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British Election Results Give Liberal Democrats Sway

The inconclusive vote in Britain’s election on Thursday puts a political party considered critical of Israel in a key spot.

Because no party finished with a clear majority in Thursday’s vote, the third-place Liberal Democrats may play the role of kingmaker in this election. Already, the Conservative party, which finished with an estimated 306 seats in the 650-seat parliament, and the ruling Labor party, which finished with an estimated 261 seats, have set about wooing the Liberal Democrats, who captured an estimated 54 seats Thursday – down eight seats from their finish in the last election, in 2005.

Even though the Liberal Democrats fared far worse than polling had suggested following the strong performance of party leader Nick Clegg in the three debates, the failure of either of the other two parties to win a conclusive victory places it in a strong position. Both Conservative leader David Cameron and Labor leader and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are jockeying for the keys to 10 Downing St.

During the campaign, the Liberal Democratic party came under fire from Jews for its positions on Israel.

During the 2009 Gaza war, Clegg called on Labor to “condemn unambiguously Israel’s tactics” and demanded an immediate arms boycott of Israel by Britain and the European Union. Last December he was the lead signatory of a letter claiming that Israel has 1.5 million Palestinian prisoners, and he wrote that the legacy of Israel’s operation in Gaza is a “living nightmare” for Gaza’s residents.

Clegg’s party also has come under fire in pro-Israel circles for the activities of Jenny Tonge, a former member of Parliament who became a member of the House of Lords in 2005.

In 2004, Tonge said she would become a suicide bomber if she had to suffer the indignities of the Palestinians. In 2006 she suggested that the pro-Israel lobby had “financial grips” on Britain and on her party. Last March she met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Syria. And in February, Tonge called for an inquiry into the far-fetched claim that the Israel Defense Forces’ earthquake relief teams in Haiti harvested the organs of quake victims.

The remark prompted Clegg to fire her as the party’s spokeswoman for health in the House of Lords.

Israel came up frequently during the election campaign and candidate debates.

Jews traditionally have favored Labor over the Conservative Party. Leaders of both large parties made statements during the campaign strongly supportive of Israel .


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