Miliband brothers 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
They had made headlines, in the defeated government of prime minister Gordon Brown, as the first brothers to serve together as British cabinet ministers for some 70 years. Now David and Ed Miliband, sons of Polish Jewish immigrants to the UK, are making history again, as the only two candidates so far in the race to succeed Brown as Labor leader.
David Miliband, at 45 the older of the two by five years, was the first to formally publicize his ambition to head the party. The former foreign secretary declared his candidacy last week, as the Conservatives’ David Cameron took over at 10 Downing Street in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats that cast Labor into opposition.
On Saturday, younger brother Ed, who had served as Brown’s energy secretary, threw his hat into the ring, announcing that he would compete against his brother and any other candidates in what he hoped would be a good-natured race.
The Labor leadership campaign, said Ed Miliband, “should be a fraternal contest, and not just in terms of myself and David, but all the candidates.”
While the brothers have the race to themselves for now, it is anticipated that several other prominent Labor figures will also bid to succeed Brown, with the new leader expected to be in place in time for the party’s annual conference in September.
His Jewishness notwithstanding, David Miliband was not regarded in Jerusalem as a particularly warm friend of Israel. Britain under Labor did not change the universal jurisdiction laws that leave leading Israeli politicians and military figures visiting the UK vulnerable to arrest for alleged war crimes. And Miliband was extremely critical of Israel over the alleged misuse of British passports in the assassination of Hamas kingpin Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in Dubai in January, expelling an Israeli diplomat from London over the affair in late March.
Nonetheless, when it appeared possible that Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg might succeed Miliband as foreign secretary, officials in Jerusalem acknowledged that, by comparison to Clegg – who urged a British and EU halt to arms sales to Israel at the time of Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza 16 months ago – Miliband was a relative font of pro-Israel empathy.
In the event, Clegg became deputy British prime minister in the Conservative-Lib-Dem coalition. The new foreign secretary, William Hague of the Conservatives, although he has been a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel group since he was 15, was somewhat critical of Israel both over the Second Lebanon War and over Operation Cast Lead. He has called himself “a candid friend of Israel,” and has been witheringly critical of the universal jurisdiction loophole, vowing to “act speedily” to close it.
On a trip to the US late last week for a first meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton since taking up his new position, Hague expressed support for President Barack Obama’s efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Telephoning him on Thursday to congratulate him on his appointment,
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman invited Hague, who has been here
several times, to visit again.
In comments to the London
just before the British elections, Hague, 49,
recalled: “I’ve travelled across the country. I’ve stood on the Golan
Heights and swam in the Sea of Galilee. I’ve stood on the part of the
West Bank where you can see the Mediterranean, where you really
understand Israel’s strategic fragility. But we are candid friends,
which means we don’t always agree.”
Regarding Iran, Hague has
said both before and after taking over as foreign secretary that his
government is not ruling out military action, but is also not calling
for it. He also said at the weekend that while a nuclear Iran would be a
calamity, a military strike on Iran might be calamitous too.