Robert Halfon is the Conservative Party’s parliamentary candidate for Harlow and the Political Director of Conservative Friends of Israel. Here he writes an open letter to Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague after the party leadership’s recent criticisms of Israel, including in yesterday’s Times.
I know you are a true friend of Israel. I also am aware that you are an enthusiastic Atlantacist and keen to strengthen the Anglo-American special relationship. It would be wonderful to see you as Foreign Secretary in a future Conservative government, fighting for Britain’s national interest – at the forefront, leading our allies in the war against terror and global jihad.
Nevertheless, I am concerned that elements of your recent statements on Israel will be interpreted by our friends and allies – most notably those in the United States – as disproportionate and unfair.
You feel that Israel has been wrong to target infrastructure. But when a terrorist army like Hezbollah amasses 13,000 missiles primarily from Iran and Syria, what is Israel supposed to do but cut off the supply routes? This means bombing the airport and roads to ensure no missiles get through. It also helps prevents the kidnapped Israeli soldiers from being transported to Syria or Iran.
You suggest that Israel has risked unnecessary life in its counter attack on Lebanon. But Israel has no choice when hundreds of missiles are fired daily at Israeli towns and villages directly targeted at civilians. When these missiles are launched from peoples’ homes, from mosques, from schools and hospitals, when civilians are used as human shields by the terrorists, what other options are there? Israel’s first duty must be to protect its citizens from terror.
Sadly much of the world’s media has been disproportionately focused on the unfolding tragedy in Lebanon; yet a million Israeli citizens are living underground in bunkers. Northern Israel’s infrastructure is being destroyed as Hezbollah launch rockets with ball bearings attached directly targeted at civilian homes.
When considering proportionality you might be thinking that Israel has lost 50 people compared to Lebanon’s 500. But as the father of the kidnapped soldier Udi Goldwasser said in the House of Commons this week. This is not a basketball match where one counts how many times one side or another has hit the net. The loss of all innocent life matters whether it is Israeli or Lebanese.
Besides, it could be argued that the Israeli deaths would have been even higher, if the Israeli army had not bombed missile launching sites in Southern Lebanon.
You believe that the Israeli response is increasing popular support for
Hezbollah. If this is so, why is it that since the Israeli withdrawal
from Lebanon six years ago (recognised by international law and the
United Nations), Hezbollah have never been more successful?
How can it be that before the conflict even started, Hezbollah had massed an army of 10,000 plus, had acquired over 13,000 missiles, and
had built a network of tunnels and military operation rooms underneath
The reality is that ever since the Israelis have left Southern Lebanon,
Hezbollah have gone from strength to strength in Lebanese politics, in
acquiring a terrorist army and linking up closely with Iran and Syria.
You urge that the Road Map must not be abandoned. The fact is that
Israel would like nothing better than to get back on the road to peace.
When she unilaterally withdrew from Gaza a year ago, asking for nothing
in return, the Palestinian response was to fire over 1,000 missiles
onto Israeli towns and villages and to kidnap and take hostage Israeli
soldiers. Is this a proportionate response by the Palestinians to
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza? Of course the Palestinian people
desperately yearn for and deserve their own state, free from repression
and terrorism. But the tragedy is that their just cause has been
manipulated by despotic regimes and terrorist movements for their own
You call for more action by the UN through the Security Council. Well,
I hope that any measures taken this time are binding and enforceable.
As you mentioned the United Nations did nothing to enforce resolution
1559 which called for the disarming of Hezbollah. Seeing UN flags
literally next door to Hezbollah flags and positions was not an
uncommon site on the Southern Lebanon side of the border with Israel.
You suggest that starting with an agreed cessation of hostilities by
both sides, steps taken by one side would be reciprocated by the other.
Yet this statement implies moral equivalence to both sides. How can
this be right? There must be a difference between a nation based on
liberty and upholding the rule of law (Israel) and a terroist
The truth is that this is not just a conflict about the kidnapped
soldiers (although it is a major factor). It is not even about a
dispute between two countries or two military armies.
It is about a fight for fundamental principles of liberty and the rule
of law against an extreme form of Islam that seeks to assault and
undermine Western values at every level. From 9/11 to 7/7. From
Hezbollah support for the insurgents in Iraq to Al Qaeda’s recent
re-declaration of global jihad, the free nations of the world are under
threat as never before.
It is Israel’s misfortune – as a democratic and free nation – that she is at the frontline of that threat.
When President Ahmanidejad declared his intention to wipe Israel off
the map, he meant it. And Hezbollah is the means by which he plans to
try and do it. That is why Israel is in a fight for its very existence
and why she deserves understanding rather than criticism – even
from her genuine friends.