Leaders of three main political parties have issued last-minute calls for the support of Jewish News readers ahead of the closest election for decades.
With Britain’s Jewish community concentrated in some of the London marginals that will help decide who wins the keys to Number 10, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg set out their platforms on Israel, tackling anti-Semitism and protecting religious rites.
Cameron, speaking to this newspaper during a visit to Archer Academy in Finchley on Monday, said he reacted in a way he “thought was right” during Israel’s operation against Hamas last summer, despite facing condemnation from the Labour Party and senior figures within his own party. “When Israel is under attack it is indiscriminate, trying to kill as many civilians as possible. When Israel is responding to that it’s trying to defeat the people attacking it,” the prime minister said.
“Israel is a state that has a right to exist, a right to defend itself and I’ll always speak up in that way and hopefully with the clarity I did then.” He said the two-state solution remained the best option for the Israel and expressed “worry” about remarks made by Benjamin Netanyahu during the election campaign and “frustration” at continued settlement building. But in what will be seen by many onlookers as a swipe at his Labour rival, he added: “With me as PM you know you have someone who believes in Israel’s right to defend itself and someone who won’t blow in the wind when there’s pressure on these things.”
Miliband acknowledged there may be moments when he isn’t on the same page as the Israeli Government. But in an article for today’s Jewish News, he added: “A Labour Government I lead will defend Israel’s right to uphold the security and safety of its own citizens. No community should have to live in constant fear – whether from rockets, terror tunnels or suicide bombers.” Miliband – who made three key pledges to Anglo-Jewry – added: “I will always strive towards helping deliver a peaceful a peaceful future for Israel and its citizens. Be assured that I will do so as a friend of Israel, as a Jew and as a proud member of this community.”
Both the Tory and Labour chiefs made clear their opposition to boycotts. Nick Clegg acknowledged tensions between “some in our party” and the community, following his own criticism of the Gaza operation and a series of offensive remarks by his MP David Ward. The Liberal Democrat leader – who claimed as a Lib Dem he shares many values Anglo-Jewry holds dear – said he and the majority of his party back Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate attack.
He added: “In government our urgent priority upon the outbreak of violence was to stop the bloodshed, restore the ceasefire and work towards a long-term sustainable peace.
We condemn disproportionate force used by all sides.” All three party chiefs spoke of their determination to continue the fight against anti-Semitism, with Miliband speaking of his visit to Yad Vashem last year and saying a Government he leads with make anti-Semitic crime a specific offence. Cameron spoke of his plans to introduce banning orders for groups that “encourage hatred”.