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by RAY FLEMING
IF there was collusion between Britain and Israel over the attack on Jericho jail on Tuesday it would not be the first time. In 1956 Britain (and France) secretly agreed to coordinate military action against Egypt after President Nasser nationalised the Suez canal. For forty years British governments denied that there had been any such collusion. If ministers can lie about their plans for going to war (then or now) are they likely to worry about a few untruths over what might seem a minor matter of a few prisoners in a Palestinian jail? Actually, I don't think it matters greatly whether the fact is that the British tipped off Israel that their monitors would be leaving the jail unattended or that the monitors got out quickly because they heard that the Israelis were coming. What matters is the total failure of Britain and the United States to respond sensitively to the sea-change in Middle East politics precipitated by the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. This failure is the more lamentable given that the US and Britain pressed most strongly for the Palestinians to do the democratic thing and elect a representative parliament and government. Yet in Tony Blair's remarks in the House of Commons yesterday there was no recognition that Britain and others needed to give Hamas and president Mahmoud Abbas every possible assistance in adjusting to the unprecedented situation in which they have found themselves. Instead he spoke about the failure of the Palestinian Authority to “maintain law”, a familiar complaint which overlooks the relative impotence of the Palestinians in the face of the illegal Israeli occupation of Gaza (now ended) and the West Bank (being extended). The impression one gets is that the Palestinians are expected to achieve instant responsible statehood when for forty years they have been a subject people with minimal opportunity to develop the infrastructures and mindset of a functioning state. They need help. They will not get it from Israel in any shape or form so there is a special responsibility on Britain, other European countries and the United States to give it to them, not just financially, but morally also.