At the age of 20, my political views already formed, I followed the general election in Israel, the country I called home back then, very closely. Less than a year earlier the second intifada had reached its peak, with suicide bombings becoming a part of everyday life, until operation Defensive Shield set the Palestinian terrorists back somewhat.Then-leader of the opposition, Amram Mitzna of Labour (yes, Israel also enjoys a prominent Labour Party), suggested unilaterally ending the country’s military and civilian presence in the Gaza strip, if peace negotiations don’t yield a mutually agreed upon solution to the conflict.
Mitzna’s opponent, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, strongly criticised this plan, arguing it would be a reward for terrorism, and would embolden Palestinian terrorists in their attacks on Israel, essentially sending them the message that if they attack, Israel would run.
This became the main issue in that year’s election campaign, and the Israeli people agreed with Sharon. They re-elected him by an overwhelming majority, giving his Likud Party twice as many seats as Labour (38 to 19 in Israel’s 120-member Parliament, the Knesset).
A few months into his second term, however, Sharon changed his mind. Not only was unilateral “disengagement” no longer a reward for terrorism, it was now such a good idea that it became Government policy. Sharon initially promised to hold a national referendum on the issue, and later changed his mind, deciding on a referendum of Likud Party members instead.
As a member of the party myself, I was very hopeful on the day of the vote. I truly believed that, were party members to reject the disengagement plan, it couldn’t possibly happen. After we won, with 65% of the vote, I felt great relief in the knowledge that “peace” would have to be achieved by some method other than the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Gaza.
Of course, after initially accepting the result, Sharon eventually carried out his plan, and today no Jews live in Gaza. The result of that decision can be seen in the Middle East today, but that is irrelevant to the point of this story.
Having lived through that, I find laughable the notion that the question of the UK’s membership in the EU has been “settled”. Winning a legally non-binding referendum by what both sides agree is a small margin, with the vast majority of MPs on the losing side, certainly creates a problem for Remain supporters. They need to find a way out of this ‘mess’. And they have.
While a Prime Minister from the Brexit camp would face an extremely difficult uphill battle, with pressures from the Remain side, the Leave side, EU bureaucrats and leaders of other European nations, for someone like Theresa May, these pressures could serve as a great opportunity to set the stage for keeping Britain a member of the European Union.
How she does it will largely depend on the aforementioned pressures; she could intentionally negotiate a bad deal, then call a second referendum in which Project Fear (which, worryingly and tellingly, has yet to end) will have a chance of swaying enough voters to tip the scales in favour of remain. She could also call a general election before the withdrawal is complete, and spin the result (whatever it is, other than perhaps a UKIP overall majority) as proof that the “public mood” has shifted.
Regarding any change that requires action by politicians as ‘done and dusted’ before it’s complete is naïve. Politicians spend a lifetime honing the craft of deceiving voters. There’s nothing most of them won’t pretend to care about, no apparent success they won’t take credit for, and no failure they won’t deny. If the remain side continues to protest the result as loudly as it has been so far, politicians will be convinced that ignoring the result, which they want to do anyway, could also benefit them in future elections. And once they view the situation that way, there’s nothing stopping them from keeping things as they are.
In Israel, we voted overwhelmingly against our disengagement, and the politicians made sure we got it anyway. For anyone who voted “leave”, if you want to make sure that this disengagement from the EU actually happens, please realise that the fight is nowhere near over.