In recent months, Ed Miliband has made a concerted effort to embrace the Jewish community. He has visited Israel. He has spoken of rediscovering his Jewish roots. And he ended his speech to the Labour Friends of Israel with the declaration that he would enter Downing Street proud to be a “friend of Israel, a Jew and… part of the community”. But, with Israel now in need of support from its friends, he has shown that words are cheap. Mr Miliband is, of course, entitled to take whatever view he wishes of Operation Protective Edge. But he cannot indulge in knee-jerk criticism of a nation defending itself from terrorism and then expect anyone to take seriously his claim to be a true friend of Israel. As for Nick Clegg: his remark that Israel is engaged in collective punishment of the Palestinians is unworthy even of a man who has such a poor history of dealing with antisemitism in his party.
That record has now been worsened with his kid-glove treatment of David Ward, who has previously attacked “the Jews” for not learning the correct lesson of the Holocaust and who described the Board of Deputies as “powerful, well-funded”. It is almost beyond belief that an MP can describe how he would be a terrorist and then be met by total silence from his party leader. Almost — because we are concerned here with the LibDems and Nick Clegg, whose record in dealing with such matters is shameful. What a contrast with the Prime Minister. In his Commons statement on Monday, Mr Cameron was clear, principled and firm in his support for Israel’s right to defend itself. There is a view that the Prime Minister is not a fully fledged friend of Israel. No objective observer could sustain that position after this week. In Israel’s time of need, we now know precisely where the respective leaders stand.