Israel Fears Foreign Secretary Clegg
Left-wing politico may be top U.K. diplomat
The heated British elections are tomorrow, and with the out-of-nowhere Liberal Democrats still looking strong, Israeli officials have (unofficially) began to worry that, should neither the (leading) Conservative nor (incumbent but ailing) Labour Parties gain an outright majority of Parliamentary seats, one of the two will have to bring the Lib Dems into a coalition. And that, in turn, would likely make Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg—the most left-wing of the three major party leaders—the foreign minister. Much to the Israeli government’s chagrin.
Weeks ago, the Financial Times argued that Clegg (whom the Times profiled today) would likely be the foreign minister (or secretary of state, in American English). Junior coalition partners in other European countries frequently receive the foreign ministry. But new reports yesterday confirmed that the Lib Dems would demand six ministerial posts, including the Foreign Office, in exchange for serving as a coalition’s junior partner.
The problem, as Israel sees it, is that Clegg—potentially Britain’s chief diplomat—has severely criticized Israel over Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent Gaza blockade; at one point called on European countries to stop selling Israel weapons; and, maybe worst of all, is seen as overly soft on Iran. (Incidentally, a Clegg-run foreign ministry would also probably see a slightly less strong British-American alliance.)
As things stand now, the Tories have a decent chance at capturing an outright majority of Parliamentary seats, which would all but completely foreclose a major Lib Dem role in the government. However, if Tories fail to get a House of Commons majority (and if Labour, a longer shot, fails to as well), look for the Tories or Labour to secure the prime ministership by allowing a comparatively marginal party to run the country’s foreign policy. You know, like Israel’s government does.
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