(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Jewish donors and supporters are said to be deserting Labor Party leader Ed Miliband following Labor’s recently changed policy toward Israel, not least of which was last month’s parliamentary vote on a Palestinian state.
Miliband’s decision to order his MPs to vote for the Commons motion, which called for recognition of a Palestinian state “as a contribution towards a twostate solution,” effectively ended what most believe was his party’s balanced policy toward the Arab-Israel conflict.
According to the Independent on Sunday newspaper, it has led to a desertion in what has been described as “droves” by Jewish funders and supporters in the crucial run up to next May’s general election. A warning to this effect has been given to the opposition leader, who in recent days has come under increasing pressure from parliamentary colleagues worried that his poor personal image and questionable leadership qualities are putting the Labor Party’s chance of winning the election at risk and costing the MPs their parliamentary seats.
According to the newspaper, Labor-supporting Jewish communal leaders angered by what they perceive to be a new aggressive pro- Palestinian policy being promoted by Miliband and shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, which is being allowed to replace the party’s traditional support for the state of Israel.
One unnamed prominent Jewish backer – a lifelong Labor supporter – is quoted by the paper as no longer wanting to see Miliband in Downing Street. It reported that a senior Labor MP has warned the party leadership that Miliband now has what he called “a huge if not insurmountable challenge” to maintain support from parts of the Jewish community that previously had backed the election campaigns of both former leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
It is known that donations from the Jewish community worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year have flowed regularly into Labor’s coffers, but the paper revealed that several previous donors have made clear that they and others are now very unlikely to support the party.
According to the report, a previous donor described how he had been approached by the party to arrange a fund-raising dinner but found no takers, saying his friends didn’t want to touch it, because it was just “too toxic” for them to even consider.
As a result, according to a former cabinet minister, Labor’s fund-raising efforts were not only in “disarray,” they also would struggle to secure the estimated £19 million the party is allowed to spend in the run-up to the election. Instead, one source explained, they would have to pass the begging bowl round to the unions. This, however, would send a bad signal since, in return, the unions would demand to call the shots on policy, the newspaper reported.
Labor sources insist that Miliband has taken what they describe as “a principled stance” on both Gaza and Palestine and that the party leader had always been clear that Israel had a right to defend itself. In addition, he was prepared to take decisions he believed to be right and never to allow political donations to influence party policy, the paper said.
The policy changes started during the recent Gaza War when, having stated Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Hamas, Miliband strongly condemned Israel’s ground offensive into Gaza, calling it “wrong and unjustifiable.”
He even told Prime Minister David Cameron that he was wrong for not having condemned the land operation.
The Commons vote followed shortly after, despite Miliband having been warned that it would hemorrhage Jewish support.
The change in policy, according to the report, had been opposed by several members of the shadow cabinet at least two of whom confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that there had been no discussion about the switched policy either in the shadow cabinet or within the party policy machinery.
One source said, “No phone calls, no meetings, no nothing.
Miliband and Alexander simply decided to abandon the even handed bipartisan policy they had during 13 years of government.”
The Post, however, can reveal that its own sources have disclosed that the changed policy reportedly emerged after a private confrontation between a leading pro-Palestinian trade-union leader and Miliband a few months ago when the Labor leader was told to either push a “recognition of a Palestinian state” line at the party’s annual conference, which was held in September, or they would force the party to accept a resolution calling for a policy of boycotts, divestment and sanctions toward Israel that they would ensure was passed by the conference.
Miliband decided, according to Jerusalem Post sources, to quietly cave in to the union demand by choosing what he saw as the lesser of two evils, hence the parliamentary vote favoring a Palestinian state. In doing so, however, he has alienated Jewish supporters and financial backers and done exactly as his party spokesman said he would not do – allow political donations to influence party policy.