A Liberal Democrat MP who questioned the continued existence of Israel lost the party’s whip yesterday following a dressing-down from Nick Clegg.
David Ward, the MP for Bradford East, had previously been reprimanded by the party’s leadership over comments condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
The issue came to a head after a new post on Twitter in which Mr Ward wrote: “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle - how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”
Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, announced yesterday he had suspended the MP from the parliamentary party until 13 September.
The move came after he was summoned to a meeting with Mr Carmichael, Mr Clegg and the Lib Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes.
In a letter to Mr Ward, the party’s chief whip reprimanded him for failing to abide by a previous promise to use “proportionate and precise” language when referring to Israeli policies.
He said the leadership considered the MP’s explanation of his latest tweet to be unconvincing.
“It is also immensely frustrating for us to find ourselves constantly responding to questions about disproportionate and imprecise language from you,” Mr Carmichael added.
“These interventions cause considerable offence rather than addressing questions of political substance about the plight of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel's citizens to live a life free of violence.”
Mr Ward said he was saddened by the decision, but refused to apologise for referring to Israel as an apartheid state. He said: “I don’t know how you can describe it as anything else.”
The suspension covers the long summer recess, which began last night, and two sitting weeks in September. It expires on 14 September, the first day of the Lib Dems’ annual conference in Glasgow.