March 1, 2012 / 12:07 PM / 6 years ago

LibDem peer quits party over comments on Israel

LONDON (Reuters) - A peer has quit the Liberal Democrat party, which is part of the coalition government, after saying during a heated debate at a university that Israel “is not going to be there forever,” party officials said Thursday.

Jenny Tonge, a member of the Lords, has a track record of making controversial comments about Israel and has lost political posts over her views in the past.

She is not a prominent figure in politics, but her comments during a recent debate at Middlesex University drew condemnation from politicians in all three of the major parties.

“Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there forever ... because one day the United States of America will get sick of giving $70 billion (43.9 billion pounds) a year to what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East, that is, Israel,” she said.

“One day the U.S. people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the U.S. ‘enough is enough’ ... It will not go on forever. Israel will lose its support and then they will reap what they have sown.”

Footage available on the Internet shows some people in the audience shouting “that’s rubbish” while she was speaking.

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Tonge’s comments were “wrong and offensive” and did not reflect the values of the party.

“The Liberal Democrats have a proud record of campaigning for the rights of Palestinians, and that will continue, but we are crystal clear in our support for a two-state solution,” Clegg said in a statement.

Tonge was an MP from 1997 to 2005. She was then elevated to a peerage and entered the Lords.

She had been forced to resign as her party’s spokeswoman on children’s issues in 2004 after saying she “might just consider becoming” a suicide bomber if she was a Palestinian.

In 2010, she was sacked as the party’s health spokeswoman after saying that Israeli troops sent to Haiti after a major earthquake were trafficking organs.

Tonge, whose party affiliation is now listed on the Lords website as independent, was unapologetic.

“Israel is acting against international law, the Geneva conventions, and human rights. They do this with impunity and if our political parties will not take action then individuals must,” she said.

Among politicians who voiced their outrage was the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, who tweeted “no place in politics for those who question existence of the state of Israel.”

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Karolina Tagaris

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