If he finds what the Israelis are doing “genuinely shocking”, there’s plenty he can do.
Why not give him a few ideas?
It’s been true for some years now – according to the opinion polls – that the majority of people in this country who have an opinion disapprove of the behaviour of the Israeli government towards the Palestinians.
So they should have been comforted to hear David Cameron say at Prime Minister’s questions that he also finds the actions of the Israeli government to be “genuinely shocking”.
But, on reflection, his answer is more troubling than comforting. He says the settlements are “illegal”. He says East Jerusalem is “occupied”. He says the actions of the Israeli government are “genuinely shocking”.
But he is not just an ordinary punter. He is the Prime Minister. He can do something about it.
But he hasn’t.
The newspapers are full of stories about people were once in positions of authority in the past, but failed to uphold the law. Bishops who failed to report evidence of child abuse. Chief constables who failed to act on allegations of sex with minors. Directors of international sports organisations who failed to blow the whistle on corruption.
And history has already passed its judgment on politicians who defended South Africa’s apartheid régime in the 1980s. It won’t be long now before a similar judgment is passed on politicians of the 2010s who fail to uphold international law on the illegal settlement of the West Bank and the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.
David Cameron puts himself in a better place than many of his colleagues by saying he finds what is going on in East Jerusalem to be “genuinely shocking”, but this only makes it more important for him to answer the question: What will he do about it?
Far from being powerless, the UK is probably the country in the strongest position to lead. The US won’t, especially now (though Obama might lift the veto at the Security Council for a good European initiative). The EU can’t, because it needs all 28 countries to agree. So it is down to the major West European countries.
We all know why Germany won’t take the lead. France has already launched an initiative. If Cameron launched an initiative now, together with France or in parallel, it could use the prospect (or the reality) of a mass-recognition of Palestine by West European countries to put the Israelis in the right frame of mind.
It was in response to a question from Bradford West MP Imran Hussein that David Cameron said he found the current situation “genuinely shocking”. MPs can now table a question that will give the Foreign Secretary the opportunity to say what the UK is going to do about it.