Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Editorial | A blurry pact with Israel

Published:Monday | September 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Having, after much prompting, provided blurry outlines of his Government's security arrangement with Israel, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is obligated to bring clarity to the deals being struck with Bibi Netanyahu's government and how they fit into Jamaica's larger foreign-policy arrangements.

Mr Holness' cosying up to Israel has been apparent for the better part of two years, from Jamaica's votes in international fora on Israeli-Palestinian issues - including the one at the United Nations when Kingston abstained on a resolution criticising America's decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - to the prime minister's trip to the Middle East country and his invitation to Mr Netanyahu to reciprocate the visit.

There has also been a deepening unease, denied by Kingston, between Jamaica and its traditional Western partners, in particular Britain and Canada, over the Government's intent of downgrading their electronic eavesdropping and intelligence-sharing arrangement in favour of one with Israel.

Last week, Prime Minister Holness confirmed the deepening security partnership with Israel, but placed the emphasis on cybersecurity and argued that any pact with Mr Netanyahu's government didn't mean a "shift in the cooperation between our traditional partners.

"The fact is that we have intensified our cooperation with our traditional partners," he said. They will be happy for the assurance.


A Number of Issues


There are, however, a number of issues requiring further and better particulars from the Government, not least of which is the prime minister's characterisation of the security arrangement as primarily covering issues in cyberspace. Indeed, earlier this year, Andrew Wheatley, the former technology minister, spoke of a proposal to establish a cyber academy in Jamaica, with Israeli support. He named as Jamaica's intended partner Israel Aerospace Industries, a defence software and hardware supplier with close ties to the Israel Defence Force.

Given the close relation that is often the case between the Israeli government and its military/defence industry, the matter raises obvious questions of how this would translate to the operation of a training/education facility in Jamaica and the impact that this, and any other deal with Israel, would have on Jamaica's Middle East policy, including the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

On the question of a Palestinian homeland, Jamaica has long been committed to a two-state solution, based on the borders existing before the 1967Arab-Israeli war. Israel, with the tacit support of the United States under Donald Trump, increasingly appears to have dumped any notion of a two-state solution, or one not based on the 1967 borders. The recent Nation State law passed by the Israeli Knesset reinforces this position.


'National Value'


That law declares the development of Jewish settlements as "national value", which it will encourage, promote, establish and consolidate. Many of these settlements are in Palestinian territory covered by the 1967 border. Should principle prevail, a future Palestinian state would be a series of Bantustans. Further, both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, a matter which the UN Security Council says is to be settled by negotiations. The Nation State law, however, declares the city, "complete and united," to be Israel's capital.

Mr Holness is big on human rights and democracy. His government has voted at the Organisation of American States in favour of resolutions that could lead to Venezuela being ejected from that organisation. In this regard, how Israel treats the 20 per cent of its population that is Arab ought to be a matter of concern.

In the same Nation State law, Israel declares "the right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people," establishes Hebrew as the official language and diminishes Arabic to one that has a special place. In other words, Israel has, on the face of it, established classes of citizens, with one class, Jews, based on their religion, being more equal than others. That raises serious questions of human rights.