It’s naive to think David Ward is the true voice of the Lib Dem’s on Is­rael

COM­MENT

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - GAVIN STOL­LAR

THE PAST two months have been hard. Hard for any­one who cares about Is­rael. As chair­man of the Lib­eral Demo­crat Friends of Is­rael (LDFI), my job, like all Is­rael’s ad­vo­cates, has been hard, but it is, also, a priv­i­lege with great re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In our party, LDFI is a key con­duit to the UK Jewish com­mu­nity and on all mat­ters re­lated to Is­rael and Pales­tine.

Since the start of Is­rael’s Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge there have been an un­prece­dented level of brief­ings and di­a­logue from LDFI through­out the party, cer­tainly un­sur­passed in my 17 years’ in­volve­ment with the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The Lib­eral Demo­crat po­si­tion on Is­rael now and in the future should not be naively viewed through the nar­row prism of tweets from peo­ple like our Brad­ford MP David Ward, in the same way that the Con­ser­va­tives’ po­si­tion on Is­rael should not be viewed through the res­ig­na­tion of Say­eeda Warsi over Gaza.

An in­con­ve­nient truth is that the Lib­eral Democrats are friends of Is­rael. We have a leader in Nick Clegg who is per­son­ally and po­lit­i­cally vest- ed as a friend of Is­rael, and we have a for­mally stated party pol­icy po­si­tion in sup­port of Is­rael and a two-state so­lu­tion.

Peo­ple can have short and some­times se­lec­tive mem­o­ries. To re­cap, Nick Clegg was the first to call for the UK to boy­cott the Dur­ban II con­fer­ence in 2009 due to un­ac­cept­able ex­pected lev­els of an­ti­semitic dis­course.

In gov­ern­ment, our party presided over clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the univer­sal ju­ris­dic­tion laws which now al­low Is­raeli politi­cians to visit the UK with­out fear of ar­rest. Our party has, in Lord Palmer, by far the most fre­quent speaker in the House of Lords mak­ing Is­rael’s case on an al­most daily ba­sis.

Whilst LDFI in­her­ently dis­agrees with Busi­ness Sec­re­tary’ Vince Ca­ble’s re­cent moves to re­strict arms ex­port li­cences to Is­rael, this step is no dif­fer­ent to that which Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ters Mar­garet Thatcher (from 1982 on­wards), or Ted Heath (in 1973), took over many years.

The Lib­eral Party in the early 20th cen­tury was “home” for a ma­jor­ity of Jews and Zion­ists alike. Friend­ship takes dif­fer­ent forms, but recog­nis­ing it a good place to start.

We have a party pol­icy sup­port­ing a two-state so­lu­tion

PHOTO: AP

Nick Clegg: ‘friend of Is­rael’

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