Israeli Officials Express Anxiety Over Scottish Independence

YERUSHALAYIM -

For some in Israel the referendum on Scottish independence, however distant it seems, is a source of anxiety.

While it certainly doesn’t rank with Hamas, Iran or the Islamic State among the existential threats to Israel, there are those who think that if the Scots vote Yes to secession on Thursday it will not be good for the Jews.

For one thing, the repercussions could be felt elsewhere, including the Mideast, where, along with the rest of the world, people are watching the vote. Arab Israelis, long restive, could take the cue to agitate for a breakaway state of their own.

Then there is the possibility that Scotland, where pro-Palestinian sentiment is known to be strong, would add its voice to the chorus of international condemnations of Israel at the U.N. and elsewhere.

During Operation Protective Edge, the government in Edinburgh issued more than half a dozen statements assailing the Israeli campaign in Gaza and several local councils flew the Palestinian flag in solidarity with Gazan residents.

But others dismiss it as a purely local spat, with no likely impact beyond the British Isles.

Israeli officials were split on the issue.

“We have very good and close relations with the United Kingdom. From our perspective, a united kingdom is better than a split kingdom,” one diplomatic official said on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. He voiced concern that a vote Yes would inspire separatism in other countries, “and that can’t be good for us.”

If the Scottish get their own state, the Welsh, Catalonians, the Basques, the Quebecois and many other nationalist movements across the globe will feel want the same.

But other Israeli officials don’t believe a Scottish split will have any such effect.

“It won’t change anything in this region in any way. Yes, if the Scots separate from England, some will say that if they deserve independence, so do the Palestinians. But there’s already an international consensus that recognizes the need for a Palestinian state,” another official argued.

He also pointed out the difference between the two situations, at least as far as borders are concerned. “Everybody knows where the border between England and Scotland is. The problem with the Palestinians is not the question of whether they should have a state or not, but how to resolve the final-status issues such as borders, security, refugees and the status of Yerushalayim.”

Regarding votes in the U.N. and the EU, the effect would be negligible, he said. “So there will be one more voice against Israel, but it will not tip the scale … It wouldn’t be pleasant to have another critical voice, but it’s also wouldn’t be the end of the world.”