Six Labour MPs visited Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv on an LFI delegation last week.
Pat McFadden, Ian Lucas, Lillian Greenwood, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ian Austin took part in the five-day trip. The visit included meetings with Israeli lawmakers, a Palestinian minister, NGOs, coexistence projects, security officials and counter-terror specialists.
The delegation began with a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The MPs then met the CEO and participants from MEET, a coexistence initiative that uses coding and computer science to bring together young Israelis and Palestinians.
Taking part in a sombre memorial ceremony, the six MPs also visited Yad Vashem, where a wreath was laid in memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
On a day of political meetings, the delegation travelled to Ramallah to meet with Dr Sabri Saidam, Palestine’s minister of education, to discuss the current state of the peace process and what UK parliamentarians can do to facilitate a negotiated two-state solution. This was followed by a visit to the Knesset, where the Labour parliamentarians met their counterparts in Israeli Labor to discuss the shared challenge of promoting social democracy whilst in opposition in both Israel and the UK. The MPs met with party chairman and leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog MK, Michal Biran MK and Labor general secretary Hilik Bar MK.
After leaving Jerusalem, the delegation made its way south to Kibbutz Nir Oz, a socialist community just a couple of kilometres from Gaza. The residents of the Kibbutz described life on the border, where residents have just 15 seconds to find cover when a siren sounds and every house has a bomb shelter. This was followed by a security briefing on Hamas’ rebuilding of its military capacity and its tunnel-building strategy.
During the trip the delegation also met with the British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey, representatives of the Israeli Peace Initiative and Dr Boaz Ganor of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at IDC Herzliya, who briefed the MPs on counter-terror strategies in an age of ‘lone wolf’ terror attacks.
LFI Vice-Chair Pat McFadden, who led the delegation, said: “”I am delighted to be leading an LFI delegation of parliamentary colleagues to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Visiting Yad Vashem, going to the Gaza Border and meeting with Israeli and Palestinian political leaders has been richly rewarding, demonstrating the depth and complexity of the region, as well as the security challenges.”
“As a supporter of the two state solution, it was heartening to hear the work of coexistence projects that bring Israelis and Palestinians together and I call on the government to increase its spending on such people-to-people initiatives.”
“I was particularly pleased to meet colleagues from our sister party, Israeli Labor, and to reiterate the bonds of friendship between the UK Labour party and the Israeli Labor party.”