Tobias Ellwood

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You are Tobias Ellwood, the Under Secretary of State for the Middle East and conservative Member of Parliament

Notable Quotes

“(T)he key to ending the suffering of ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East is leadership. Bold leadership. Leadership that promotes tolerance and stands up against hatred. Leadership that brings people together regardless of their ethnicity, religion, belief, gender or sexual orientation – and enables their full participation in society.”

“We must give our full support to the Middle East Peace Process, and to the two state solution - to prevent more suffering and an uncertain and dangerous future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

“(T)he aspirations of the Palestinian people cannot be fully realized until there is an end to the occupation ... and we believe this will only come through negotiations…only an end to the occupation will ensure that Palestinian statehood becomes a reality on the ground. The UK will bilaterally recognize a Palestinian state when we judge that it can best help bring about the peace."

Personal and Political Background

The son of British members of the United Nations diplomatic corps, you were born in New York City in 1966, and you spent portions of your youth in Germany and Austria as well in the United States. You returned to England for college, ultimately receiving a Master’s in Business Administration from London’s City University. As a young man, you served an extended stint in the British Army with the Royal Green Jackets infantry regiment, and you also worked for a legal firm and for the London Stock Exchange as you became steadily more active in Conservative Party politics. You ultimately were elected to parliament in 2005, representing the Bournemouth East district in southern Britain, a position that you retained in the 2015 elections. Over the years of your tenure in parliament you slowly worked your way up the ladder, serving first as Parliamentary Private Secretary, a kind of liaison officer to members of parliament first for the Secretary 0f Defense, and later for the Office of the Foreign Secretary. You also served as Parliamentary Advisor to the Prime Minister for the 2014 NATO Summit. You were appointed to your current position in July 2014 by Philip Hammond, just after he was himself promoted to the position of Foreign Secretary with the resignation of his predecessor, William Hague.

Middle Eastern Policy

With regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict, you will advocate for the Prime Minister’s policy that there should be a State of Israel as well as a Palestinian State, mutually recognized, coexisting in peace. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister will need your support and your network of connections as they try 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 a Palestinian state. You strongly pushed back when the British Parliament overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution in October 2014, calling on the British government to recognize the state of Palestine. You said in the parliamentary debate that recognition was a card that could only be played once, and this statement was roundly criticized as reducing the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians to a diplomatic “move.” Philip Hammond came to your defense, stating that British recognition of Palestine was “a tool to be used in trying to bring about the peace settlement” adding that your government supports “US-led efforts to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to negotiations.” Many parliamentarians believe that if the British 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. Others share your belief 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.

In December 2014, you visited the Middle East and met with leaders of several nations. In both Jordan and Lebanon you expressed your government’s gratitude for the efforts by both nations to absorb large numbers of immigrants from the war in Syria, and emphasized your nation’s eagerness to deepen trade relations with both countries. You also visited Egypt, and while you voiced support for the government of General al-Sisi, you later publicly expressed dismay over the slowness of with which the democratic infrastructure has been rebuilt in Egypt after the military overthrew the government of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi in 2013, bringing al-Sisi to power. Noting in early 2015 that “Egypt has been without a full parliament for two and a half years,” you stated that you “encourage all relevant institutions in Egypt to take the necessary steps to hold free and constitutional parliamentary elections as soon as possible.” When an Egyptian court issued a death sentence in May 2015 against President Morsi, for his supposed role in a prison break that took place in 2011, before his election as president, you joined a chorus of Western observers who viewed the decision—which awaits confirmation by a Cairo Criminal Court—as being excessively harsh, stating that "(w)e look to the Egyptian authorities to apply the rule of law consistently in line with international standards and to protect the political and legal rights of all Egyptians as the basis for the country's future stability."

Role-Playing Notes

Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it must be said that your government has stood first and foremost with the Israelis, and part of your job is reassuring Conservative Party supporters of your government’s unwavering support for Israel, while making sure that the government is not seen as having its head in the sand in light of the growing public dismay over Israel’s perceived intransigence as pertains to settlement expansion in the West Bank. You have the look of a rising star in the British Conservative Party, and your party dramatically outperformed expectations in the 2015 elections, handily defeating the opposition Labor Party. 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 in the footsteps of the United States with regard to the Middle East, and this perception is one that emerged as an obstacle for you soon after you took the job as Under Secretary of State for the Middle East. The British government has been unable to secure America’s release to Britain of Shaker Ammer, a Saudi national who is also a legal resident of Britain where his family lives, and who is currently detained by the US at Guantanamo Bay. The United States seems to be reluctant to risk upsetting the Saudis by allowing Ammer to go to Britain rather than to Saudi Arabia, and the British government has been unable to secure Ammer’s release, which would seem to call into question the influence Britain supposedly has in Washington. You are now the front person for this circumstance, and you’ve taken a LOT of heat in Parliament as a consequence. Will you be able to work with Johnson and May to change this perception and/or this reality? Will your political star continue to rise? You’ll need to use your skill to craft press releases that convey a sense of you as influential figure, and as someone who can help cultivate an image of an independent Britain that charts it own course.

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