In recent years, questions have arisen about the extent of Israeli influence on UK foreign policy. These concerns were brought into the spotlight by Sir Alan Duncan, a former British foreign minister, who shed light on the significant influence wielded by the Israeli government and pro-Israel lobby groups over the UK Foreign Office. His revelations offer a unique glimpse into the dynamics of British politics, showcasing how Israel has effectively shaped the nation’s foreign policy.
The Power of Israeli Influence
Alan Duncan served as the British foreign minister from 2016 to 2019 and, in his book “In The Thick Of It,” he offers an unprecedented look into the behind-the-scenes influence of Israel on the UK government. One startling revelation came when Al Jazeera informed Duncan of its undercover investigation into Israeli influence in UK politics, exposing interactions between Israeli diplomats and MPs from both Labour and Conservative parties. The recorded conversations included shocking statements like one Israeli diplomat calling for Duncan’s political destruction.
Duncan openly admitted that the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), a powerful lobby group with close ties to the Israeli government, played a significant role in influencing political decisions within the UK. While the CFI claims to support a two-state solution, Duncan believed that their actions suggested otherwise. He felt that they aimed to undermine advocates for Palestinian rights and influence key government appointments.
Undermining Duncan’s Appointment
One striking example of the CFI’s influence occurred in 2016 when Duncan was expected to become the Minister for the Middle East. However, Eric Pickles and Stuart Polak, both senior figures within the CFI, relentlessly lobbied against his appointment. Duncan’s commitment to Palestinian rights became the target of their opposition, leading to a situation where appointments within the British government were subject to lobbying from external groups.
Duncan eventually accepted a position as Minister for Europe and the Americas, but this incident highlighted the level of influence that the CFI exerted on the government’s decision-making process.
Priti Patel’s Scandal
Duncan also highlighted the scandal involving Priti Patel, who served as the Minister for International Development. Patel held undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a “family holiday” in Israel. These meetings were arranged with the assistance of Stuart Polak, a principal pro-Israel donor.
Duncan believed that Patel’s actions were evidence of the “pernicious influence” of Polak and the CFI on UK politics. While Patel eventually resigned, the CFI remained largely unchallenged.
The Broader Impact
Duncan’s account raises concerns about the broader impact of Israeli influence on UK government policies. He noted that then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to ban the political arm of Hezbollah appeared to be influenced by the CFI’s lobbying efforts. This example suggests that British foreign policy may be shaped not only by national interests but also by external lobby groups.
Sir Alan Duncan’s revelations provide a sobering look at the influence that the Israeli government and affiliated pro-Israel lobby groups have exerted on the UK Foreign Office and the wider political landscape. While the Israeli government and the CFI may advocate for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, their actions, as detailed by Duncan, seem to tell a different story. As concerns over foreign influence on domestic policies persist, it becomes essential to scrutinize and maintain transparency in the relationships between foreign governments and local lobby groups, and their potential impact on national interests.