"The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western World, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party,” Tonge said.
Senior sources in the Liberal-Democrat party expressed revulsion from her comments. Jewish and Israeli sources in Britain described her comments as being anti-Semitic, and pointed out that Tone was removed from her parliamentary job in 2004, after she said she understood the hearts of Palestinian suicide bombers.
The Daily Express newspaper, one of the media outlets to report on the episode, tied Tonge's comments to a confrontation between the party and the Israeli embassy in London, following a decision by Ambassador Zvi Hefetz to boycott the opening of the annual party conference, due to the position of the Liberal Democrats' party leader on the war in Lebanon.
The confrontation took place after Liberal-Democrats leader Menzies Campbell sent a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling on him to place an arms embargo on Israel. During the same day Campbell met with Ambassador Hefetz in parliament, and discussed the situation in the Middle East – though he did not tell Hefetz about the letter he sent to Blair.
When Hefetz learned of the letter, he sent a letter to Campbell in which he tried to explain to him why he saw his request for an arms embargo on Israel as being a one-sided stance. Embassy spokesman in London, Lior Ben Dor, told Ynet that Hefetz did not yet receive a reply to his letter.
At the start of the week, Hefetz sent Campbell another letter in which he informed him that although he was invited to the annual conference of his party, like every year, he cold not take part in the event due to the one-sided stance his party took during the war.
Responding to Tonge's comments, Hefetz told Ynet: "I assume that if these comments were made before the publication of the report on anti-Semitism of the independent parliamentary commission, which found a rise in anti-Semitism in Britain, the comments of the baroness would serve as an example of anti-Semitic expression."
The embassy spokesman stressed that despite the boycott of the Liberal-Democrats conference, "we are interested in continuing the dialogue and relations with the Liberal-Democrat party like with every other party."