Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for getting in touch regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over the past few months, I have received countless emails from constituents who are rightly concerned about recent events.
I have always been deeply committed to campaigning for a two-state solution in the Middle East, with a safe and viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a safe and secure Israel, and I repeatedly condemned the actions of the Netanyahu government in recent years which took us ever further away from that goal.
The most recent upsurge in violence was completely abhorrent and deplorable, whether it was Israeli security forces attacking worshippers gathering during Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque, Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, or Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, which have caused the deaths of dozens of children, as well as targeting media offices.
Any use of violence against civilians – particularly children – is abhorrent and, as I have said many times, it simply traps generation after generation of ordinary people in Israel and Palestine in a cycle of division, bitterness and escalation from which nothing good can occur, least of all the future of stability, security and lasting peace for the region which all people of goodwill wish to see.
The Labour Party is clear that Israel’s proposals for expanding settlements and permanently annexing parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are unacceptable. These settlements are a violation of international law, entrench divisions, and seriously undermine the prospects for a viable Palestinian state. We welcomed the temporary suspension of these annexation proposals by the Israeli Government in June, but urge them to go further and to fully withdraw their proposals to annex any part of the OPT.
Labour also welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire in May, which was negotiated by UN, US, Egyptian and Qatari diplomats, as an essential step to stop the escalation of the air strikes and rocket attacks at that time. However, that cannot be the end of the process, otherwise this cycle will simply repeat itself again. The UK should instead exert its international influence by joining the 140 countries around the world who officially recognise Palestinian statehood and rights, and insist that all sides return in good faith to negotiations on a lasting peace.
As you know, the government’s recent cuts to the Foreign Aid Budget will also have a dire impact on the Palestinian people, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump Administration’s reckless and heartless withdrawal of economic and humanitarian assistance in previous years. The Labour Party did our best to reverse these cuts when we obliged the Conservatives to call a vote on their decision to cut 0.2% of national income – amounting to some £4 billion – from the UK’s overseas aid budget. While we did not succeed, we are committed to reversing those cuts when in government.
Labour also supports the creation of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which would bring much needed resources to the task of building peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The proposal has been spearheaded by the Alliance for Middle East Peace and is based on the International Fund for Ireland that sought to invest in peacebuilding work in Northern Ireland.
So far as the export of arms and equipment to Israel is concerned, the law in our country is crystal clear: the government must not authorise the export of arms that can be used to commit acts of external aggression, internal repression, or to violate international humanitarian law.
If there is a risk of UK arms being used in those ways, it is not just morally wrong but illegal for the government to issue licences for their export, and I will therefore continue to demand that ministers review arms sales, report to Parliament on the assessment they have made of those risks in relation to Israel, and explain their legal justification for the continued export of arms during the recent violence.
Please be assured that, in the coming years, Labour will continue to do all we can to press for a lasting and just peace in the Middle East, as the basis for all its peoples to enjoy a shared future of freedom, security and prosperity.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade