Lib Dems urge ban on arms to Israel

By Marcus Dysch, March 19, 2009

The Liberal Democrats have called for a suspension of British arms sales to Israel following the Gaza conflict.

In a wide-ranging motion proposed by MP Edward Davey, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, at its spring conference in Harrogate, delegates also voted for the suspension of the update to Israel’s association agreement with the EU, which provides the basis for the country’s dealings in Europe.

Lib Dem Friends of Israel chairman Monroe Palmer said: “Restrictions on trade with Israel will not resolve any problems in the region whatsoever.

“We could have done without the motion on Gaza but I think the feeling within the party is reflective of elsewhere in the country; Israel needs its security, but people do not feel that has been enhanced by Gaza.”

Conference-goers rejected calls to ban faith schools in a separate motion on education, but passed amendments to adopt a policy which would cut funding for schools which do not commit to inclusiveness in their intake within five years.

Representatives from all faith groups wrote to the Guardian the day before the March 6 vote, saying that stopping religious schools selecting pupils by faith would be “perverse and unjust”.

Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “It is significant that, following a full debate and significant lobbying by those who want to undermine the essential nature of faith schools, the Liberal Democrats have nevertheless voted to support parents’ rights to choose.

“Faith schools are a success story and not only teach tolerance, respect and cohesion, but actively promote these values through their ethos.”

Last updated: 1:14pm, March 19 2009