Osborne on Livingston: ‘No friend of UK's Jews'

Livingstone, who is challenging incumbent mayor, has a history of strained relations with the Jewish community.

London mayor candidates Livingston (R), Osborne (L)_390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
London mayor candidates Livingston (R), Osborne (L)_390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
LONDON – Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne took a swipe at London mayoral contender Ken Livingstone, saying that London should not have a mayor who was “no friend of the Jewish community.”
Speaking at a dinner of the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti- Semitism and provides protection to the Jewish community, in central London Wednesday night, the chancellor said a global city like London should have a leader “who respects all its citizens.”
Livingstone, who is challenging incumbent London Mayor Boris Johnson in elections this May, has a history of strained relations with the Jewish community.
The chancellor recalled a visit to Israel in 2004, which included a trip to Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. An hour before, a Palestinian suicide bomber had killed three people, and Osborne arrived to witness the devastation.
“As I stood on that spot and took in the scene of devastation, by my side was Boris Johnson, and I know that the scene had the same impact on him as it did me and made him, like me, determined that no one should ever think that they can bomb their way to peace,” Osborne said. “It made Boris, like me, a lifelong friend of Israel.”
Osborne also had a message for Jenny Tonge, the peer who resigned from the Liberal Democrat party on Wednesday rather than apologize for anti-Israel comments she made last week at a London student event.
“The State of Israel will be around for a lot longer than you, Jenny,” he quipped.
He also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to Israel and the peace process.
“The British people support the right of the people of Israel to live in peace and in security alongside a state for the Palestinian people,” he declared. “We are friends of Israel.”
He added that all Israelis were welcome in the UK, referring to an amendment to the law that had prevented Israeli dignitaries from visiting Britain for fear of arrest.
“Our coalition government has legislated on universal jurisdiction to make sure that Israeli officials and ministers can come to this country free from fear of politically motivated attempts to arrest them,” he said.
Osborne reiterated his government’s position not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
“We believe this can be done peacefully, but that it must be done with great vigor and urgency,” he said. “The latest sanctions that we have imposed show the seriousness of our intent. In the campaign to prevent the spread of these weapons to such a dangerous regime, Israel has us as their staunch ally.”
He also had a message for Syria.
“President Assad, you have killed enough, and injured enough and imprisoned enough. It is time for you to go,” he said.
“Syria has been the conduit for Iran’s violent campaign against Israel. But even with Syria distracted by its own troubles, Iran threatens Israel.”
Heaping praise on the work of the Community Security Trust, he said it was the tale of a community that had organized itself to ensure security and protection for its members.
“The combination of volunteers and professionalism is deeply impressive. The precision with which [anti-Semitic] incidents are recorded, categorized and reported is a credit to the organization,” Osborne said. “To read the CST’s account of its work is to be aware, not just of man’s inhumanity to man, but of man’s dedication to man.”
Also speaking at the event was Israel’s Ambassador Daniel Taub, who said of Tonge’s remarks, “It was shocking to hear a member of the House of Lords say that Israel will not be there forever. I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I tell Baroness Tonge we have no intention of going anywhere.”
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks issued a statement on Thursday commending Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg for demanding that Tonge apologize or resign.
“I am appalled at Baroness Tonge’s remarks. They are dangerous, inflammatory and unacceptable,” said Sacks. “I commend Nick Clegg for his decisive action. Views such as those expressed by Baroness Tonge have no place in civil public discourse.”