Peres accuses Britain of anti-Israeli sentiment

Shimon Peres, Israel's President, has launched a surprise attack on the United Kingdom, accusing it of anti-Israel sentiment and its politicians of wooing the Muslim vote.

"In England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab," Mr Peres told the Israeli historian Benny Morris in an interview in the Jewish Tablet magazine. "They [the left] think the Palestinians are the underdog."

Mr Peres, who was twice prime minister of Israel, made the remarks as he reflected on a life in politics. He suggested that British MPs are more concerned with winning the Muslim vote than sticking their necks out on Israel.

"There are several million Muslim voters. And for many Members of Parliament, that's the difference between getting elected and not getting elected," Mr Peres said.

Mr Peres defended Israel's record in Gaza, saying that Israel has the right to self-defence, in particular during its 22-day military offensive in 2008. "For eight years they fired and we refrained from retaliating. When they fired at us, the British didn't say a word," Mr Peres said.

The Community Security Trust, CST, a charity which tracks anti-Semitism in Britain, said that it had recorded 924 incidents last year against Jews, including verbal attacks, an increase of nearly 70 per cent from the previous year.

"The trend over the last decade has been very negative indeed," said Mark Gardner, a spokesman for CST. "What concerns us is not so much hate incidents but the general mood directed primarily against Israel."