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Has a recent British Government had worse relations with Israel than this one?

By Paul Goodman

HAGUE WILLIAM CLOSE-UP I ask in a spirit of genuine enquiry, wondering as I do so whether it's one of those many questions to which John Rentoul, the Independent's observant political commentator, considers the obvious answer to be "no".  I'm very much down-the-middle about Israel/Palestine, viewing the two main drivers of the problem as the Palestinian rejectionism and Israeli expanionism.  The strategic importance of the matter is exaggerated, which helps to explain why I left the issue alone in the Commons (since a fair number of MPs had an informed interest in it), and took an interest in Kashmir instead (since very few MPs had such an interest, and the matter pre-occupied my Kashmiri-origin constituents).

The "no" answer may not be obvious, but it may be right none the less (though the Heath Government had a big row with Israel, if I remember rightly).  Conservative Ministers clearly believe that senior Israeli politicians shouldn't be troubled, when visiting Britain, by frivolous lawsuits from left-wing hypocrites who wouldn't twitch a finger if the red carpet was rolled out for Castro, Kim Jong-Il, or Ahmadinejad.  But the Coalition, perhaps because the Liberal Democrats tend to take a different view, has dawdled on the matter.  The Israelis cancelled a security meeting with a visiting William Hague yesterday - which today's papers make much of: see our summary - and David Cameron's description of Gaza as a "prison camp" evidently still rankles.

I'm all for Cameron rapping the Israelis if necessary.  But not, please, in Turkey, which is where he made his remarks about Gaza: it was an egregious blunder, unlikely to help persuade Israel to extend technical co-operation (which we could do with) on how to tackle Islamist terror attacks against our own population.  I spent part of the last election trying to persuade Pakistani and Kashmiri origin voters that the Conservatives wouldn't run a pro-Israel Government.  I think it's an understatement to say that I'm being proved right.  Stalled initiatives, a cancelled meeting, diplomatic rows...it's a curious position to be in with a ally.

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