From condemning Bibi to 'most pro-Israel PM ever', where does David Cameron stand on Israel?

The newly appointed foreign secretary has said Israel has an 'undeniable' right to defend itself


Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) outside 10 Downing Street ahead of a meeting in London on September 10, 2015. British Prime Minister David Cameron held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Downing Street residence in central London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2014, as Israel launched a ground invasion into Gaza to destroy Hamas's tunnel network, the man tasked with leading's the UK's response was David Cameron.

Nine years later, as the IDF again fight their way into the Palestinian enclave, the former prime minister has found himself back at the centre of British foreign policy following his surprise return to the cabinet.

But what is the new foreign secretary's position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and how will his return to government affect the Jewish state's war effort?

In July 2010, shortly after he won office and brought the Conservative Party back into power for the first time in 13 years, Cameron travelled to Ankara and condemned Israel in a speech to Turkish business leaders.

"The situation in Gaza has to change," he told them. "Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp." He was speaking in the wake of the now infamous Gaza flotilla indicent, which caused a diplomatic row between Israel and Turkey.

The inflammatory line was a repeat of comments he had made earlier that year in the House of Commons, when he told MPs: "Everybody knows that we are not going to sort out the problem of the Middle East peace process while there is, effectively, a giant open prison in Gaza."

Israel's ambassador to the UK at the time, Ron Prosor, hit back, telling Cameron that Gaza was indeed a prison camp, but one controlled by Hamas.

The prime minister's critique of Israel's policy towards the Palestinians was not limited to describing Gaza as a jail.

"The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable," he added. "I have told Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous," he said. "Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change."

His government, he added, opposed Israel's blockade of Gaza.

"The fact is we have long supported lifting the blockade of Gaza, we have long supported proper humanitarian access.

"Even though some progress has been made we are still in the situation where it is very difficult to get in, it is very difficult to get out. So I think the description is warranted."

Over his six years in office, however, Cameron's public position towards the Jewish state softened significantly enough that by 2015 he was hailed as the most supportive British PM in history by Israeli officials.

Writing for Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, JC correspondent Anshel Pfeffer wrote that the prime minister "translated his personal support into consistent policy".

Cameron pushed for punishing sanctions on Iran behind closed doors and changed the law to prevent Israelis suspected of war crimes from being arrested in the UK.

During the 2014 Gaza conflict, the government did not condemn IDF strikes against targets in Gaza despite pressure from the Conservative's Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

"Even those who are far less supportive of Israel’s current government and who have spoken to him in private on the issue, including senior British diplomats, have all come away with the clear impression that, in many ways, 'he sees the Middle East very similarly to Netanyahu,'" Pfeffer wrote.

In a speech made that year to the Knesset, Cameron praised the Jewish state as a "beacon of democracy" to the Middle East and wider world.

Israel's history of coalition governments, he said, had helped him understand how to govern alongside the Liberal Democrats.

"My Jewish ancestry is relatively limited but I do feel some sense of connection from the lexicon of my great-great grandfather, Emile Levita, a Jewish man who came from Germany to Britain 150 years ago, to the story of my forefather, Elijah Levita, who wrote what is thought to have been the first-ever Yiddish novel," he added.

Israel's right to defend itself, Cameron insisted, was enshrined "in international law, in natural justice and fundamental morality". His government would oppose continued Israeli settlement construction and "Palestinian incitement".

Both Britain and Israel, he told Knesset members, know it requires a "tough, strong security response" to fight terrorism.

Also in 2015, Cameron spoke warmly of Britain and Israel's close and mutually beneficial bonds in a letter to the outgoing Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub.

In a handwritten note, he said: “We should be proud of the strong ties that have been fostered between our two countries in recent years.

“From our trade, which has doubled in a decade and is now worth £5 billion a year, to the world-leading partnerships between our scientists, academics and hi-tech specialists. We have reaped the rewards of our shared commitment to driving the growth of hi-tech start-ups."

This October, days after Israel suffered the worst massacre of Jews since the end of the Holocaust, Cameron expressed his unreserved support.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Israel following the despicable acts of terror brought upon them over the weekend, and my heart goes out to all those who have so cruelly been taken against their will, and their families," he wrote on X/Twitter.

"Their worry and heartache is simply unimaginable. I stand in complete solidarity with Israel at this most challenging time and fully back the Prime Minister and UK Government in their unequivocal and steadfast support."

Thirteen years after Cameron condemned Israel for their policy on Gaza, it appears that British support for the Jewish state's war effort is unlikely to waver soon.

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