Peer criticises US relationship with 'powerful Jewish community'

A Liberal Democrat peer has referred to the role of the "huge and powerful Jewish community" in the United States' decision to vote against last week's Palestinian United Nations bid.

Despite opposition from the Obama administration and an abstention on the part of the UK, the Palestinians won observer status at the UN General A ssembly last Thursday.

In a Lords debate on the resolution, which also covered Israel's announcement about further settlement building and saw several peers urge the government to stand firm on its criticism of the Netanyahu administration, Lord Phillips called on the government to pursue the path of plain speaking. He said that "if necessary" this country should be independent of the United States, "which is in a particular relationship with the huge and powerful Jewish community there".

In his speech, which included comments about the situation in Gaza but no mention of the rocket attacks conducted by Hamas terrorists in the area, Lord Phillips spoke of meeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

"I was immensely impressed by the man," he said. "Unless I have lost all my touch for understanding the reactions of people, I was impressed. I spent an hour with him , man to man. He is dying for an opening and for some encouragement because he never gets a dividend for anything Hamas does, except more colonisation and more repression."

He also stated that Israelis who opposed their government's decisions were called "self-hating Jews", and went on to say that "the charges of antisemitism" always followed plain speaking on this subject.

In 2010, Lord Phillips told a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting that "America is in the grip of a well organised Jewish lobby" and suggested that "many" Jews were "deeply prejudiced".

His comments in the debate were echoed by former Defence Secretary and Conservative peer Lord King, who referred directly to "the Jewish lobby in the United States" which he said "has done no service to Israel and it has done no service to the standing of the United States in the region".

Concluding the debate, Baroness Warsi repeated the Foreign Secretary's call on Mr Netanyahu to rethink its actions.

"The past month has highlighted the fragility of the situation in the Middle East and the coming year will prove crucial if peace is to be achieved," she said.

Last updated: 10:20am, December 4 2012