Dominic Raab

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== You are Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs ==


Notable Quotes

“Israel must find a way to extricate herself from a conflict that saps her strength, and compounds her isolation”

“Voting for a Palestinian state at the United Nations risks entrenching intransigence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace requires political leadership, not a legal mirage.”

“Our approach to Iran hasn’t changed--we remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal.”


Early Life and Career

You were born in Buckinghamshire, England in 1974. Your father was a Czech Jew who came to England as a refugee in 1938, escaping the growing reach of the Nazis. Your father died when you were a boy, however, and you were raised in the Church of England. You remain an avid athlete, holding a black belt in karate and boxing regularly. You have a law degree from Oxford University, and you worked in international law for several years, including six years at the British Foreign Office. During your tenure there, you were posted to the Hague where you helped build the cases for ultimately successful war crimes prosecutions against Serbian leaders Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, and the former Liberian president Charles Taylor. You entered parliament in 2010, representing a wealthy district south of London. Over your time in parliament, your legislative interests have included limiting the power of labor unions and restricting immigration. You were also worked to support Brexit, even serving for several months as Minister for Brexit under the previous Prime Minister, Theresa May. However, you became impatient with May’s cautious approach and resigned your position, joining the growing ranks of Conservative politicians who rejected the deal May negotiated with the EU, feeling that it wouldn’t follow the will of the voters who sought to truly break the tie with Europe. May’s failure to reach a Brexit agreement that was palatable to a majority of members of parliament resulted in her resigning her position, and you ran to succeed her as head of the Conservative Party, which would have automatically made you Prime Minister because your party led a majority coalition in parliament. You lost out to Boris Johnson, but when he was looking to put a very strong Brexit supporter in a key position, so as to secure his standing with Brexit supporters, he turned to you, naming you as both Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, effectively giving you more power than anyone holds (except for himself!)


YOUR TASK

The Prime Minister will need your support and your political skill as he tries to work with a British Parliament that has sought both to put more pressure on Israel to stop the building of settlements in the West Bank, and to be more public about advocating for an independent Palestinian state. In this latter connection, the British Parliament overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution in October 2014, calling on the British government to recognize the state of Palestine. Though many of those voting for the bill were in the left-wing Labour Party, there were also many supporters from among the ranks of the Conservatives and the centrist Liberal Democrats. Many parliamentarians believe that if your government truly wants to support a negotiated settlement, then its best course of action is to recognize Palestine, so as to even the scales in a negotiation where they see Israel holding most of the cards, while others believe that recognition should be the end result of direct negotiations, and that to offer this prize to the Palestinians now would undermine the very process that ostensibly will lead to the desired outcome. Given the tenor of the parliamentary debates, you can be sure that your stance on this question will be put to the test.

There are also significant issues to be dealt with elsewhere in the region. In early July 2019, British forces seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar (a British controlled territory directly south of Spain), claiming that the Iranian ship was violating European Union sanctions by delivering oil to Syria. Soon afterwards, Iran seized a tanker flying the British flag, the Stena Impero, which was traveling in the Straits of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia, accusing the ship of dumping crude oil residue and other legal violations.

These incidents reflected and worsened an already difficult situation, as Iran and the international signatories to the Iranian nuclear deal tried to salvage a meaningful deal in the wake of the American withdrawal from the deal in 2018. Negotiators from the European Union, Russia, China and Iran met in Vienna in late July 2019 to try to untangle the diplomatic mess, amid rumors of Iran seeking a return swap of the ships, while your nation held fast to the idea that it had to decide in the courts about what to do with the Iranian ship. Indeed, you were quoted as saying that “(Their ship) was intercepted because it was in breach of sanctions and heading with oil to Syria. The Stena Impero was unlawfully detained, so this isn’t about some kind of barter. This is about international law.” By late August 2019, British and Iranian diplomats had negotiated the release of the ship, despite the protests of the Americans, but the task of keeping the US and your European allies happy, while keeping communication channels open with the Iranians, will only get increasingly complicated.

Your nation is in a very difficult spot, as you very much want to see the nuclear deal survive, but you also want to maintain your strong strategic relationship with the United States, which is increasing its military presence in the Persian Gulf area as it imposes harsher economic sanctions on Iran in an attempt to force Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Iran’s leaders accuse Britain of seizing their ship in support of the American plan to choke Iran’s economy, and you have to both manage your policy and the perception that your country ultimately does whatever Washington asks. In the meantime, Iran is treating your seizure of their ship as a breach of the deal, and says that it is free to restart activity at the Arak nuclear facility, which it had fully shut down. This is a diplomatic option that the Iranians will continue to hold as leverage. You’ll need to find a way to calm tensions while not being seen as caving to Iranian pressure.

Finally, a reminder that you were chosen by Johnson because you are such a strong “Euroskeptic” and supporter of Brexit. You took office in July 2019, under a Prime Minister who has pledged a full departure from the European Union by the end of October 2019, whether or not an agreement can be reached. It may have been that Johnson gained politically from his hardline stance on Brexit, but it still seems to be the case that most legislators, even Conservative ones, worry that a so-called “No Deal Brexit” (in which Britain would simply leave the EU on October 31st if no alternative deal is reached and approved by parliament) would devastate Britain’s economy. Your argument has been that such an exit would turn out fine, and you may well get the opportunity to see how good you are at making political and economic predictions. To be sure, you’re about to find out if you and Prime Minister Johnson can navigate the thorny issue of Brexit any better than Theresa May did.


YOUR BELIEFS

You consider yourself to be a strong supporter of Israel, and you have opposed British recognition of a Palestinian state. In the late 1990’s, you studied for a summer at Birzeit University near Ramallah, and worked for a Palestinian negotiator, assessing World Bank projects in the West Bank, giving you an opportunity that few of your colleagues have had to see Palestinian society up close. You described an instance in a college class where the vast majority of Palestinian students expressed a wish to push Israel into the sea, later writing that this experience fit with the perception that the Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat had “done little to sell the [Oslo accords] peace deal –or the compromises involved – to the Palestinian people, and scarcely looked any more serious about delivering his promise of security to Israel.” You also wrote that “The lesson I drew was that peace hinges on forging common assumptions about a two-state solution. Israelis and Palestinians offer parallel histories of the conflict -- both compelling. The elixir of a two-state solution is not a rational reconciliation of competing claims, but a recognition of its impossibility and leaders must sell the compromises required to their peoples. Arafat was notorious for talking peace abroad, while peddling truculent resistance at home.”

You must be mindful, however, of a concern with which other British foreign policy leaders have had to contend, which is the sense that Britain follows too closely in the footsteps of the United States with regard to the Middle East. This was dramatized in the initial weeks of your tenure, with the delicate diplomacy involved with protecting Britain’s strong relationship with the United States while not allowing the Americans to bring the region to a boil by putting additional pressure on Iran at a time when Britain is trying to navigate a difficult diplomatic situation with the Iranians. American policy in the region under Donald Trump is widely seen as supporting Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision, and as stepping away from active support for a two-state settlement. As you work with the nations of the region and try to maintain a strong relationship with the United States, your skills as a diplomat will be severely tested.

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