and the Palestinian Authority to discuss Bush's 'road map' for a new state. Such an invitation would seem to warrant co-operation from Israel, the other concerned power in this conflict. This does not appear to have been sought. Ariel Sharon has vetoed the presence of Palestinians at this conference and effectively torpedoed Blair's initiative, making our country look foolish and powerless.

However Sharon's actions are rational under the current circumstances. Permission for Palestinian delegates is withdrawn after the atrocity in Yel Aviv yesterday. The peace conference is rendered worthless, punishing Britain for the sanctions that have threatened to hobble Israeli defence and ground their fleet of Phantoms. Blair himself is embarrassed for having the temerity to invite Metzna, the leader of the Israeli Labor party during the middle of their election campaign and declare that its is in no way an attempt to interfere in their elections.

What series of events better demonstrates the incompetence that lies at the heart of our foreign policy: an inability to understand the power structures of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a clumsy attempt to meddle in their election and a policy of alienating the sole power through sanctions that you need to ensure that your conference works and is a public success.

What worries me further is that the defence of a sovereign nation is compromised by the political needs of this government rather than the interests of Britain. This violent slough cannot be solved by British diplomacy and it would be far better if we ensured that past arms contracts were met and no further action was taken.


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