Marcus Dysch

Manifestos show promoting Israel’s cause isn’t working

The publication of the main parties' election manifestos this week leave so many questions

May 18, 2017 15:39

I’m scratching my head.

The Conservative manifesto launch leaves me with so many questions.

The document does not include any reference to policies on the Middle East, Israel and the Palestinians, or even tackling antisemitism in Britain. Why?

One possible answer is that Theresa May may believe British Jews already accept her, er, strong and stable positions on Israel, and therefore don’t need to hear any more about it?

Or perhaps she has observed Labour’s almighty omnishambles on all things Israel and Jewish and decided no British Jew would be mad enough to vote (or indeed stand?) for a party led by Jeremy Corbyn, thus taking for granted those votes?

And does it even matter? Isn’t the whole idea of parties including such an intractable, niche foreign issue in British general election manifestoes merely a throwback to the days when British policy on such matters actually made a difference?

The powers-that-be in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza, Washington and Moscow are not sitting around waiting to hear what Tim Farron or Theresa May think any more than the voters of Lullington in the key marginal of Eastbourne (Tory majority 733) will be swung by Jeremy Corbyn meeting a “grime” artist they have literally never heard of.

The Labour manifesto contained more than twice as many words on Israel and the Palestinians as it did on Syria. And more words than on Kashmir, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Cyprus, the Democratic republic of the Congo, the Korean Peninsular and the South China Sea together.

Is the Middle East conflict of such enormous relevance to everyday life in Britain that it is more important than almost the entire rest of the world combined?

The Lib Dems, having apparently realised they really ought to say something on the issue in their manifesto but obviously were not quite sure what, plumped for the previously unused “as and when” line on Palestinian statehood.

A clear example of the “we want you to think we care, but will show you we really don’t” approach to forming policy.

Do you think normal British voters could care less about issues such as West Bank settlements, the boycott or the Green Line? Go and stand in the centre of Scunthorpe and ask the good citizens of that town to explain which policy they prefer on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 242.

Which then begs a question closer to home. Why does the Jewish community collectively spend so many tens – arguably hundreds - of thousands of pounds a year attempting to lobby political parties to take a favourable line towards Israel?

Our supposed communal representatives have CVs the length of their arms bragging of their ability to convince politicians of the rights and wrongs of every conceivable position. The manifestos show those claims to be utterly laughable, don’t they?

The three main parties all have dedicated Friends of Israel groups. Which of them can be happy after the past 48 hours?

Labour Friends of Israel described their party’s manifesto as a “hard win”, yet the document included a pledge which would see the party implement a unilateral policy on Palestinian statehood which goes even further than the one which the vast majority of LFI-supporting MPs dodged voting on when it came before the Commons two and a half years ago. It is, frankly, a further disaster upon the disasters suffered by Jewish and pro-Israel supporters of that party.

Lib Dem Friends of Israel can hardly be thrilled with the re-emergence of that favourite Lib Dem term “disproportionate”, even if this time it refers to both sides. And that “as and when” is almost as pointless as the publication of any Lib Dem manifesto.

Conservative Friends of Israel is the single biggest lobby group in Westminster and a machine so well-oiled it can call on any minister, from the Prime Minister down, to appear pretty much whenever and wherever the group wants them to.

Yet here is the Tory manifesto in the “most important election of our lifetime”, and no mention whatsoever of the issue.

Surely it would be impossible for CFI to argue, after all that effort and all that money, that it is pleased Mrs May is concentrating on other matters?

Maybe the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion, maybe not. But either way, after 18 months of scandal in the Labour Party, and with a Conservative Party fixated on other matters, after June 8 the Jewish community will need to have a serious think about how it engages with our political parties, and indeed how our political parties regard our community and its concerns.

See all our Election 2017 coverage here

May 18, 2017 15:39

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