One week from today, the UK faces a real stark choice at an election for the first time in over 20 years. Ed Miliband has led his Labour party away from Blair’s New Labour, pulling it back out into the more left wing union-serving party it once was. This is hardly surprising, given the party members themselves wanted his brother, David, to be leader, and he only won the leadership contest because of the unions’ vote, but it does nonetheless represent a shift in British politics.
I could go on and on about the many domestic reasons why I believe it is right for people to vote Conservative at this election, but I won’t. Instead, I wish to focus on the parties’ stances with regards to Israel, and explain why I feel that, for anyone who prioritises the safety and security of the State of Israel, and for anyone who would like to see a Two State Solution, voting Tory is a must.
I do not suppose that everyone reading this puts Israel at the top of their list of concerns they consider when voting in a UK election. Indeed, I wouldn’t say I put it there myself. But it is a very important issue to me, and support for Israel can make or break my support for a candidate or party.
The new, more left wing Labour party brings with it a new stance on Israel. Whereas Blair and Brown had been far more supportive of Israel, Miliband has not. During last year’s Operation Protective Edge, Ed Miliband on several occasions made equivalences between the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas at Israeli civilians and the targeted responses by Israel at areas Hamas were storing rockets in. He spoke of ‘the killing of innocent civilians caused by Israel’s military actions.’ Not by Hamas launching terrorist attacks at Israel, or by Hamas storing rockets in schools and hospitals among other civilian areas, but by Israel. He also said that Cameron was ‘wrong not to have opposed Israel’s incursion into Gaza’ – ie, he believes Cameron should have opposed Israel’s decision to defend itself.
For me, it seems that Miliband seems to simply not get it when it comes to what really happened last summer. Instead of recognising that the blame for the conflict, and by extension its casualties, rested squarely on the shoulders of Hamas and their genocidal intentions, Miliband blamed Israel for defending its civilians’ lives.
Then, last October, Miliband and the rest of the Labour leadership brought in a non-binding backbench motion (ie the government doesn’t vote on it and it doesn’t pass into law regardless of the outcome) to unilaterally recognise the state of Palestine. Not only that, but he imposed a three-line whip on the vote, telling his party members to either vote in favour or abstain, and that anyone who dared vote against it would face being disciplined by the Labour party. As a result, it passed, and without a single Labour MP voting against. Then, on the campaign trail, when asked about Israel, he said he would have had the UK support a binding resolution at the UN Security Council last December, which would have – had it passed – placed a forced timeline on Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, as opposed to one agreed to by both sides at the end of bilateral peace talks. If the UK had voted in favour (we abstained), then the vote would have got enough ayes to pass, and then the US would probably have vetoed it, which would have represented the first time in history the US has been forced to use its Security Council veto against the UK. In other words, Miliband wanted us to put our greatest ally in an extremely uncomfortable spot, forcing it to pick between us and Israel.
This makes one thing utterly clear; Ed Miliband does not understand anything about the peace process. He wants to undermine the peace talks, either by having the UK unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state or by imposing a Security Council resolution to force Israel to risk its very existence by withdrawing from territories prematurely. Effectively, what Miliband is saying to the Palestinians is ‘don’t bother negotiating, don’t bother compromising, we’ll recognise you regardess.’ It’s a dangerous position to adopt, throwing Israel under the bus, and it is not one I wish to see represented in the UK government. I have spoken to many hardcore Labour supporters who have said that, despite their party affiliation and the fact that they will still vote Labour at this election, even they recognise that Labour and Miliband have got it very wrong on Israel, and that they opposed both the motion in the UK and the idea of the UK backing the security council resolution against Israel.
So it is plain to see that the modern Labour party is no friend of Israel’s, and would put its security, and the lives of its civilians, at risk. But what about the Tories? Are they really better than Labour when it comes to supporting Israel?
Well, yes. Yes we are.
Let’s take a look at David Cameron, the Conservative leader and current Prime Minister. Last year, he reiterated his ‘unbreakable’ support for Israel, and made very clear that he recognised that the blame for last summer’s conflict should be placed on Hamas, accepting that it was Hamas’ decision to fire rockets on Israel that was its root cause. Then, just two days ago, he reiterated this belief, stating that ‘Israel uses its weapons to defend its people whilst Hamas uses its people to defend its weapons’.
And it’s not just David Cameron who supports Israel. 80% of Tory MPs – including the Prime Minister – are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel group in Parliament, compared with less than 14% of Labour MPs being members of Labour Friends of Israel – and unsurprisingly, Ed Miliband isn’t one of them. That puts into perspective the massive disparity between the two main parties in terms of support for Israel.
Some of you might, of course, ask a very obvious question – what about the other parties?
Well, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg described last year’s defensive efforts by Israel as ‘deliberately disproportionate’ claiming Israel had ‘proved their point’. In other words, Clegg seems to believe that Israel is not only disproportionate – which I would dispute – but deliberately so, as if it gets some sick joy out of innocent civilians dying. And, apparently, he believes that Israel fights back against terrorist attacks to prove some kind of point. Presumably one about how tasty the blood of babies is.
Green leader Natalie Bennett is by far the worst of the lot, calling for a boycott of Israel. Her deputy leader, Shahrar Ali, was apparently keen to make her seem like a moderate, giving a ranting speech in which he reiterates support for a boycott of Israel and addresses Israel saying ‘listen up warmongers’ before breaking into an eardrum-popping rendition of the Manic Street Preachers’ song ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’. So, clearly a no there.
And UKIP? Well, a candidate this week said that the conflict was caused by uncontrolled immigration (apparently everything is in UKIP’s world) – that immigration being the Jewish one into the land, for those of you who are as confused as I was when I first heard it. Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, has himself actually been somewhat supportive of Israel on the rare occasion he takes a break from preaching against Eastern European immigration (you know, the kind responsible for a Jewish presence in the UK today). The reasons not to vote UKIP, to be honest, extend far beyond Israel, but if I am to stay on message here, I will say that a vote for UKIP, especially in close marginals between the Conservatives and another party, is in practice a vote for the Conservative candidates’ opponent, who will almost certainly be from one of the other parties I’ve discussed.
So, in conclusion, I think the choice facing the electorate is extremely clear, and even more so on the issue of Israel. In my opinion, if you truly care about peace for the Blue and White, you have to vote Blue on May 7th.