Conservative leader David Cameron has become Britain's new prime minister, following a decision overnight by Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown to tender his resignation to the Queen. Cameron is the youngest prime minister in 200 years of Britain's history.
Liberal-Democratic leader Nick Clegg agreed to join Cameron in forming a coalition government, thereby locking the Labour party out of the loop for the first time in more than a decade. It has been 13 years since the Conservatives were last in power – and the party's re-entry was secured through the first coalition government the country has seen since World War II. (Israel news photo below: David and Samantha Cameron / courtesy of The Conservatives.com)
Each side will be required to make concessions, coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum on most issues ranging from national security to immigration. The two parties also disagree on Israel, with the Tories more conciliatory, if not at least somewhat supportive of the Jewish State, as opposed to the Liberal Democrats, who at times have expressed outright hostility.
The developments are viewed with caution by Jerusalem in light of the fact that the leftist Liberal Democrats are strong supporters of the Palestinian Authority. Clegg last year called on the British government and the European Union to suspend arms sales to Israel during the IDF's counter terrorism Operation Cast Lead.
It is likely that Clegg will take control of the Foreign Office, given that Cameron's majority in the House of Commons was created with the 57 mandates provided by the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative party had only 306 seats, 20 short of an absolute majority.
Trouble for Israel?
Clegg supports the idea of a European Union arms embargo against Israel until the Jewish State allows traffic to flow unrestricted between its own civilian population and Hamas-ruled Gaza. He also endorsed the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign's proposal the EU should suspend existing trade agreements with Israel.
Equally disturbing, a roaring majority of the members of his Liberal Democratic party sponsored a motion in the House of Commons to “oppose any legislation to restrict the power of the UK courts” over universal jurisdiction.
The legislation would have closed a loophole in the current "universal jurisdiction" law that has allowed UK courts to prosecute Israeli officials for alleged crimes at the behest of Palestinian Authority supporters. Last year such a situation did indeed develop, and a warrant was issued for the arrest of then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown had promised to “do what he could” to amend the legislative loophole that had allowed the British court to issue a warrant for the arrest of one of Israel's top leaders – but his words never translated into action, and the loophole still stands.
Clegg has also pushed for a closer relationship with the rest of Europe, and a distancing of what he has called Britain's “slavish” relationship with the United States. It is likely that Clegg may choose to refuse further military support to the U.S. in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. At a news conference barely two weeks ago, Clegg told reporters, “We cannot leave it to the United States to exert influence in the Middle East.”
Cameron's First Speech: Difficult Times Ahead
Cameron focused in his first speech to the country on the need to build unity, and on the “difficult decisions that we have ahead.”
He acknowledged the fact that the country had a “hung Parliament” and noted the “deep and pressing problems, a huge deficit, deep social problems and a political system in need of reform.” For those reasons, he said, he was forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
“Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders who want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest,” he said. “This is going to be hard and difficult work. A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges, but I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs.”