Israel-Gaza conflict: David Cameron is 'in the wrong' over Gaza, says Ed Miliband
The Labour leader launches attack on the PM as Lib Dems fall out over 'frequently irresponsible' tweets of MP
David Cameron and Ed Miliband launched into a bitter public row over the situation in Gaza last night, even as Israel continued its offensive into the territory.
The Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of a failure of leadership on Israel's Gaza onslaught and rebuked him for his "silence on the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel's military action".
But his stinging accusations brought an immediate response from No 10. A spokesman said they were "shocked" that Mr Miliband would "play politics with such a serious issue". A spokesman added: "The PM has been clear that both sides in the Gaza conflict need to observe a ceasefire."
Mr Miliband yesterday urged the international community to press for a new ceasefire agreement. "With the breakdown of Friday's ceasefire and the prospects of peace seemingly distant, it is now more important than ever that the international community acts to get the two sides to agree to a renewed ceasefire, and thereafter to re-establish meaningful negotiations to achieve a two-state solution," he said.
"David Cameron should be playing a leading role in these efforts to secure peace. He is right to say that Hamas is an appalling, terrorist organisation. Its wholly unjustified rocket attacks on Israeli citizens, as well as the building of tunnels for terrorist purposes, show the organisation's murderous intent and practice towards Israel and its citizens.
"But the Prime Minister is wrong not to have opposed Israel's incursion into Gaza. And his silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel's military action will be inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally," he said.
Describing himself as a "supporter of Israel" and affirming Israel's right to self-defence, he then sharply criticised its campaign in Gaza. "Its military actions in the past two weeks have been wrong and unjustifiable. The escalation of violence engulfing Gaza has led, and is leading, to suffering and destruction on an appalling scale, and is losing Israel friends in the international community day by day.
"Israel's present military action will increase the future threats to its security rather than countering them. Israelis rightly and justifiably want that security, yet their government's present actions instead risk simply growing a new generation bent on revenge."
Read more: At least 100 dead in 24 hours in Rafah
Netanyahu: No let up in raids until Hamas tunnels are destroyed
Young Americans judge Israel's actions in Gaza differently
Comment: What has Israel achieved in 26 bloody days?
Israeli security, he insisted, "cannot be achieved simply by permanent blockade, aerial bombardment and periodic ground incursion. Instead, it requires acknowledging the legitimate claims of Palestinians to statehood, and sustained efforts to secure a viable Palestine alongside a secure Israel.
"The Government's job now is to develop a collective response, not a differentiated one, and to speak with one voice. We need the clear and unequivocal message that has not so far been provided to be sent from Britain to both sides in this conflict.
"First, the Government as a whole should condemn the escalating violence now being perpetrated by both sides in this conflict, not just by Hamas. Second, it should actively engage with other EU leaders to achieve a united European position and apply coordinated pressure on both Israel and Hamas to commit to an enduring ceasefire."
The former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown branded Israel’s attacks on Gaza as “disproportionate” Lastly, he insisted the UK should work to ensure Europe "engages actively with John Kerry and the Arab League to re-establish a meaningful peace process" once an enduring ceasefire was achieved.
Senior members of Mr Miliband's frontbench team were quick to praise his tough stance. The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, said it was an "important statement" and that the "international community must do more to stop the violence". Angela Eagle, the shadow Leader of the House of Commons, said she "strongly" agreed with Mr Miliband.
But senior Tories also attacked Mr Miliband. Sir Richard Ottaway, the Conservative chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: "As the man who undermined the Government over Syria, [Mr Miliband] is in no position to make such comments."
Julian Brazier, a Tory junior defence minister, pointed out that the UK is one of the three biggest aid providers to Gaza and said: "It's like so much of what Ed Miliband says: he makes a bold statement and you wait and wait for... a detailed proposal. But you still wait and wait. There are no really thought-out measures."
Earlier, the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown branded Israel's attacks on Gaza as "disproportionate" and "foolish". Speaking on BBC Radio 4, he said: "Israel makes the excuse that, because weapons are being fired from civilian areas, it's entitled to use indiscriminate total force against civilian areas. No, you're not."
The news emerged as Mr Clegg came under pressure from Lib Dem peers to withdraw the party whip from MP David Ward, who they condemn for "frequently irresponsible remarks" on the Gaza-Israel crisis.
Mr Ward angered many of his colleagues last month when he tweeted that he "probably" would fire rockets on Israel if he lived in Gaza. The Bradford East MP offered a qualified apology, but reignited the row last Friday when he tweeted: "#Hamas – you have a prisoner of war – the world is watching you – behave better than #Israel would".
The row is escalating as conflicting views over the situation within and between the three main political parties harden.
Lord Palmer, the vice-president of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, said that Mr Ward was a "serial offender". Lord Palmer said: "I believe his words are unacceptable. He was suspended the last time. I think he should be suspended again."
Lord Alex Carlile, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, said he "agreed with Lord Palmer, to the extent that this needs to be resolved", while a Liberal Democrat peer claimed that Mr Ward was "an unfit person to represent the party".
Mr Ward, who has tried to make clear that he condemns violence "on both sides", said this weekend: "I'm not sure what they're accusing me of. They just do not understand the strength of feeling on this. Those who are supporters of Israel will always seek to misinterpret what I say. I don't think that you can read what I said as being anti-Semitic."
Mr Ward said he was aware complaints had been made to Liberal Democrat chief whip, Don Foster.
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 3 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
- 4 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
- 5 How much sex should I be having?
Ed Miliband returns to the backbenches but it's all a bit awkward as he tries to avoid eye-contact with fellow Labour MPs
Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
Isis tortures 14-year-old Syrian boy and films it in graphic video for 'propaganda purposes'
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Conveyancing Case Hand...
£12675 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Assistant is required...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler/Probate ...