EMILY THORNBERRY’S denunciation of Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for being taken for fools by Donald Trump augurs well for a future Labour government carrying out an independent foreign policy.
Her reference to the Prime Minister’s subservience to President Trump — “holding his hand and hugging him close” — sums up the tendency of British post-war prime ministers to slavishly follow a White House lead.
It has taken the election of a dangerous buffoon to the US presidency for Labour to break ranks from the orthodoxy of the “special relationship,” although Trump is far from the first.
Was George W Bush any less of a clown? He certainly outranked Trump in the danger stakes — at least so far.
Even Tony Blair, who brown-nosed Bush relentlessly, has had to recognise that the illegal invasion they launched against Iraq in 2003 played an important role in fuelling jihadist actions linked initially to al-Qaida and latterly to Islamic State (Isis).
If Blair had stood up to Bush then, as Thornberry advocates May should do to Trump now, much of the world might have been spared the horrific blowback linked with outside intervention in a number of Arab/Muslim majority countries.
Johnson’s reference to Trump and the US still being the “pre-eminent power” able to exert influence and show “leadership” in restoring the Middle East peace process indicates a paucity of principle and of understanding.
His junior, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, displays a far greater grasp of the situation than Johnson, recognising that a one-sided US approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict has created a “trust deficit.”
Burt comprehends that the US is a busted flush as far as mediation goes and that it must relinquish that role to other countries more suited to it.
The problem with Trump is not that he has failed to show “leadership” but that he is leading in the wrong direction.
For reasons linked more to US domestic politics, he champions zionist expansionism, justifies annexation of land occupied during war and rejects every complaint made by the Palestinian leadership while claiming to be preparing the way for peace talks.
While Thornberry accuses Trump of setting back any peace process by decades, the Tory leadership restricts itself to more-in-sadness-than-anger comments like “not helpful,” as though the full import of Trump’s acceptance of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its eternal and undivided capital is not self-evident.
Israel’s ambassador to Britain Mark Regev, who was previously Benjamin Netanyahu’s spin doctor, was all over the British media defending Trump’s statement.
He disingenuously asked BBC TV Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis why every other country but Israel is able to choose its capital city without interference and ought to have received, but didn’t, the response that Israel is alone in siting its capital on someone else’s land.
Unbalanced media coverage in the US, Britain and other Western countries has contributed to patchy understanding of the issues at stake in the Middle East.
Parliamentary front-bench consensus on an approach that speaks airily of a future two-state solution while extensive colonisation under a military occupation proceeds apace was for years punctured only by a few back-bench critics, the likes of George Galloway and Jeremy Corbyn.
If Thornberry’s rejection of Trump’s ignorant declaration signifies a new spirit of independence from follow-my-US-leader conformity on the Labour benches, it will be a welcome development.