Wise appointments by Tim maintain the party’s even-handed Middle East approach

Israeli children visit Palestinian village of Tuwani and participate in bilingual activities together - Some rights reserved by delayed gratficationAs reported by the human ticker-tape machine, Mark Pack, Tim Farron has appointed two Middle East advisers, in the shape of Lord Monroe Palmer and John McHugo. I think this an extremely wise move by Tim.

Monroe Palmer, a Local Liberal Hero, is a former chairman of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and has a long and distinguished career as a councillor and speaker on matters of concern to the UK Jewish community.

John McHugo is chair of the Liberal Democrat friends of Palestine and is an historian, Arabic linguist and international lawyer.

So, Tim will be getting some very wise counsel. Moreover, he will be getting, dare I say it, a balanced view.

One of the things I love about the Liberal Democrats is that we are scrupulously even-handed in our approach to the Israel-Palestine controversy. This was typified by a remark by Lorely Burt at the Bournemouth conference. She said that leaders of the Jewish community in her constituency were “up in arms” when they learnt that she was going to visit Gaza. But she was quick to point out to them that, during the same trip, she would also be visiting Israel.

Many apologies from me for originally and wrongly writing “Israel” instead of “Palestine” in relation to John McHugo. A stupid mistake by me.

Photo: Israeli children visit Palestinian village of Tuwani and participate in bilingual activities together – Some rights reserved by delayed gratification / Flickr CCL.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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21 Comments

  • Alfred Emery 11th Oct '15 - 3:45pm

    Does anyone know why our main national website is not being regularly updated these days ?

  • David Blake 11th Oct '15 - 6:03pm

    Alfred, the website is pretty poor. It’s not at all easy to find things on it.

  • Great appointments!

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Oct '15 - 9:06pm

    This is good, but if I can just insert a foreign policy point here: Labour and the Conservative’s bombing plan risks making things worse. Neil Quilliam of Chatham House says the same thing and it is what Tim Farron, Nick Clegg and Paddy are saying.

    I’ve vocally disagreed with this point of view, but it is because after reading the article in the Guardian by Andrew Mitchell and Jo Cox it appears that Tories and 50 Labour MPs are buying the thinking that rather than a limited war against ISIS and al-Qaeda we need a major one against Assad, Russia, Iran, ISIS and al-Qaeda.

    This is the Bush doctrine unreformed. We need more limited military action, but not no military action.

  • This is a Copt out, John McHugo & Monroe Palmer will give opposing a dice leaving Tim no better off. If he really wants go advice as to what we as a party can do to help promote a peaceful solution, then Tim will have to reach outside the party to people in the area like Sam Awad, Gershon Baskin or Uri Savior who are respected by the the peace campaigners on both sides.

  • This is a cop out, John McHugo & Monroe Palmer will give opposing a dice leaving Tim no better off. If he really wants go advice as to what we as a party can do to help promote a peaceful solution, then Tim will have to reach outside the party to people in the area like Sam Awad, Gershon Baskin or Uri Savior who are respected by the the peace campaigners on both sides.

  • Interesting choice of advisers. While it may appear Monroe Palmer and John McHugo are on opposite sides of the argument, I would suggest they agree about far more than they disagree. Even though I am Jewish, I have always felt for the displaced peoples of Palestine and the daily oppression they suffer at the hands of the Israeli army. Yet, I also believe that Israel has a right to peaceful coexistence. The two views are not mutually exclusive.
    My own perspective of the conflict is to leave well alone, militarily. The west has done more than enough damage in the region. Regime change is not the answer. You only have to look at what has happened in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan to know this.
    The opposing force of Sunni and Shi’ite, with local tribal differences thrown in for good measure, means that we can never win. But America is determined to stick with Saudi Arabia (and Russia to Assad). But to me, Saudi Arabia is not an ally, it is THE enemy of peace, in deadly competition for supremacy with Iran. The only constructive thing we can do is to encourage, nay force by all diplomatic means possible, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other players to stop their mutual hatreds and to start talking and for us not to take sides.
    ISIL cannot be included in any negotiations, as it is a death cult and beyond the pale.

  • Jonathan Brown 12th Oct '15 - 10:16pm

    @Leon – “This is a cop out, John McHugo & Monroe Palmer will give opposing a dice leaving Tim no better off.”

    I think this is a very good choice of advisors. Although I agree with Howard and think that both will agree on a number of issues, where they disagree having two contradictory arguments will help clarify Tim’s thinking and his options. If he tries to split the difference every time, then yes, it’ll be a failure.

    But if the purpose of appointing these advisors is to maximise his chances of understanding what’s happening and the potential ramifications of any given course of action, then he’s more likely to be able to make a sensible decision.

  • Jonathan Brown 12th Oct '15 - 10:20pm

    @Howard I agree that we should not negotiate with ISIS – not so much because I think they’re a death cult (although there are elements of that) but because they’re a fascist, totalitarian organisation that is incapable of negotiating. They will only be defeated by force, because only defeat and failure will remove the glamour, the glory and spoils of war that drive ISIS’ expansion. (That’s not to say that I’m against talking to individuals within the organisation with a view to persuading them to defect.)

    That said, we should really listen to what Syrians are saying: https://diary.thesyriacampaign.org/what-refugees-think/ If you don’t think there’s any point negotiating with ISIS, I wonder what the point in negotiating with a regime that has killed far more people is.

  • A fudge?

    I fail to see how any Liberal, Democrat or otherwise, can be a friend of a state based upon religious supremacy. Truled by that state.hat is separate from being a friend of the people who populate the land

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Oct '15 - 11:50pm

    Jonathan Brown, welcome to the club for realising that “defeat and failure” will remove the glamour of ISIS. There is a school of thought with a surprisingly large and influential number of followers that think “defeat plays into doomsday narrative, so ignoring them is the best cause of action”.

    Ignoring them is not the best. The amount deterred from defeat will be higher than the amount wanting to follow a doomsday vision and even if we follow the doomsday script exactly God is not going to save these evil people, so defeat is their ultimate destination whatever they believe.

    I also agree a bit with Leon that I would have gone for more independent advisers, but at least Tim hasn’t gone one-sided.

  • Eddie
    There is no military solution to the problems of the Middle East. A lasting peace depends on political settlements.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Oct '15 - 3:49am

    Manfarang, if you reward barbaric extremists with “political settlements” you can be assured a lot more will pop up.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Oct '15 - 4:03am

    There is no political settlement that can solve all of the Middle East’s problems. We can’t chop up the Temple Mount and hand out pieces of it to all the warring parties.

    It’s not just the Middle East either. Ukraine, Northern Ireland, people from all over the world end up fighting.

  • I said settlements with an S. In the end people sit round the table. Did you ever hear of the Good Friday Agreement?
    If you are young go and enlist. Why should others do the fighting? If you think violence is the answer go and fight.
    Actual those in the military know that war is always the last resort and as I said it will not resolve the worlds problems.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Oct '15 - 7:08am

    I stick my neck out by not using an anonymous name. I’m not against diplomacy, I’m just against the idea that diplomacy can solve everything. There are aways people who refuse to accept peace agreements.

  • Geoffrey Payne 13th Oct '15 - 1:50pm

    This is the right choice.
    It is often said of party leaders that they surround themselves with yes men. Well that cannot be said here. That said, I wish I knew what Tim actually thinks about the Arab Israeli crises.

  • The peace process has ground to a halt in Israel and in fact it is entirely absent now very much explains the violence of recent days.

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