A bitter row has broken out within the Conservatives over the party's stance on the Lebanon crisis.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague was today accused of behaving like an "ignorant armchair critic" after he warned that elements of Israel's response were "disproportionate".

Former party treasurer Lord Kalms said Mr Hague's comments in a Commons debate before MPs broke for the summer were "downright dangerous".

"William Hague's usual good sense has deserted him," he said in a letter to be published in The Spectator magazine.

"Criticising Israel for being disproportionate without serious consideration of the alternatives merely mouths the buzzwords of the ignorant armchair critic. Think again, William, for whom you speak. How do you deal with the Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, who is committed to Israel's total destruction, not a single Jew to remain alive in Israel, and who rains thousands of rockets on Israel, keeping the population in shelters, devastating industry, killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers within Israeli territory?

"A tragedy is unfolding. The outcome is life or death to Israel. William, your comments are not merely unhelpful, they are dangerous."

However, his comments were rejected by Oliver Letwin, chairman of the Conservatives' policy review.

"Of course we recognise the right of Israel to defend itself. We all recognise we want to see peace, but there has been disproportionality," he said.