The Gaza split

By Simon Rocker, July 24, 2014

The rising death toll in Gaza has led to a political split in the UK with David Cameron's staunch support of Israel's right to self-defence in stark contrast to criticism from Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

In Monday's Commons debate, the Prime Minister remarked, "Those criticising Israel's response must ask themselves how they would expect their own government to react if hundreds of rockets were raining down on British cities."

On Tuesday, Labour leader Ed Miliband told the Huffington Post: "We oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza," adding "I don't think it will help win Israel friends... I don't think this will make the situation better. I fear it will make it worse."

It followed his comments at the weekend that "I cannot explain, justify or defend the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians."

Liberal leader Nick Clegg had gone further by last week condemning Israel's response to "a disproportionate form of collective punishment".

Mr Cameron repeatedly rejected calls from both Labour and Conservative MPs to denounce Israeli actions as disproportionate or as war crimes. While he had urged Israeli Prime Minister to exercise restraint and minimise civilian casualties, he said the best way for this to happen was for Hamas to accept a ceasefire.

At one point, he declared, "What is certainly a war crime is launching unprovoked missile attacks on the sovereign territory of another country."

Labour opposition was also voiced by Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander who said the following day, "The pattern of rocket attacks, periodic invasion and permanent occupation does not bring security for Israel and brings further humiliation and suffering for the Palestinians."

Mr Cameron's firm words of support were welcomed by Conservative Jewish parliamentarians.

MP Lee Scott said the Prime Minister has been "very even-handed and spoken in the way you would expect him to. I think he has got it exactly right."

Lord Leigh said, "This is the time for the community to see who its real friends are. It's all very nice saying things the Jewish community wants to hear at charity dinners but it's at moments like this when true colours come out. We are very fortunate to have David Cameron as Prime Minister."

Reacting to Mr Miliband's and Mr Alexander's comments, the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council said in a joint statement that "their latest comments regrettably ignore the ideology of Hamas, the psychology of Hamas, the actions of Hamas and thus the reality faced by Israel."

LFI director Jennifer Gerber said, "This is one of those times where LFI's views diverge from the leader's, and we would ask that any future statements are more balanced and focused on Hamas and their actions, especially a clear condemnation of their use of human shields."

LFI supporter Lord Beecham said overall he felt Mr Miliband's was "a reasonably balanced view...It is quite legitimate to question tactics employed."

Last updated: 3:24pm, July 24 2014