Visiting British PM ignored as Israel awaits Obama

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 |  Israel Today Staff

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in Israel on Monday, though few Israelis were aware of his presence as media reports and public relations efforts were almost solely focused on the arrival of US presidential candidate Barack Obama the following day.

Even the fact that Brown became the first British prime minister ever to address Israel's Knesset was sidestepped as the Jewish state vigorously debated whether Obama or his opponent, Republican John McCain, would be a better friend to Israel as president.

Israel typically denotes the visit of a foreign leader by flying the national flag of its guest on streets throughout Jerusalem. But the Union Jack was conspicuously absent as Brown toured the capital and met with Israel's leadership.

"Poor Gordon Brown," said one Foreign Ministry official to Ha'aretz, "he just happened to visit Israel the same week as US presidential candidate Barack Obama is expected to arrive and isn't receiving much attention."

During various press conferences and his address to the Knesset, Brown parroted the positions of his predecessor, Tony Blair, and a host of other world leaders by calling on Israel to stop building Jewish homes on ancient Jewish lands and to risk its own security so that the Palestinians can have greater freedom of movement.

And he received the same response as those other leaders: that the current Israeli leadership is willing to meet the Arabs' demands, but first wants proof that terrorist violence against the Jewish state will cease forever.

In one notable statement during his Knesset speech, Brown did pledge to work against an ongoing British academic boycott of Israeli universities and professors.

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