Just over a week before his country’s general election, Britain’s Conservative leader Prime Minister David Cameron came out firmly in support of “standing by Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.”
In an interview with the British Jewish newspaper The Jewish Chronicle, Cameron contrasted Hamas rocket fire with Israeli strikes against Gaza in last summer’s war between the two sides.
“Obviously we regret the loss of life wherever it takes place, but I do think there’s an important difference – as Prime Minister Netanyahu put it: Israel uses its weapons to defend its people and Hamas uses its people to defend its weapons,” Cameron said in the interview, which is due to be published in full on Thursday.
“What I’ve seen is the attacks that take place on Israel and the indiscriminate nature of them. As PM, putting yourself in the shoes of the Israeli people, who want peace but have to put up with these indiscriminate attacks — that reinforces to me the importance of standing by Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself,” Cameron said.
“I feel very strongly that this equivalence that sometimes people try to draw when these attacks take place is so completely wrong and unfair. Because Israel is trying defend against indiscriminate attacks, while trying to stop the attackers – and there’s such a difference between that and the nature of the indiscriminate attacks that Israel receives. I feel that very clearly. I’ve seen it very clearly as prime minister and I think it’s important to speak out about it,” he said.
During the Gaza war, Cameron’s government criticized the high death toll in Gaza, where over 2,000 were killed, the vast majority by Israeli strikes. Israel contends about half the dead were Hamas fighters and ascribed the high toll to the fact that Gaza’s fighters embedded their infrastructure in residential areas, while the Palestinians and the UN say most were civilians.
Cameron has voiced strong support for Israel repeatedly in the past, especially in his speeches before the UK Jewish community. “Israel is our ally. Israel is our friend. And with me as Prime Minister that will never change,” he said in November in a fundraising event for the Jewish charity Norwood.
“During the summer Hamas rained down rockets on Israel, built extensive tunnels to kidnap and murder, and repeatedly refused to accept ceasefires,” he said at the time, according the Chronicle. “As Prime Minister Netanyahu has said: ‘Israel uses missile defense to protect its civilians. Hamas uses civilians to protect their missiles.’”
The coming elections are set for May 7. Cameron and Labor challenger Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, are running neck and neck in polls.