UK government’s strange double-take on Palestinian activists

The UK  Minister for Middle East Alistair Burt (not to be confused with the actual Foreign Secretary, William Hague) has been visiting Israel and the West Bank last week. As part of his visit, he was taken to the hotspot of the fiercest clashes between Palestinians and the army in these post-Intifada days, Nabi Saleh. There, he offered the following statement:
“From what I have seen the IDF have acted extremely strongly against peaceful protesters including chasing children and, in one instance striking a woman. We entirely defend people’s rights to peacefully protest and the role of the international community in helping protect this. Ultimately it is in the interest of Israel and villages such as Nabi Saleh to address the issues I’ve seen here”.
Burt was actually walking in the footsteps of Foreign Secretary and one-time leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, who in November met with organizers of unarmed resistance from the village of Bilin. Hague has also been very pro-active in showing personal and political support for the Arab Spring revolutionaries, betting on on their success. His conduct then could not contrast more starkly with the waffling Obama Administration or the downright bizarre description of Hosni Mubarak as a “force for good” by Hague’s former dispatch box  opponent Tony Blair.
Which all merits the question of where Hague and Burt were when their Home Office counterpart, Theresa May, brought about the London arrest of probably the most important Palestinian-Israeli leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, last week. At the very least, it would seem to contradict Messrs Burt & Hague’s signals of greater openness and desire for engagement with players in the conflict who are not the Israeli diplomatic corps. I’d give a lot to be a fly-on-the-wall in any of May’s and Hague’s conversations this weekend.