The January ConservativeHome survey is now online and you can make sure that your voice is heard by clicking here.  There is one unannounced vote from last month’s survey and that concerned Tory members’ attitude to Israel…

44.7% agreed that "the western powers have a special duty to defend Israel" but 39.8% agreed that "on the whole Israel has behaved badly in recent years towards the Palestinian people."  The question on ‘defending’ Israel was partly asked in the context of Iran’s threat to Israel.  There have been suggestions that NATO should admit Israel to its protective club.  See this from Ronald Asmus in the Washington Post:

"It would be a mistake to dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rantings about Israel as mere posturing or a bluff. One lesson from Sept. 11 is that we should not limit our strategic imagination or underestimate our enemies in the Middle East. When someone says he wants to wipe you off the map, he might just might mean it. If, then, the West decides that a military strike to deny Iran the nuclear option is too risky and instead opts for a policy of deterrence and long-term peaceful regime change, it must also take steps to ensure Israel’s protection for that interim period."

ConservativeHome asked Robert Halfon, Political Director of Conservative Friends of Israel and Conservative Prospective MP for Harlow, to react to the ConservativeHome poll findings:

"On the face of it, these poll findings are somewhat encouraging. Nearly 45% of the Conservative Home members people believe that it is Britain’s duty to DEFEND Israel. If it had just been to ‘support’ Israel, the figures would have probably been even higher. Given the rise in Islamic extremism in the UK and the recent suicide bombings (both successful and thwarted), it is not surprising that so many in Britain feel an empathy with the Jewish State in its own battle against Islamic extremism. When the evening news shows a suicide bomber blown up double decker bus in Bloomsbury and a suicide bomber blown up bus in Tel Aviv, it is not hard to see why the link has been made. The British people also know that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where Government and citizens alike are subject to the rule of law- as in the UK. So just as Tony Blair has been questioned by police over ‘bungs for Peers’, so too has the Israeli President been subject to a Police investigation for harassment and may have to resign (whether the same will happen to Tony Blair remains to be seen).

The second answer to the survey is all the more interesting. Whilst 39% disapprove of what they perceive as Israeli actions towards the Palestinians, over 60% do not ‘believe that Israel has behaved badly towards the Palestinians’ or have no opinion. This majority which refuses to criticise Israel is all the more surprising given the relentless barrage of bad news from the Middle East and the often one sided BBC and Channel 4 reporting of the conflict. (In BBC/C4 speak for example, Palestinian suicide bombers are called militants, but Basques who blow up trains etc in Spain are called terrorists). The fact that a clear majority of ConservativeHome members can see beyond the often biased reporting and take a reasoned view of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a credit to the British people’s sense of fair play and sound judgement.

Nevertheless, the poll shows that Israel can take nothing for granted. In the face of relentless propaganda from its opponents and the harnessing by the left of the Palestinian and Islamist cause, Israel must do more to make her case, clearly set out the efforts she is making for peace and demonstrate why the battle against Islamic extremism is not her battle alone – it is a battle that the whole of the free world must join."

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