"Worst still, those who were openly abusive about Trump now pretend to be his friend," Nigel Farage, the brazenly anti-immigrant leader of the right-wing Independence Party in Great Britain, wrote Tuesday in Steve Bannon's old rag, Breitbart News.
Reflecting Farage's unabashed support of him for President of the USA, Trump on November 21 had tweeted "Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!”
Evidently, Trump knows how to deal with the easily intimidated prime minister Theresa May, who herself had not commented on the composition of a democratically-elected government of an ally. When May's call became the tenth- tenth- taken by the victor following the election, Trump told her "If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know."
She got the message. Trump's shot across the bow, followed by his show of contempt for what is arguably the United States' closest ally, already has paid dividends. The Washington Post reports that in an e-mail statement
British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned a blunt speech this week by Secretary of State John F. Kerry on the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an unusual move that boosted Britain’s relations with the incoming Trump administration at the expense of President Obama.
The rare diplomatic spat between Britain and the United States, which was met with surprise by the State Department, highlighted the fast-collapsing influence of the lame-duck White House. It also pointed to a vast reordering of international affairs expected after Donald Trump takes office in three weeks, as U.S. allies position themselves to curry favor in the new order.
It may not be surprising, given that the incoming President has sharply criticized Kerry's thoughtful, comprehensive speech, that some governments would criticize the position staked out by the lame-duck Obama Administration. However, the Post adds
May’s government acted as a key broker between U.S. and Palestinian interests ahead of a U.N. Security Council vote last week to declare Israeli settlement construction “illegal.” British diplomats worked as go-betweens in shaping the measure to ensure that the language was acceptable to the United States, Britain’s Guardian and Israel’s Haaretz newspapers reported this week.
Great Britain worked on the resolution upon which the United States abstained, thereby enabling its passage, and which Kerry defended in his apparently offending speech. And Great Britain- as a member (permanent, as it were) of the U.N. Security Council- voted for the measure, days before it criticized the American Secretary of State's speech defending it.
In its e-mailed statement, the office of the Prime Minister additionally commented
we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.
They appear to have missed Kerry stating "We have repeatedly and emphastically stressed to the Palesinians that all incitement to violence must stop We have consistently condemned all violence and terrorism, and we have strongly opposed unilateral efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora." Even more clearly, he had noted
President Obama and I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership countless times, publicly and privately, that all incitement to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned violence and terrorism, and even condemned the Palestinian leadership for not condemning it.
But perhaps the best example of chutzpah- as it would be recognized were the Israeli government not on the opposite side- is May's claim "we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally." Donald Trump took the extraordinary step of publicly recommending the appointment to an office not vacant, British ambassador to the USA. Now P.M. May has given what the Times' describes as "an olive branch both to Netanyahu and to President-elect Donald Trump," individuals who railed against the Obama Administration's failure to veto a resolution actually supported by Great Britain.
The Secretary of State's office responded to Theresa May's cowardice by explaining
We are surprised by the U.K. Prime Minister's office statement given that Secretary Kerry's remarks- which covered the full range of threats to a stwo-sate solution, including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlemetns- were in line with the U.K.'s own long-standing policy and its vote at the United Nations last week.
They have a right to be surprised; annoyed, even angered. It is a measure of "no drama Obama" that, under the circumstances, his State Department has reacted as calmly as it has. Over the next four years, perspective and serenity will be in short supply in Washington, and Great Britain will find itself among the nations which long for their return.