Gaza toll appalling but Warsi is wrong about UK response

Morning View
Morning View

The manner in which Baroness Warsi left the government yesterday was regrettable.

The first Muslim minister to sit at Cabinet quit while the prime minister was abroad and announced it on Twitter, before David Cameron had replied, as is the custom.

This was all inappropriate, although Lady Warsi would presumably say that the situation is too serious for niceties. Given the scale of the crisis in Gaza the manner of her exit is clearly of secondary importance to the reasons for that departure.

If a politician leaves government it is almost always preferable if the reason for the departure is a point of principle rather than matters of personal pride or internal party politics.

But as it happens Mr Cameron’s policy towards the crisis in Gaza has been the right one: robust defence of Israel’s right to defend itself from terror, while expressing grave concern at aspects of the Israeli response.

Israel is a modern, highly-educated civilisation that stands alone — culturally and geographically — in a region beset with tyranny, corruption and bad governance.

In parts of the wider Islamic Middle East, offenders have on occasions been hanged in the street and in extreme cases people have been stoned to death for offending the sexual code. In such backward environments, it is difficult to imagine a woman rising to power on merit, as Baroness Warsi did in the UK or as Golda Meir did in Israel when she became its prime minister almost half a century ago.

Across much of the Middle East and beyond, there are many enemies who are resentful of Israel’s success and who often blame it for their own self-made problems. There is no shortage of people who would merrily annihilate the Jewish state, such as the militants who fire rockets from Gaza in a bid to kill civilians.

It is not merely acceptable that Tel Aviv always has the option of a military response to such terror, but essential that it does.

The civilian toll from its current incursion has been disturbingly high, and Downing Street has said as much. But the UK must remain one of Israel’s closest friends, and maintain the current policy of pushing hard for a concrete ceasefire.