It's naive to think David Ward is the true voice of the Lib Dem's on Israel

By Gavin Stollar, August 28, 2014
Nick Clegg: 'friend of Israel'

Nick Clegg: 'friend of Israel'

The past two months have been hard. Hard for anyone who cares about Israel.

As chairman of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI), my job, like all Israel's advocates, has been hard, but it is, also, a privilege with great responsibility.

In our party, LDFI is a key conduit to the UK Jewish community and on all matters related to Israel and Palestine.

Since the start of Israel's Operation Protective Edge there have been an unprecedented level of briefings and dialogue from LDFI throughout the party, certainly unsurpassed in my 17 years' involvement with the organisation.

The Liberal Democrat position on Israel now and in the future should not be naively viewed through the narrow prism of tweets from people like our Bradford MP David Ward, in the same way that the Conservatives' position on Israel should not be viewed through the resignation of Sayeeda Warsi over Gaza.

We have a party policy supporting a two-state solution

An inconvenient truth is that the Liberal Democrats are friends of Israel. We have a leader in Nick Clegg who is personally and politically vested as a friend of Israel, and we have a formally stated party policy position in support of Israel and a two-state solution.

People can have short and sometimes selective memories. To recap, Nick Clegg was the first to call for the UK to boycott the Durban II conference in 2009 due to unacceptable expected levels of antisemitic discourse.

In government, our party presided over clarification of the universal jurisdiction laws which now allow Israeli politicians to visit the UK without fear of arrest. Our party has, in Lord Palmer, by far the most frequent speaker in the House of Lords making Israel's case on an almost daily basis.

Whilst LDFI inherently disagrees with Business Secretary' Vince Cable's recent moves to restrict arms export licences to Israel, this step is no different to that which Conservative Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher (from 1982 onwards), or Ted Heath (in 1973), took over many years.

The Liberal Party in the early 20th century was "home" for a majority of Jews and Zionists alike. Friendship takes different forms, but recognising it a good place
to start.

Last updated: 6:45pm, August 28 2014