Tory MP casts doubt on Israel's future

MP Goldsmith: "Israel is hopelessly unstrategic" (Photo: AP)

MP Goldsmith: "Israel is hopelessly unstrategic" (Photo: AP)

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has expressed doubt about Israel's prospects, telling a group of young Jewish leaders from the educational group Ort that he would be nervous to place a bet on the future of the Jewish state.

The Richmond MP, son of financier Sir James, recalled visiting for the first time last year and spoke of his emotional connection with the Israeli story and the "compelling" historical case for a home for the Jewish people.

"We ought to be doing everything we possibly can to ensure the sustainability of Israel," he said.

"But Israel is hopelessly unstrategic. It's as if they have got two fingers up at the rest of the world. There is a belligerence, an arrogance, a stupidity.

"People who love Israel need to be critical because otherwise I think that if I had to bet on the future of Israel I would be nervous about being generous." Mr Goldsmith echoed the comments of the rest of the panel, which included crossbencher Baroness Deech, MP Michael Ellis and Lord Sterling, in stating that he had no doubt that criticism of the Israeli government "quite often" became a cover for antisemitism.

"There can be the most appalling atrocities in an African country or some other corner of the world and a few questions may be asked in parliament or maybe a few notes in a debate, but when Israel does something strategically less significant there will be dozens of questions and dozens of opportunities for debate," said Mr Ellis, a Conservative MP. "It's wholly disproportionate. The hatred that is often displayed toward Israel is often a veneer for antisemitism, which is not only still very strong but actually getting stronger. I don't think people are fair about Israel."

"I can understand that people are critical but they never stop," added Baroness Deech. "Jewishness and Israel are actually two different things, you can be one and not the other, but our enemies see it as one and the same. When Israel does something unpopular it is Jewish synagogues and Jewish people who get attacked. They will call you a Zionist when they mean to be rude about Jews."

Lord Sterling, who recalled visiting Israel as a serviceman soon after it became a state, said that Israel's diplomacy was "not the greatest one has ever come across. In the long term they don't help themselves. The Israelis themselves have to decide which way their country is going to go. What will Israel do when peace breaks out?"

Last updated: 11:32am, December 11 2012