In the often tumultuous landscape of British politics, Crispin Blunt stands out as a Conservative Member of Parliament who isn’t afraid to champion causes that might seem at odds with traditional Tory values. His recent accusation that the government is “aiding and abetting war crimes” by supporting Israel during its conflict with Hamas is just one example of his outspoken approach. However, what’s more surprising is that his viewpoint is no longer an isolated one within the Conservative Party. In fact, the Conservative Party has evolved into a remarkably united supporter of Israel.
Historically, the Conservative Party had largely remained aloof from actively supporting Zionism. Inter-war attitudes ranged from apathy to open anti-Semitism. Even after the creation of Israel, many prominent Conservative figures maintained Arabist tendencies. However, a significant shift occurred with Margaret Thatcher, who, in her role as Prime Minister, changed the party’s attitude towards Israel. She viewed Israel as a crucial ally during the Cold War era, and her personal affinity for the Jewish state played a role in shaping her approach to the Middle East.
Thatcher’s influence set the tone for improved Anglo-Israeli relations in the 1990s and 2000s. This transformation in Conservative relations with Israel happened in the context of shifting politics on the American and Israeli right, where support for Israel became more pronounced. As the Labour left increasingly embraced anti-Zionism, pro-Israel voices found a home on the right, further cementing the Conservative Party’s stance.
Since returning to power, successive Conservative leaders have continued to express strong support for Israel. Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and others have consistently reaffirmed the party’s unwavering commitment to Israel. Even in times of controversy, such as the 2014 Gaza conflict, the pro-Israel stance remained dominant, despite some dissent within the party.
Notably, there is a correlation between Tory supporters of Israel and Eurosceptics, while those with Arabist tendencies tend to be Europhiles. This alignment reflects a shift in the Conservative Party’s composition and priorities, with MPs increasingly focusing on local issues. The changing nature of an MP’s role has reduced the space for foreign-policy specialists.
Today, the Conservative Party can be described as an instinctively pro-Israel party. This alignment offers a sense of unity in dealing with international issues, especially when compared to the Labour Party’s stance, which predominantly supports Palestine. However, it is essential to remember that a diverse range of perspectives on foreign policy is crucial for a healthy democracy. A balance between supporting Israel and appreciating the Arab perspective, while being willing to critique Israeli policies when necessary, is important for realpolitik and national harmony.
In conclusion, the transformation of the Conservative Party into a pro-Israel party is a result of historical shifts, changing international dynamics, and the alignment of certain ideological stances within the party. While a strong stance in support of Israel is a point of pride, it should always be accompanied by thoughtful and critical analysis, preserving the party’s capacity to accommodate a broad range of views on foreign policy. Balancing the interests of different groups and seeking harmony in international relations remains a challenge for any political party.