Warsi hits back at Osborne: 'George is a good friend of the Israeli government'

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Sayeeda Warsi has attacked George Osborne for failing to raise enough concerns with Israel about its bombing of Gaza, and urged other ministers who are privately expressing concern about the crisis to speak out.

The senior Conservative directed her ire at the chancellor after he said her resignation over the government's position on Gaza was "disappointing and frankly unnecessary".

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Warsi also revealed there is concern "at ministerial level" about the government's failure to condemn Israel's shelling of civilians in Gaza as disproportionate. One minister has talked about resigning and another senior Conservative backbencher has been in tears on the phone about it, she said.

Asked about Osborne's comments, she said: "George is a very good friend of the Israeli government and therefore he, more than anybody else, should have been saying quite frankly to the Israeli government that what you are doing is not in your interest. This is probably the biggest single act of self-harm that the Israeli government has done over the last few years. What he should have been saying to the Israeli government is that it is unnecessary for you to kill innocent civilians, to displace a quarter of the Gazan population, for you to flatten schools, hospitals and power supplies and water supplies to achieve your end. Had George done that, I agree with him that it would not have been necessary for me to resign."

She added: "I think it's a sincerely held view that the best way to resolve this matter is to be as accommodating as possible to the Israeli government, to seek influence with them and through that to try and move them to a more positive decision. I'm not sure that policy is working."

Warsi also lifted the lid on unhappiness within the ranks of the Conservative party about the response to the conflict, which has now been going on for a month.

"Without dropping people in it I can say there is unease on the backbenches, there is concern at ministerial level," she said. "I have had one senior Conservative on the phone in tears about material that they had seen and the fact they felt we weren't doing anything about it. I've had a minister in a late night conversation talking about resignation. There is real concern among Conservatives about this issue. I hope if there is some good that comes out of it people who feel the same way as I do are prepared to raise these voices within government and are taken seriously."

One of the peer's major points of concern has been David Cameron's refusal to say that Israeli action in Gaza has been "disproportionate" like he did when the country launched an incursion into Lebanon in 2006. While the prime minister has said the UN was right to condemn a bombing near a third school, he has otherwise only called for an immediate ceasefire, while taking care to blame Hamas for sparking the conflict.

"I think for me it's morally indefensible where after four weeks of a conflict more than a quarter of the Gazan population displaced, more than 2,000 people killed, more than 400 innocent children killed, we still cannot find the words to say, we condemn this and we feel this action has been disproportionate. These issues are too serious for us to be mealy-mouthed and for us to be dragging our heels."

Warsi gave the interview after earlier releasing her resignation letter to the prime minister, which spoke of her concerns that the fall-out from the Gaza crisis could lead to radicalisation of young Muslims.

"There is no doubt there is the potential for radicalisation for young people," she said. "I fundamentally believe the way in which we conduct ourselves domestically does impact on our reputation internationally, and the way we behave internationally does have blow-back domestically … It's not a claim I make there is evidence there in black and white in the work that the Home Office is doing. These reports and this evidence makes for uncomfortable reading but we can either bury our head in the sand and pretend it's not there."

Like Nick Clegg, she also called for the UK to stop selling arms and military equipment to Israel.

"It is wrong for a country to allow arms to be supplied to a potential warzone. It seems odd to have a policy that on the one hand we allow arms to be supplied and on the other we spend taxpayers money patching up the people who may have been injured from the use of those arms," she said. "Therefore we've got to be bold in taking the decision and say until who have been alleged to have committed war crimes over the last few weeks have been brought to justice then we must stop selling arms to Israel."

Warsi said she might not have felt it necessary to resign had she been in another department but she found it too difficult to stand up in the House of Lords every day and answer foreign policy questions related to the issue.

Asked about whether there was a moment that made up her mind, she said: "There were many moments. Every time a school was bombed. Every time you saw a picture of Gaza with no lights at night. Every time a child about the age of my own children was killed. The moment when young boys playing football on the beach were suddenly there no longer."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason and Patrick Wintour, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 5th August 2014 21.14 Europe/London

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