Britain calls Israel's Gaza flotilla raid unacceptable
Britain Prime Minister David Cameron said Israel's Gaza flotilla raid was 'completely unacceptable' and called for an end to the economic blockade of the impoverished territory.
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The strength of language used today by new Prime Minister Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague illustrates the depth of anger here over Israel's commando raid in international waters on Monday, which saw nine pro-Palestinian activists killed as they sought to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. After all, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Hague are patrons of the Conservative Party’s Friends of Israel lobby and have strong pro-Israel voting records in Parliament.
The timing of the operation, in which a total of 37 British nationals were caught up, could also not be worse in terms of easing already frayed Israeli-UK relations. Just over two months have passed since Britain expelled a senior Israeli diplomat over the use of 12 forged British passports in the killing of a senior Hamas leader in Dubai in January.
Britons were outraged by that incident, and a belief has been growing here that the Jewish state plays by its own rules. Hague said today that "we are seriously concerned about the seizure of British nationals in international waters, and this aspect of the Israeli operation must form a key part of the investigation into these events." Questions have arisen about the legality of Israel's raid.
The response of Cameron's government to its first major diplomatic challenge is being closely watched, given that the two governing coalition parties embrace widely divergent views on Israel. The junior partner Liberal Democrats are typically more critical of Israel than the Conservatives.
Some wonder if there may be scope for the Liberal Democrats – home to some of the most vociferous critics of Israel among Britain’s three biggest parties – to extract concessions over the issue. The LibDems' annual conference last year heard a call for an arms embargo against Israel, and some in the party want an economic boycott.