LONDON – British opposition leader Ed Miliband accused Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday of failing to speak out against Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Miliband said that while he is a supporter of Israel and believes in its self-defense, “its military actions in the past two weeks have been wrong and unjustifiable.“ He said that Cameron was right to brand Hamas as a terrorist organization, adding that “its wholly unjustified rocket attacks on Israeli citizens, as well as the building of tunnels for terrorist purposes, show the organization’s murderous intent and practice towards Israel and its and its citizens.”
But he maintained that Cameron was wrong for not opposing Israel’s incursion into Gaza.
“His silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel’s military action will be inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally,” he said, adding that the military operation was “wrong and unjustifiable,” and was “losing Israel friends in the international community.”
Miliband called for a collective response to both sides of the conflict, in an apparent reference to the different government approaches to the situation in Gaza, highlighting that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called Israel’s response “disproportionate,” a word deliberately not used by either Cameron or Foreign Minister Philip Hammond since the operation began.
Clegg had said that the Israeli government should talk to Hamas, and by doing so created a clear split in the ruling coalition.
“The government as a whole should condemn the escalating violence now being perpetrated by both sides in this conflict and not just by Hamas,” Miliband said.
But a Downing Street spokesman rejected the charges, saying that “the prime minister has been clear that both sides in the Gaza conflict need to observe a cease-fire,” adding that he was shocked that Miliband would “seek to misrepresent that position and play politics with such a serious issue.”
In response to Miliband’s comments, Zionist Federation president and former Labor MP Prof. Eric Moonman told The Jerusalem Post that he was sure the opposition leader would regret his stance, “if not in the short term, certainly in the long term.”
“I can only assume that he received advice which may relate to Miliband’s own precarious position, which is wrong in every sense. Why this should come at this time will confound many members of the Labor Party,” he added.
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Hammond said that the British public had a strong sense that the situation of the civilian population in Gaza was “simply intolerable” and must be addressed.
“What has struck me most looking at my constituency in-box as well as the thousands of emails that I’m receiving from the general public here is that it isn’t just the Muslim community that’s reacted to this. A broad swathe of British public opinion that feels deeply, deeply disturbed by what it is seeing on its television screens coming out of Gaza,” he said.
Calling again for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, Hammond said he feared the region was falling into “an endless loop of violence” and that he had been shocked by the extent of force and destruction.
“We understand that Israel has concerns, we understand that Hamas has concerns. We are not saying we are not interested in those, but we cannot allow them to stand in the way of a humanitarian cease-fire. We have to get the killing to stop,” he added.
Hammond warned of the prospect of more anti-Semitic attacks in the UK as a result of the crisis. “Of course its a concern and we have already seen, certainly, an upturn in anti-Semitic rhetoric.”