Left-wing bid to toughen Labour manifesto stance on Palestine state rejected

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Left-wing bid to toughen Labour manifesto stance on Palestine state rejected

Jewish News understands Labour's ruling NEC rejected an amendment tabled at last Friday's manifesto meeting that would have toughened stance on Palestine recognition

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Wednesday September 29, 2021.
Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Wednesday September 29, 2021.

An attempt by left-wing members of Labour’s national executive committee to bounce Keir Starmer into adopting a stronger stance on Palestine recognition was firmly rejected at a meeting to approve the party’s general election manifesto, Jewish News has learned.

An amendment was tabled by left-wingers at last Friday’s “clause V” meeting which called for Labour to recognise a Palestinian state as soon as possible, if winning power.

It would have put Labour’s position more in line with recent decisions by countries such as Spain and Norway and Ireland to recognise a Palestinian state as a means of contributing to efforts to find a political solution to the war in the Middle East.

But it is understood that move was firmly rejected by the pro-Starmer majority on the NEC, in favour of a manifesto commitment on the conflict that closely resembles that approved by Labour officials and unions at last July’s National Policy Forum meeting.

All those attending last week’s NEC meeting were given strict warnings about the consequences of leaking information ahead of the publication of Labour’s manifesto for the July 4th election.

But sources familiar with the final manifesto commitment confirmed the effort to push Starmer’s party to a position closer to unconditional recognition of Palestine was “firmly rejected.”

An updated version of the text on Labour’s position on Israel and Palestine was then circulated ahead of the party’s conference last October, and when the manifesto is published on Thursday is expected to remain largely unchanged.

It stated Labour will ” work alongside international partners to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as part of efforts to contribute to securing a negotiated two-state solution.

“Lead diplomatic efforts with international partners to support a just and lasting peace and uphold international law.”

Speaking to Jewish News last Friday, Starmer stressed that a “safe and secure Israel” was a critical factor in determining the party’s position on the issue.

But he also emphasised that “recognising Palestine, a Palestinian state, is not in the gift of Israel or anyone else. It is a right. ”

It appeared to be confirmation that Labour would back international moves to recognise a Palestinian state before any peace deal had been concluded.

Currently, with Israel able to exercise a veto, self-confessed opponents of a two-state solution such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are unlikely to ever sign off a deal.

The manifesto will therefore stress that Israel does not have the right of veto over whether a Palestinian state is recognised.

Labour’s manifesto on Israel/Palestine is an attempt to please both liberal Zionist and pro-Palestine voices, on an issue that has caused problems to the party since October 7th.

It would also suggest the party intends to give a high priority to attempts to position itself as an “honest broker” as an intentional partner in any peace efforts.

Starmer has previous spoken of his believe that Labour in government would have a “moral duty” to push for a resolution to the deadly conflict.

He has also heard the voices of progressive Jewish Labour supporters and backers within the party urging him to pursue such a stance without fear of being dogged with claims of being anti-Israel.

But Starmer is also aware that some Jewish Labour supporters are still concerned about any stance that would appear to going over the head of Israelis from the party.

The Jewish Leadership Council are among the main communal organisations likely voice disapproval of Labour’s likely manifesto commitment on Palestine recognition.

When Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, said in January that Britain could consider recognising a Palestinian state as part of efforts to bring about a peace settlement, rather than at the end of the process, JLC chair Keith Black criticised the move.

He said: “A unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state of this kind would only encourage more violence and less diplomacy.

“It would send a strong signal to Hamas terrorists that their aims can be furthered by the most heinous of acts […] it would amount to rewarding the atrocities of 7 October.

“Crucially, unilateral recognition would also undermine the necessary message to the Palestinian leadership that they must negotiate and collaborate with Israel to ensure they can share a mutually beneficial peace.”

The Board of Deputies say they will not comment until after Labour’s manifesto is published this week.

Last Friday, Starmer told Jewish News: “It’s very important that I set out what our policy in full is, which is to recognise Palestine as part of the process for a two state solution. But part of a process.

“That means it has got to be at the right time in the process, because we need a viable Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.

“We don’t have either of those at the moment, and therefore it has got to be at the point of the process where we could see both of those outcomes.”

But he added:”It is important for me to say that recognising Palestine, a Palestinian state, is not in the gift of Israel or anyone else. It is a right.

“But it has to be in process so that both things happen. ”

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