Ed Miliband Prefers to Avoid Israel

The newly elected Labour leader departs from the pro-Israel proclamations of previous British prime ministers.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

It's difficult to find any kind of comment about Israel or the conflict in the Middle East in the past statements of the British Labour Party's new leader, Ed Miliband. If it's up to him, he'd rather prefer to keep it that way.

The party's last two prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, frequently mentioned their enthusiastic support of Israel. According to several political commentators, Blair's support of Israel during the Second Lebanon War, against the wishes of the majority of the Labour party, brought about the end of his residency at 10 Downing Street.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband greets his brother David Miliband, September 27, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Brown, for his part, had already managed to bore the Jewish community with incessant stories of his father, a Zionist Christian minister, who would travel to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s and show him films of the trips upon his return.

The situation in London today is completely different. British Prime Minister David Cameron, ostensibly a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, has already managed to anger the Israel lobby in the U.K. when he called Gaza a "concentration camp" during a visit to Ankara. He has also not yet followed through on his pledge to change the law that allows Israeli military officials to be handed indictments for war crimes as they touch down at Heathrow Airport in London.

Britain has undergone a revolution since the Blair era, when it was the Bush administration's closest and most loyal partner in its military maneuvers and diplomatic actions in the Middle East.

Barack Obama is not seeking the confidence of his counterpart on the other side of the Atlantic. In any case, what most concerns Britons right now is their economy, which is struggling to come out of recession, and their massive budget deficit.

Since British soldiers left Iraq at the beginning of the year, the Middle East has dropped out of the headlines. The new Labour leader that aspires to return to power will not waste his time on foreign policy.

Ed Miliband's campaign focused on economic and social issues, but friends of Israel are suspicious of the opinions of the Labour Party's first Jewish leader. He and his brother David - who vied with him for the party leadership - grew up in a home that was not Zionist. The Milibands' late father was a known Marxist and their mother, who is still alive, is a member of a pro-Palestinian organization. Both siblings are self-proclaimed atheists, they did not participate in Jewish community activities in their youth, and their partners are not Jewish.

David - the elder brother - has made relatively friendly statements regarding Israel in the last two years, has visited Israel, and has participated in Jewish community events. But these were part of his ministerial duties as foreign secretary under the Brown government, and it is not known if this reflects his actual personal opinions.

Ed Miliband also raised suspicions when refused to fire an important campaign worker who had participated in anti-Israel activity in the past. The fact that he was elected with the help of the unions, most of whose members support a boycott of Israel, confirms that at least in regards to support for Israel, the Blair-Brown era is definitely over.

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