UK’s love affair with Israel will not be affected by Brexit, David Quarrey, the UK’s Ambassador to Israel, has promised. “We have been a friend of Israel in the EU, we’ll be a friend of Israel outside the EU,” Quarrey promised in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2.
But now that Israel’s BFF is out of the EU, how will this effect their standing in the international arena?
Loosing a friend among foes
Israel has long been the subject of EU finger wagging, and with Britain out of the equation, the European body’s criticism of Israeli human rights abuse and settlement expansion may only increase.
The EU considers Israeli communities built on the territories captured by Israel during the 1967 war to be illegal, and has required goods produced by Israeli settlements are marked. Most recently, tensions between the EU and Israel reached an a notable high when all 28 EU foreign ministers chose to endorse the French peace initiative, which Israel was adamantly opposed to. Within this context, Britain provided one of the few voices in support of Israel.
“With Brexit, Israel looses a major asset in the European Union,” writes Barak Ravid for Israeli daily Haaretz. Without Britain at the helm, helping to moderate EU decisions regarding the peace process, the fear is that “voices sympathetic to the Palestinian cause could now become more dominant.”
“It is preferable for Israel that Britain remain in the EU, where it is a voice of moderation” in favor of Israel, Oded Eran, former Israeli ambassador to the EU, told The Media Line.
While BDS is slowly gaining momentum, Britain’s exit from Europe may help propel the movement forwards at a greater speed. In a final attempt to bring the Jewish community onto the side of the remain campaign, British Prime Minister David Cameron pleaded: “Do you want Britain, Israel’s greatest friend, in there opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to effect the discussion that takes place?”
With Britain out the picture, perhaps the campaign will have greater space to take off in Europe.
Israeli products will become unaffordable in the UK
The UK is one of Israel’s larger trading partners, second only to the United States. The two countries exchange $5.5 billion in goods and services annuals, and the 2014 Gaza war did little to hamper this friendly trade relationship.
However, as the British pounds drops in the wake of Brexit, the shekel is expected to remain stubbornly high. This means it would be harder for the Brits to purchase Israeli hummus and Dead Sea products. Israeli exports are already at a seven-year low, and Brexit is only expected to make things worse.
The dangers of nationalism
Brexit has pointed to a scary rise of nationalism, in Britain but also across the entire continent. This can be seen by the rise in popularity of far-right parties, such as the National Front in France or the Northern League in Italy, who expressed joy at the outcome of the British referendum and demanded their own countries to exit Europe.
In an article for Newsweek, Professor Yossi Mekelberg points out this does not bode well for Jewish minorities in Europe. “The rise of nationalism in Europe, of which Brexit is one manifestation, is not a good sign for minorities in the continent, especially for the Jewish minority and their very particular history of persecution.
Bibi says relax
Despite these fears raised across the Israeli community, President Netanyahu has stated the Brexit result is not to be feared, claiming: "There is no direct effect on Israel, apart from the fact that we are part of the global economy."