Tag Archive for: Tom Tugendhat

Surprisingly, an Actually Good Candidate is in the Running to Replace Boris Johnson

Tom Tugendhat has just announced his candidacy to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

While Ben Wallace, the current front-runner, has a record of antipathy toward Israel and curious sympathy for Iran, a country he claims proudly to have visited more than any other MP, Tom Tugendhat is among the most pro-Israel of MPs. And his background is also unusual for someone who supports Israel. Tugendhat has a degree in Islamic Studies, speaks Arabic and was a military intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, he was a Lieutenant Colonel; the commander of the British forces in Afghanistan at that time was his superior officer, Colonel Richard Kemp. Kemp is well-known for his testimony at the UNHRC: Commission on the Goldstone Report:

Based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Kemp went on to give a stirring defense of the Israel Defense Forces and the extremes to which it goes to protect civilian lives.

But as Kemp subsequently noted his remarks to the commission, though criticized in some quarters, were not at all unusual among his fellow officers. In fact, he said that many of his comrades in the British army share them.

[While] I got quite a lot of criticism from within the U.K., I got a lot of support for what I said from other military people — people with military experience in the U.K.,” Kemp said. “In general terms, I find that my opinions on these matters … are shared by many British military officers and retired military officers. The reason for that is the IDF has for many, many years been very well respected by the British military; they have been looked at as a very effective fighting force and we’ve looked to see what kind of lessons we can learn from them.”

In fact, Kemp studied IDF operations while a cadet at Sandhurst — the British equivalent of West Point.

“It wasn’t just me; it was the British army as a whole that made a considerable study of the IDF,” Kemp has said. Indeed, the British studied the Israeli operations “probably above all other contemporary armed forces.”

According to him, the civilian casualty rate during Operations Cast Lead and Piller of Defense — the code names for Israel’s last two conflicts with Hamas — was less than one civilian killed for every fighter. In Afghanistan, he noted, the rate was 3 to 1, by U.N. statistics and probably higher in Iraq.

“That’s a remarkable achievement,” Kemp said. “It shows the extent to which the Israelis went to gain the intelligence — precise intelligence — to be extremely careful about their targeting, to warn the civilian population off.”

Tom Tugendhat is among those retired British military men who served under Colonel Kemp when he was overall commander of the British forces In Afghanistan, and came to share his views on the IDF as a fighting force that was not only amazingly effective but also, as Kemp has often said, “the most moral army” in the world.

In 2016, the UN Security Council voted on Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a “violation of international law” and “of no validity.” Britain voted with the majority (and Obama, shamefully, instructed the U.S. delegate to “abstain” instead of vetoing the measure as was customary with such anti-Israel resolutions). Tugendhat rose in Parliament to denounce that British vote. There were not many Conservative members of Parliament willing to take issue with their own government’s UN votes. British supporters of Israel have not forgotten Tugendhat’s stand. Nor, of course, have the Palestinians.

Tugendhat wrote in The Spectator about that “wrong vote”:

Like all the best mistakes, it [the British vote for UNSC Resolution 2334] was done for the right reasons. Knowing that for once the US wouldn’t veto, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning settlement building in the occupied Palestinian Territories. The UK was no doubt keen to be with the consensus but we were wrong to back the Resolution. This time was different. Not because Israel has changed, nor the expansion of the settlements is exacerbating the efforts towards a settlement, but because the world has changed and so have we.

Since voting to leave the European Union, the UK has needed a new grand strategy, one that promotes our interests and allows us to chart our own future. Resolution 2334 shows our foreign policy has not caught up. Backing an outgoing US administration, an anti-Zionist myth, and many dictators’ propaganda message doesn’t just undermine Israel and ignore recent tectonic change, it hurts our regional allies and weakens us. To write our own future we need to think more about the message our votes send and be prepared to stand against consensus. This time we got it wrong.

Tugendhat knew, four years before the Abraham Accords were born, that the question of Palestine doesn’t matter to the Arabs as it once did. Most of the Arabs have moved on, he maintains, and so should the British, instead of continuing to support “an anti-Zionist myth” and believing that everything that happens in the Middle East must somehow be connected to, or blamed on, Israel for its putative misdeeds. Israel is an important ally of Great Britain; its “intelligence and military technology” have helped to save countless British lives; it has taken “huge risks” for peace. The BDS movement undermines our friend, Israel. Arab despots, like Assad, use Israel to deflect attention from their own wretched rule. Sensible Arabs in the UAE and Bahrain have chosen to make peace with, and normalize ties, to Israel as members of the Abrahamic Accords. It should be our task in Britain to promote those Accords, and allow the Palestinian question to assume its proper, quite tiny, space in our attention and our geopolitics, or even, perhaps, be allowed to wither altogether on the vine.

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