British Policy in the Arab-Israeli Arena 1973-2004
British policy has oscillated between a 'Diplomatic' and a 'Strategic' orientation. The Diplomatic orientation regards the Arab-Israeli conflict as the most important element in Middle East policy, while the Strategic orientation views the conflict as less important than the need to contain radical anti-Western forces in the region. The Strategic orientation is associated with a mutually reinforcing combination of ideological sympathy for Israel, a pro-US orientation and the Prime Minister, while the Diplomatic orientation is associated with a mutually reinforcing combination of ideological sympathy for the Palestinians, the Foreign Office, a pro-European orientation and, to a deceasing extent, commercial interests. Since 1973, in an attempt to manage its declining power, Britain's has sought to 'bridge' the widely differing EU and US approaches, in order to achieve maximum influence and relevance. On occasion, this strategy has succeeded, however Blair's ambition to be the pivot at the centre of international involvement in the region is completely unrealistic. For while 'bridging' allows Britain the satisfying sense of 'punching above its weight' in the Middle East, it often produces the appearance, rather than the reality, of substantive influence.