Jewish communal leaders this week gave a mixed reaction to the resignation of Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi after she resigned from the government, citing its “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza.
Warsi, the first Muslim to sit in Cabinet, was praised as a “staunch advocate” of the need to build relationships between people of different faiths, following her work on Holocaust remembrance and tackling anti-Semitism.
A spokeman for the Israeli Embassy said: “We regret the resignation of Baroness Warsi from a UK government that understands the challenges of a changing Middle East.
“The conflict has highlighted the fact, recognised by the majority of the Arab world and the international community at large, that Hamas today is the key obstacle to a positive future for Gaza. Only by defeating this terror can there be a real chance for progress.”
Citing the 43-year-old former minister’s support for initiatives such as the new Jewish/Muslim Women’s network, Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks said: “The Jewish community will miss her work in this area.”
However, the Board of Deputies was “disappointed by the decision”. It added: “Far from being morally indefensible, recognising Israel’s right to defend itself against a terrorists is the right thing to do.”
Warsi wrote to David Cameron on Tuesday , saying: “Our approach and language during the crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible.” She added it was “not in Britain’s interest and will have a detrimental impact on our reputation”.
Days earlier, Warsi voiced concern on Twitter, asking: “Can people stop trying to justify the killing of children.”
But to fellow Conservative MP Bob Blackman she simply “bowed to media pressure without considering the facts”.
He added: “It’s bizarre timing. If you’re going to resign, do it while the operation is ongoing, not when a ceasefire’s finally holding.”
A ministerial resignation on the grounds of policy was last seen over the Iraq War a decade ago and Warsi’s rare stand sparked feverish debate within government and across the country about Britain’s reaction to the conflict.
London Mayor Boris Johnson broke with senior Tories in admitting Israel’s actions were “disproportionate” while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg led calls for a ban on all arms exports to Israel.
“We have been making this case inside government,” said Business Secretary Vince Cable, referring to an export ban. “We have not yet been able to get agreement, but I hope and expect this to change soon.”
UK policy states arms exports can not be used in the occupied territories or in any situation in which there is a risk they might be used to “provoke or prolong conflict within a country” or “be used aggressively against another country”.
Even supporters were left perplexed by the timing of her decision, with Energy Secretary Ed Davey saying: “She is leaving the Government when people like her and others are winning the argument. I think she should have stayed in to help those of us who are arguing for a tougher stance.”