Ambassador attacks Lib Dem Simon Hughes over 'one state' comments

By Marcus Dysch, September 27, 2012

Israel’s ambassador to Britain has attacked the Liberal Democrat deputy leader for suggesting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was no longer possible because of settlement building.

Daniel Taub said Simon Hughes was “playing into the hands of extremists” by advocating an approach that would “signal the end of the Jewish homeland”.

In an interview with the JC last week, Mr Hughes said that he believed the opportunity for a two-state solution was “near to the end” and that the international community should instead make plans for a “one-state solution”.

The comments contrast with official government policy and his own party’s stance. Mr Hughes also called for “Jewish friends who are moderate and internationalist” to make sure “international law is honoured” and challenge the Israeli government.

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel’s fringe meeting at the party conference on Sunday, Mr Taub said it had been “very disappointing to hear a leading figure in the party advocating a one-state solution”.

The ambassador said the policy would “in practice signal the end of the Jewish homeland. Endorsing such an approach plays into the hands of extremists and undermines those on all sides working to achieve a peaceful solution in which two peoples live side by side as neighbours”.

Mr Hughes was one of three MPs and a number of peers among the 100 people who attended the LDFI event in Brighton, where MPs Lorely Burt and Stephen Williams discussed their participation in the group’s delegation to Israel in June. It was the first such trip run by LDFI for more than four years.

The MPs discussed their experience of spending Friday night with Jewish families in Jerusalem and meeting the family of a suicide bombing victim.

Mr Williams said: “Meeting people like Arnold Roth, who lost his daughter Malki in the Sbarro pizza suicide bombing in 2001, brought home to me the realities on the ground. I feel better informed having had the chance to go on the delegation.”

LDFI chairman Gavin Stollar said Mr Hughes needed to clarify his remarks, but that the group regarded him as “very much as a friend of Israel” and expected him to join the next LDFI delegation to the country.

Mr Stollar said: “The ambassador gave a very impassioned, detailed, insightful explanation and understanding of the current situation. We also wanted to give the stage to those who had been on the delegation. It was a really positive meeting.”

Lib Dem Friends of Palestine also held a fringe session on Sunday.

Speakers included South African law professor John Dugard, who has claimed that Israel is guilty of apartheid; Baroness Tonge, who resigned the Lib Dem whip over anti-Israel comments earlier this year; and MP Bob Russell, who echoed Mr Hughes’ remarks regarding the viability of a Palestinian state.

Last updated: 4:45pm, September 27 2012