EXCLUSIVE – Blair: Labour will continue traditional support for Israel in Government

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EXCLUSIVE – Blair: Labour will continue traditional support for Israel in Government

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Former PM Tony Blair
Former PM Tony Blair
Middle East envoy Blair holds an interview with Reuters in Jerusalem
Tony Blair, Former UK Prime Minister

By Justin Cohen, News Editor

Tony Blair has said he has “no doubt” Labour’s “tradition” of support for Israel will continue if Ed Miliband enters Downing Street, as he moved to reassure community members concerned over the party’s recent approach.

Labour’s hieracy provoked anger among many of Israel’s supporters by criticising the IDF’s operation against Hamas last summer and by subsequently backing a House of Commons vote on Palestinian statehood.

But in an article for the Jewish News today, the former premier – who along with David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher is considered one of Israel’s greatest ever allies in Number 10 – acknowledged that there would be disagreement with the policies of the Government in Jerusalem, including over settlements.

He added: “Such disagreements are reflected in the debate inside Israel itself. But when it comes to the basic security of the State of Israel and defending its existence, the ranks close. It is the same with Labour and its support for Israel. This tradition is long, deep and genuine.

“We have superb candidates such as Sarah Sackman, Andrew Dismore and Wes Streeting, passionate believers in the State of Israel and its security. And as Ed Balls said recently, he wouldn’t want to be part of a Labour Party which did not support Israel. I know Ed Miliband feels the same.”

Speaking to the Jewish News last week, in an apparent side-swipe at Miliband, David Cameron vowed he would never “blow in the wind” when it comes to speaking up fort Israel’s right to defend itself.

In a rare pre-election intervention just two days before Britain goes to the polls, Blair hailed the Jewish state as “a beacon democracy, economic development and rule of law”, adding: “Its security is our security. Those who would threaten it, threaten us here too.” And the former premier insisted his advocacy for the creation of Palestinian state “in a manner protective of Israel’s security is a long term guarantee” of the security of Israel.

Blair – who has served as Middle east envoy to the Quartet since leaving Downing Street – went on to write: “The alternative is a bi-national state which everyone from PM Netanyahu down has said, would be impossible to manage fairly or peacefully.”

The last Labour leader but one also pointed to Labour’s record in Government – including starting Holocaust Memorial Day and grants to the CST. “It grieves me to say schools need increased protection, but in recognition of this Ed has pledged to deliver central Government funding,” he wrote. He added that his party and Anglo-Jewry had “so much in common” at the “most significant level – that of basic shared values around the notion of a strong society as necessary to support the individual”.

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