Sir Ed Davey: Israel has ‘right to defend itself’ but we wouldn’t sell it any weapons

The Liberal Democrat leader also pledged to match the government’s £54m funding for CST


WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MAY 05: Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party Ed Davey celebrates with supporters on May 05, 2023 in Windsor, England. With 61 of the 230 councils counted and declared from yesterday's local elections, the Liberal Democrats have won 315 seats, up 59. They have taken control of Windor & Maidenhad and Brentwood councils and increased their majorities in Hull and Bath & North East Somerset. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

Sir Ed Davey seems to be the only party leader enjoying himself in this election campaign.

Staged photographs of him falling off a paddleboard, riding a rollercoaster and coming down a waterslide aren’t exactly typical of nationwide canvassing tour.

“We are trying to have a bit of fun,” he told the JC. “We have lots of serious policies. While you need to take the voters’ concerns seriously, I don’t think you have to take yourself too seriously.” But, he added, he hoped that people were “enjoying both our policy ideas” and “style of campaigning”.

The Lib Dem leader said that his party would match the current government’s record £54m funding of the Community Security Trust (CST) if they got into government. Sir Ed was “proud to represent my Jewish constituents in Kingston and Surbiton”, he said.

His seat is home to Kingston Surbiton and District Synagogue and many worshippers at Kingston Liberal Synagogue, which is just outside his constituency boundaries.

“I think is absolutely critical that the government is there to support CST, with money and with all the means possible to make sure that people are safe,” he said. Sir Ed praised the group’s role in tackling the “appalling” rise in antisemitism in UK in the aftermath of the October 7.

When it came to Israel, Sir Ed said he considered former PM and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid both a “good friend” and one of the people he looked to for advice on the conflict.

He visited Lapid in February, during a trip to Israel. On that trip, he saw firsthand the destruction and devastation caused by Hamas in Kibbutz Kfar Aza and the site of the Nova music festival in Re’im where party goers were massacred.

Like Lapid, he still believed in the possibility of a two-state solution, he said.

Some Jewish voters fear that the Liberal Democrats’ idealistic position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ignores the violent Islamist terrorist groups that are committed to Israel’s destruction.

The Liberal Democrats have supported an arms embargo against the Jewish state. But his party “defends Israel’s right to exist”, Sir Ed insisted. “That is why we supported British jet fighters shooting down the drones and missiles, in that appalling attack from Iran.”

He said that the Liberal Democrats were not singling out Israel with the arms embargo, pointing to their manifesto which has pledged to prohibit weapons sales to all foreign governments listed as raising human rights concerns in the Foreign Office’s annual human rights report.

Sir Ed described Hamas as an “appalling” terrorist organisation that needed to be defeated. The Lib Dems backed international legal action against its leadership, he said.

But the party has also backed the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s decision to file for arrest warrants against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

Sir Ed claimed that this was not an example of double standards towards Israel. “We have always been a party that believes in international law,” he said. “And we back the ICC where it has jurisdiction.”

On dealing with Hamas, the Liberal Democrats would “work with those Palestinians who want peace” to “defeat and sideline” the group, he said.

Sir Ed claimed that there had been “too little support for other Palestinian groups” like the PA over the years. Hamas, he added, need to be overtaken by more moderate groups that wanted peace with Israel.

A “two-state solution” needed to be supported, he insisted. How it could be supported while the threat of Hamas looms large and Israel is deprived of weapons is anyone’s guess.

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