A Lib Dem speaks out for Israel (finally)

Chris Huhne MP (guardian)

There are very few current Lib Dems that find sensible words when it comes to a discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now they are in coalition it is crucial that more do.

Ever since the demise of Jeremy Thorpe as the Liberal leader the party has morphed into a knee-jerk anti-Israel party. They criticise Israel in whatever action it takes to defend its citizens whether it be assassinating a self-confessed terrorist in Dubai, going to war to stop thousands of rockets raining down on Israel or blockading Gaza to stop weapons flowing to Hamas.

Chris Huhne MP lost out narrowly to Nick Clegg for the Lib Dem leadership but he is one lone voice among a sea of anti-Israel Lib Dem reactionism.

I went to hear him speak last week and after a case of will he-won’t he turn up after it had just been revealed that he had left his wife for another woman he finally arrived to speak to the Gladstone Society at the National Liberal Club in London.

Having given us his view of Gladstone, climate change and the upcoming budget it came to the Q&A and I asked a foreign policy question:

“What is the difference between what the British army has participated in in Afganistan, Iraq and Pakistan in defending the UK and, unavoidably, leaving many civilians dead and using targeted assassinations and what Israel did during Operation Cast Lead and its targeted assassination of Al-Mabhouh in Dubai? Why are the Lib Dems so supportive of British troops while at the same time calling for a ban on the sale of arms to Israel?”

He replied:

“There is no question of British people being involved in the sort of targeted assassination that you are talking about. I don’t believe it is appropriate for intelligence services to be involved in that, whether its the Russian FSB or the Israeli Mossad, it is simply not an appropriate means of conducting a campaign. I can assure you that SIS does not get involved in anything like that. It is something we will continue to be against.

On the general view about Israel and the Middle East solution, I continue to take the view that the two state solution is the only long term way forward and that it is unhelpful in the extreme for either the European Union or the United States, certainly they have to be criticial of Israeli government action as we were of the overeaction to the attempts the break the blockade of Gaza, but we must not be in a position where we are seen to be so allied to one side or the other that there is no long term solution.

And one thing that is worth remembering in the context of all of this is that Israel still faces and has faced for a very long time rocket attacks from Gaza, which frankly if they were rocket attacks coming from Calais into Kent I think that the reaction of the British people would have been very similar to the reaction of Israeli public opinion. And people often forget that Israel is a democracy and that Israeli politicians respond to Israeli public opinion in the same way that we would respond, and do respond, to British public opinion and that makes it all the more difficult for Israel. But the fundamentals of a long term solution have been a two state solution that gives the Palestinian people self-autonomy and at the same times gives the Israeli state security.

Sometimes you simply have to wait for this, as we did in Northern Ireland, until finally people are ready. I just hope that moment arrives sooner rather than later.”

He didn’t explain why the Lib Dems are generally so anti-Israel. He also seems to have forgotten that the SAS assassinated three IRA terrorists on Gibraltar in 1988.

But the democracy point is an important one. No other country has a right to try to control how Israel defends its citizens. One can be critical, of course, but calling for a ban on the sale of arms to Israel, as the Lib Dems have done, is beyond the remit of a civilised political party.

While rockets continue to fall on Israel its electorate will continue to vote for security first. Israelis do not have the cushion of being able to vote on solely economic issues, as other countries do. This is what the likes of Nick Clegg, Menzies Campbell and Sarah Teather do not understand.

Even the Palestinians voted for Hamas mainly on economic issues. The corruption and theft by Arafat and his Fatah party is well documented.

Israel might “overreact” but then who in war doesn’t?

It is those who go to war in the first place, in this case Hamas, who are to blame for any overreaction.

22 responses to “A Lib Dem speaks out for Israel (finally)

  1. I’m 75% impressed!

  2. Jonathan Hoffman

    I have known Chris for nearly 30 years. He is supremely able and should have been the LD leader.

  3. Oooh Jonathan, care to expand?

  4. aaah but there is no blockade or military occupation of Calais now is there….don’t be duped Richard, he is not speaking out for israel in the way you think or would like..

    • richardmillett

      If he was critical of the blockade or occupation he would have said so. He didn’t mention either.

  5. Thorpe’s reference to the SIS was a bit of a red herrring: the Force Research Unit certainly assassinated in Northern Ireland:

    http://www.patfinucanecentre.org/fru/fru12022k1a.html

    As did the RUC:

    http://cryptome.quintessenz.at/mirror/committee.htm

    The British just didn’t get their hands dirty, or they observed the 11th commandment.

  6. It goes without saying that assassinating a confirmed arms smuggler in a key position to threaten Israelis hardly bears comparison with those campaigns in Ulster.

