TONY Blair has been accused of surrounding himself with a "cabal" of Jewish advisers in an astonishing attack by Scotland’s most senior MP.
Tam Dalyell, the Father of the House, says Blair aides are skewing British foreign policy on the Middle East in favour of the Israeli government.
Dalyell suggests Blair was "unduly influenced" by figures including Lord Levy, Labour’s chief fund-raiser and Blair’s unofficial envoy to the region, Peter Mandelson, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, an Anglican who had a Jewish grandfather.
The Linlithgow MP, who is notorious for his outspoken views on a wide variety of controversial subjects, was quoted in the latest edition of the American magazine Vanity Fair in a profile of Blair. In a passage on Blair’s "staunch" support of Israel, Vanity Fair writer David Margolick states: "The senior member of the House of Commons, Tam Dalyell, even tells me he thinks Blair is unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers. He mentions Mandelson, Lord Levy and Jack Straw."
Yesterday, when Scotland on Sunday checked the quotes with Dalyell, he replied: "I’m very open about this. I wouldn’t say I’ve been misquoted."
Dalyell, the longest-serving MP in the Commons, said hawks in Washington were already too close to the right-wing Likud government of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon.
Dalyell told Scotland on Sunday: "Blair and Straw have become far too close to these people and Lord Levy, who is an unaccountable ambassador in the Middle East, is part of this group. They are acting on an extremely Zionist, Likud-nik agenda. In particular I am concerned that some of them are pushing for an attack on Syria, for reasons of Israeli security.
"It is an enormously sensitive issue and that’s why very many of us have been extremely reticent about it, because we don’t want to be seen as anti-Semitic."
Labour MP Louise Ellman, a prominent member of the Inter-Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism, said: "This absurd proposition implies a Jewish plot in high places rather like the Prodigals of the Elders of Zion."
Both Ellman and former Tory Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said Blair had been prominent in encouraging Bush to make progress on the Road Map for peace that could lead to an independent Palestinian state within two years.
Rifkind, a senior member of Scotland’s well-established Jewish community, said: "We all know that Tam gets bees in his bonnet and eight times out of 10 they are nuts but the other two are brilliant. This is, I’m afraid, one of the nutty ones."