“Totally the wrong person to head such an influential committee”
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the Middle East peace process seems likely to be abandoned after the defeat of chairman Crispin Blunt by relative newcomer Tom Tugendhat who has been an MP since 2015.
The former military intelligence officer is on record as saying that that the UK “was wrong” to support Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements at the UN Security Council in December 2016 and that “the Israel-Palestinian conflict doesn’t matter”.
The MPs’ committee had already collected and published written evidence from 42 organisations and was ready to start oral hearings when Mrs May announced the election on April 18th.
Former chairman Crispin Blunt had said the committee wanted to examine the UK’s role in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the year of the centenary of the Balfour declaration.
He added that the inquiry could look at the activities of the Israeli diplomat who tried to recruit British supporters in a botched plot to “take down” the Deputy Foreign Secretary Sir Alan Duncan.
“The Government may have formally closed the issue of Shai Masot, but one of our terms of reference invites consideration of the way that foreign states and interested parties seek to influence UK policy.”
Political parties are now nominating MPs to sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the new committee will decide whether to continue with the inquiry, but it seems unlikely to happen under the chairmanship of Tom Tugendhat.
Indeed the inquiry – and fear of its consequences – may have been a factor in the election of Tom Tugendhat, a supporter of Theresa May, with 317 votes against 184 for Crispin Blunt and 71 for John Baron.
Tom Tugendhat has a degree in Islamic Studies, speaks Arabic and was a military intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, but holds the surprising opinion that Arab people are no longer interested in the Israel-Palestine dispute (see article below).
If he persuades MPs on the committee to ditch the inquiry, the evidence from 42 organisations will remain on the House of Commons website at https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/foreign-affairs-committee/inquiries1/parliament-2015/inquiry1/publications/
Conservative commentator Peter Oborne wrote in the Daily Mail: “Tom Tugendhat’s election as chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has been hailed as a triumph for moderation. I fundamentally disagree.
“Yes, the ambitious former soldier has a bright future. But his views make him totally the wrong person to head such an influential committee. He criticised President Obama’s admirable deal for nuclear peace with Iran. He opposed British support for the UN vote condemning Israel’s settlement programme in the West Bank.
“He supported Western military intervention in Syria. And he is ambiguous about Saudi Arabia’s murderous campaign of bombing in Yemen (though, to be fair, he has expressed reservations about some of the methods).
“By calling Mr Tugendhat a moderate, the implication is that his predecessor as committee chairman, Crispin Blunt, is an extremist. In fact, Mr Blunt was widely admired for holding the Foreign Office to account whenever it failed. I fear Mr Tugendhat owes his job to backers of the Iraq War. He has a big challenge to prove he is not a Cabinet stooge.”
It was a mistake to vote for UNSC2334, says new chair of Foreign Affairs Committee
From the Spectator: “Like all the best mistakes, it 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.
“The Arab Spring showed that the Israel-Palestinian conflict doesn’t matter…… The voices in the Arab Spring protests called for many things, from jobs to freedom, but nothing about Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood, students and even Salafists who met in Tahrir Square demanded the downfall of the Mubarak regime. In the face of unemployment and kleptocracy, Israel was irrelevant….
“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.”