Britsh MP: Israel may defend itself 'proportionately'

David Cameron under fire from his own party for echoing critical remarks on Israel.

david cameron 88 (photo credit: )
david cameron 88
(photo credit: )
Conservative leader David Cameron said he recognizes the right of Israel to defend itself against attack, but that measures taken to achieve that defense should always be "proportionate." Cameron spoke at a press conference in Westminster on Tuesday where he was quizzed by journalists on his stance on the Middle East conflict and the ongoing security crisis in the UK. Last week the Conservative leader criticized Israel's actions in Lebanon, describing Israel's military offensive as "disproportionate." Cameron came under fire from his own party following the statement that echoed shadow foreign secretary William Hague's criticism of Israel's actions in Lebanon. He denied the moves were a response to criticism in the press that he has avoided heavyweight issues such as foreign affairs in recent weeks. Lord Stanley Kalms, a leading donor to the Conservative Party and a prominent member of the UK Jewish community, criticized Hague's comments as "downright dangerous," accusing him of behaving like an "ignorant armchair critic." A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said that the press conference was not prompted by Kalms's criticism or by a fear on Cameron's part that it would jeopardize donations to the Conservative Party. Cameron backed Hague's comments, saying: "Of course we recognize the right of Israel to defend itself against attack, but, as William Hague rightly pointed out, the measures taken to achieve that defense ought, in the interests of Israel and of the long-term peace of the region, always to be proportionate. "Our recognition of the need to bolster democracies abroad does not mean we will endorse disproportionate or ill-conceived action or that we will adopt a one-sided view," Cameron added. The Conservative leader said that he wants to see UN Resolution 1701 is implemented in full by all parties. "The crucial aspect is that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state. It is up to the Lebanese government to grasp the opportunity it now is backed by the incoming international force. This is why we have emphasized that a functioning Lebanon is a vital component to any long-term peace. It's also vital that the international force is deployed rapidly and at full strength." Cameron also said that the implementation is a crucial test for the UN, and recognized the humanitarian crisis on both sides of the border. "This is an important test for the UN. The international force must be robust in interpreting and implementing its mandate if it is to deliver security on both sides of the border," he said. "We will support effective action on the humanitarian crisis with an estimated 900,000 displaced Lebanese citizens and 500,000 displaced Israelis and on the reconstruction." In reference to the war against terror, Cameron also talked about working with Arab governments and Muslim communities to stop Islamic extremism. He said: "We will not make the mistake of supposing that the struggle against terror can be conducted by the West alone. As the prime minister [Tony Blair] recognized, this is a struggle within Islam rather than a struggle between Islam and the West. He recognized that intensive diplomatic efforts are crucial to create an effective alliance against fundamentalism. This must include moderate Arab governments." On the apparent attempt by alleged British-born Islamist terrorists to blow up passenger planes leaving UK airports to the US, Cameron said the matter was "deeply shocking but not surprising." "Since 9/11 we have know a simple but profoundly important fact: there are individuals, including some in our own society, that wish to murder as many innocent people as possible and in the most dramatic way possible while killing themselves at the same time," he said. "They are driven not by poverty or by any specific or legitimate grievance but by a twisted and perverted ideology. Our response must be urgent, practical and comprehensive," Cameron warned. He criticized Blair's government for not doing enough to fight extremism in the UK, saying: "I do not believe the government is doing enough to fight Islamic extremists at home or to protect our security." "They have done things that they should not have done, like freezing the Home Office budget for the next three years. Then there are things they have not done which they simply must do, like making intercept evidence available in court." "We must invest in the police and security services to ensure we're doing all that we can to prevent future atrocities. Secondly, we must implement our existing laws and strengthen where necessary so suspected terrorists, and those who incite, are prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned, or when appropriate, deported. Thirdly we must build a fabric of our society so we can confront and defeat the twisted ideology that is perverting the minds of potential terrorists." Cameron paid tribute to the security services in the UK for their work in the last few days, and to the understanding public who put up with all the disruption and delays caused by the extra security measures following the discovery last Thursday of the plot to blow up passenger planes over the Atlantic.