An­other fine mess

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis -

Last week we re­ported that the DfID min­is­ter, Alan Dun­can, had ac­cused Israel in a video of a “land grab” through the erec­tion of the se­cu­rity wall and of steal­ing Pales­tinian wa­ter — ac­cu­sa­tions which were de­scribed by For­eign Office of­fi­cials as be­ing an ac­cu­rate state­ment of gov­ern­ment pol­icy. It was dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how the gov­ern­ment could make things worse, but it man­aged to find a way. On Tues­day, the was told by the For­eign Office that a ‘clar­i­fi­ca­tion’ would be is­sued, mak­ing clear that Mr Dun­can’s tone, if not the ba­sic thrust of his state­ment, was in­ap­pro­pri­ate. We are still wait­ing for it. Mr Dun­can was cer­tainly hu­mil­i­ated, be­ing forced to take down the video from the DfID web­site. But his words — ev­ery dot and comma, it seems — still stand, be­cause the For­eign Office now says it has noth­ing to add to a DfID state­ment on Wed­nes­day which sug­gested that “some el­e­ments [of Mr Dun­can’s re­marks] were mis­in­ter­preted”. This is sophistry. His words were un­am­bigu­ous and re­ported ver­ba­tim. Rather, what hap­pened is that hav­ing been dug into a hole last week by of­fi­cials who backed Mr Dun­can’s stance, min­is­ters de­cided this week to dig still deeper — one day forc­ing Mr Dun­can to re­move his video and an­nounc­ing that they would clar­ify (White­hall-speak for con­tra­dict) his words, the next day re­fus­ing af­ter all to clar­ify any­thing. If ever there were an om­nisham­bles, this is it.

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