By Wyn Rees and Azriel Bermant, Published in Haaretz, 1 July 2019
The United States and Europe find themselves in a growing crisis with Iran. Tehran has just announced it has breached the threshold on nuclear enrichment imposed by the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The U.S. is funnelling military assets to the region following a series of incidents that have caused damage to oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Although Iran has denied involvement, many suspect that Tehran was the instigator of these attacks.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has indicated that he does not want war - but others in his administration see things differently, and in any case crises have the potential to escalate inadvertently beyond the designs of rational policymaking.
As well as being a dangerous geopolitical moment, the crisis throws light on the growing divergences in transatlantic relations.
Published in Haaretz, 26 September 2018
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s longheld antipathy towards Israel and his pro-Palestinian activism is hardly unprecedented in Western politics. Why is it, then, that his stance, and how he expresses it through word and deed, attracts so much controversy?
Are his views the problematic issue, or the dogmatism they expose? What is it about how he speaks and acts concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict that leads many to conclude he is acting in bad faith?
One way of interrogating this issue is to compare Corbyn with the intriguing precedent of another British politician known for his overt criticism of Israel and sympathy for Palestinian statehood: a politician who also attracted condemnation and was accused of anti-Semitism, but managed to move past a rigid Manichean view of the conflict to become a potential mediator between the sides, and extolled as a statesman of integrity and honor – a role that seems far away, indeed, from Corbyn’s current position. READ MORE
Published in Haaretz, 4 July 2018
In mid-July, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will host the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for a state visit. The leader of the left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, has been among those calling on Netanyahu to cancel the visit because of Orban’s anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish philanthropist George Soros during his recent election campaign. READ MORE
Published in Haaretz on 9 May 2018
As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets once again with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, it is remarkable that his government’s policy towards Moscow continues to go unchallenged in Israel.
Netanyahu has visited Russia on numerous occasions to secure understandings with Putin over Israel’s red lines in Syria, amid the growing Iranian presence in the country and to minimize the risk of misunderstandings and miscalculations.
Until recently, the Netanyahu government has viewed Russia as a strategic ally in the Middle East, but there is an oversized element of wishful thinking here. READ MORE.
Published in Standpoint Magazine, March 2018
When Mrs Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, Foreign Office concerns over her position on Israel were summed up by Michael Tait of the British embassy in Amman: “It is presumably in the national interest to do what we can to counter Arab fears and suspicions that the leader of HM opposition is already a prisoner of the Zionists.” In 1979, Thatcher resisted the initiative of her Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, to support Palestinian self-determination and closer ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. During a visit to Kuwait in 1981, Thatcher told her hosts that she would not authorise ministerial meetings with the PLO because of its involvement in terrorism. She added that the PLO’s “real objective is to drive Israel into the sea and wipe it off the face of the globe”. MORE...
Published in Prospect Magazine on December 7, 2017
The president's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital is a propaganda gift to Turkey, Iran—and Hamas
After the Reagan administration took a soft line on Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, Margaret Thatcher scrawled in pen on a diplomatic cable received from Washington: “The US just does not realise the resentment she is causing in the Middle East.” Thatcher feared that extremist forces such as the Soviet Union would make maximum gains in the Arab world from the missteps of the Israelis and Americans. MORE
Published in The Guardian on 10 November 2017
The UK politicians who ignore the Foreign Office to practise independent Middle East policy are usually prime ministers in a position to follow through
The controversy over Priti Patel’s private diplomacy, which led to her resignation, has highlighted public concern over a lack of transparency and the tendency of some politicians to play fast and loose with official procedures. Yet what has really upset many of Patel’s critics has been her policy of cosying up to Israel. MORE
Published in Ha'aretz on September 4, 2017
Israel's Iron Dome has saved thousands of lives, but similar missile defense systems now face an unprecedented challenge from Pyongyang - as does the efficacy of America's military commitment to its allies... MORE
By Azriel Bermant and Igor Sutyagin, Published in Foreign Affairs Journal, August 21, 2017
Tempers in North Korea and the United States are rising amid speculation that Pyongyang has successfully fitted a miniaturized nuclear warhead onto one of its missiles. And now the Trump administration has accelerated its deployment of a missile defense system in South Korea, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which is meant to protect both U.S. forces in Asia and American allies in South Korea and Japan from a North Korean attack.
Yet in contrast to U.S.-led missile defense projects in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, THAAD is not particularly welcome in South Korea. The country’s president, Moon Jae-in, has sent mixed signals about the deployment and many of his people are actively opposed to it. In fact, South Koreans have protested en masse against THAAD, with many concerned that it will further destabilize the region. China is angry, claiming that the missile defense radar system peers into its territory and poses a military threat. It has even initiated economic sanctions against South Korea in response. Russia has likewise voiced strong objections, just as it has done over NATO’s missile defense system in Europe. Rather than making the region more secure, it appears that THAAD could lead to a further escalation in tensions. MORE
Published in the special Balfour 100 edition of Fathom Journal, Summer 2017
The British Prime Minister David Lloyd George believed that Chaim Weizmann would be become ‘the one name that will be remembered in Jewish history a thousand years from now’. Hyperbole, for sure, but Azriel Bermant’s researches in the Guardian Archive at the University of Manchester reveal that he was indeed central to the discussions that led to the Balfour Declaration.
The 100th anniversary is an opportune moment to revisit the role played by Chaim Weizmann, Zionist statesman par excellence, in the decision by the British government to issue the Balfour Declaration in November 1917. In the decades following the Declaration, Weizmann certainly revelled in the adulation of Britain’s political and intellectual giants, including many leading progressives and liberals. David Lloyd George believed that his would become ‘the one name that will be remembered in Jewish history a thousand years from now’. Winston Churchill described him as the ‘ablest and wisest leader of the cause of Zionism’ (Rose, 1986; 246). Richard Crossman, the Labour Member of Parliament and minister in the first government of Harold Wilson, believed that through the course of the twentieth century, ‘the histories of Great Britain and of the Jewish people have been tragically yet providentially intertwined – and the man chiefly responsible for this was Chaim Weizmann’ (Crossman, 1960; 13)... MORE
Dr Azriel Bermant
Foreign Policy and International Security Analyst, Historian, Lecturer, Author