  7. Jonathan Hoffman

    No

  8. Pretty please?

  9. ankhfnkhonsu

    It is always a matter of convenience of the reference point.

    There are many who are still of the opinion that the English are still occupying Ireland after 800 years.

  10. JG Campbell

    “There is no question of British people being involved in the sort of targeted assassination that you are talking about. I don’t believe it is appropriate for intelligence services to be involved in that, whether its the Russian FSB or the Israeli Mossad, it is simply not an appropriate means of conducting a campaign. I can assure you that SIS does not get involved in anything like that. It is something we will continue to be against.”

    In this first bit of his reply to you, Jonathan, what exactly was it that Huhne was denying, do you think?

    Was he denying that ISAF’s targeting of Taliban/al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan/Pakistan with unmanned drones away from the battlefield is in any way comparable with Al-Mabhouh’s assassination by Israel? Or was he merely claiming that only US forces, not British ones, are involved in such targeted drone attacks which, strictly speaking, do not have Britain’s approval?

    Or did he mean something else altogether and I’ve got the wrong end of the stick?

    Jonathan

    JG Campbell

  11. JG Campbell

    Sorry, Richard, for calling you Jonathan by mistake in my previous comment!

    Jonathan
    JG Campbell

  12. Richard

    If you think those comments really are ‘speaking out for Israel’ then the words ‘straws’ and ‘clutching at’ come to mind. He dismissed your attempt to highlight US/UK hypocrisy on targetted assassinations by a) denying that the UK ever did it (a complete lie) and b) standing by his condemnation of Israel for doing it. He then when on to confirm his condemnation over Israel’s Gaza policy. Of course he threw in the usual ‘2 state solution’ sop, but that is official Lib-Dem policy anyway. So it seems that if a mainstream politician condemns Israel for every action it takes in self-defence, but falls short of calling for Israel’s total destruction, then that is being ‘pro-Israel’.

    Also, on a separate note, I believe that Chris Huhne is potentially the most dangerous politician for the future of the UK because of his fanatical and deluded views on climate change. The fact that he has been appointed energy secretary (and so has the power to carry the economic destruction of the UK that will inevitably result from his emissions reduction target) should worry everybody.

  13. modernityblog

    Is Baroness Tonge still a member of the Lib Dems?

  14. I’m not impressed.

    What politicians need to be saying loud and clear is this:

    Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood, et al, are enemies of the UK. They are enemies of democracy, of freedom, of women’s rights, of progress. They are murderous, repressive criminal gangs that represent an affront to everything which we have fought to defend over the last century.

    It is extremely unjust that one of the world’s smallest countries, a liberal democracy, is having to confront this awful totalitarian ideology alone. That Western politicians, desperate to appease this threat, are lining up to condemn Israel for defending itself against such a monstrosity at its gates is utterly unacceptable.

    We in the UK are on the road to hell with this policy, it needs to change NOW.

  15. Can someone explain to me why that’s so hard for Chris Huhne (or any politician in power for that matter) to say?

  16. JG Campbell

    Richard, sorry to pester. But since you were there, what exactly was it Huhne was denying in that first part of his answer regarding assassinations? I’d be grateful for any clarification you can give.

    Jonathan

    • richardmillett

      I don’t think he picked up on my reference to afghanistan, iraq and pakistan but i think he just heard me mention the Dubai assassination and so he wanted to tell me that that is not the way the british security services, SIS as he called them, work.

      I wish I hadn’t mentioned Dubai as it gave him a get out if you know what i mean. I wanted him to stick to the parallel of what NATO forces are doing and what Israel is doing and answer why his party doesn’t criticise NATO but is highly critical of Israel.

      I wanted to see if he understood how hypocritical his party is but unfortunately he concentrate solely on the Dubai assassination which was very unsatisfactory.

      Does that make sense?

  17. JG Campbell

    Thanks, Richard, that’s helpful. Jonathan

  18. Blacklisted Dictator

    Hi Richard,

    “There is no question of British people being involved in the sort of targeted assassination that you are talking about.” (Huhne)

    So quite clearly the present Uk govt is not going to kill Osama Bin Laden if given half a chance.

    Let’s be quite clear. Huhne, like the rest of the mob at Westminster is insane. Wasting time , money and lives, trying to destroy al-Qaeda but determined NOT to kill Bin Laden.

  19. I don’t have much to say about this apart from the fact that I really dislike Chris Huhne types. If he takes pro-Israel stances then that won’t endear him much to me either.

    And I have to say that it amuses me no end how Richard seem to be afraid for Israel on account of the ‘yellow peril’.

    “Sometimes you simply have to wait for this, as we did in Northern Ireland, until finally people are ready. I just hope that moment arrives sooner rather than later”

    Pure genius. Do nothing and hope for the best. Imbecile…