Jack Straw has been surprisingly truthful about Israel, following on from Boris Johnson’s welcome moment of candour about Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately I cannot recall Straw saying anything anywhere near this honest when he was Foreign Secretary. Yesterday he told Parliament’s International Relations Committee
– Lord Howell: “Even if by some miracle there was a different government in Israel and President Trump’s aspirations could go forward and there were some kind of settlement…. even if that happened, would that actually make more than a pimple of difference to the vast storms of the ethnic and religious wars and civil war in Syria, in Iraq?
– Jack Straw: I think it would. Because I think to people not just in the Arab world but in the Muslim world the obvious injustices carried out, I’m afraid, by the Israelis against the Palestinians speak to them as of a world which is unfair and which doesn’t recognise justice for everybody, at all. And I don’t know how many of you and your colleagues have been to Israel and Palestine in recent years, I was last there three years ago, at this time of year, but the situation is terrible, and humiliating for Palestinians just going about their daily lives, constant gratuitous humiliations. I understand the security concerns of the Israelis, I do understand and I don’t dismiss them for a second, but much of what the Israelis have been doing is unnecessary, and their continuing flouting of international law and the building of these settlements and the incredible discrimination which they then go in for, so piping water to a settlement, for example, which I went to, in South Hebron, which is on top of a hill, so the Israelis have got water and electricity at relatively cheap prices, but denying water, piped water, just a couple of hundred meters down the hill to a Palestinian village, and then wrecking their cisterns, is an illustration of the problems the Palestinians face, and the difficulty of there being any kind of resolution. The other thing that I’d say is that were there to be a change of government in Israel, the chances are it would be a more right-wing government rather than a more left-wing government, because of the very profound demographic changes which have taken place in the last 25 years in the make-up of Israel’s population.”
I have never understood why it is almost universally accepted that diplomacy is the one area of government where dissembling, dishonesty and disguising what you really think is the best way to achieve results. We wouldn’t accept that approach as the best way for example to run the motorway network. I have never found misrepresentation and concealment to be any more effective in dealing with other governments than it is in dealing with other people in daily life. When I myself practised diplomacy I did so on the basis of being normally straightforward and saying what I believed the government I represented really to think. I would argue that over twenty years this approach worked perfectly well as regards successful dealings with representatives of other governments. It did not work well with Jack Straw, who sacked me. Assuming the above are his genuine views on Palestine, I still persist in the belief it would have been better had he acted on them as Foreign Secretary.