The largest ever Labour Friends of Israel delegation of prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories last week.
The five-day delegation provided a wide-ranging introduction to Israel and the wider Middle East, with opportunities to learn about the country’s history, its dynamic and innovative economy, and the importance of UK-Israel bilateral ties.
LFI vice chair Sharon Hodgson MP led the delegation which included Dan Tomlinson, PPC for Chipping Barnet, alongside Primesh Patel (Harrow West), Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby), Danny Beales (Uxbridge and South Ruislip), Jo Platt (Leigh), Graeme Downie (Dunfermline and Dollar) and Jake Richards (Rother Valley).
Sharon Hodgson said that “this trip will allow Labour candidates to experience a deep and broad introduction to Israel and the wider Middle East. LFI has always believed that enabling Labour politicians to witness Israel’s security challenges for themselves, reaffirm ties with our sister Israeli Labour Party, and renew the longstanding friendship between the Labour Party and the Jewish state, is key to ensuring political debate around Israel in the UK remains well-informed and balanced.”
The delegation met with head of the Israeli Labor Party Merav Michaeli, British Ambassador to Israel Simon Walters, and representatives of both the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority.
The delegation began with a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City and a visit to the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, followed by a tour of Yad Vashem, where a wreath was laid in memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The group then met with Uri Rotman, Head of the Middle East and Peace Process division at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The following day, the delegation travelled to the West Bank and met with a Palestinian civil society group and visited Al-Amari refugee camp to hear about Palestinian life and perspectives on the conflict.
During the trip, the delegation also met organisations –including Tech2Peace, Darkenu and the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation – at the forefront of peacebuilding between Israelis, Palestinians and wider Middle East region.
The group had a security briefing on Hamas’ rebuilding of its military capacity and its tunnel-building strategy before visiting Kibbutz Kfar Aza, a socialist community just a couple of kilometers from Gaza. The residents of the Kibbutz explained what life was like living in constant fear of indiscriminate rocket attacks.
The bond between the British Labour party and its Israeli counterpart was reaffirmed while meeting the head of the Israeli Labor party, Merav Michaeli. She spoke of the difficult political situation in Israel, the need for solidarity and support from sister parties around the world.
We were incredibly pleased that Dame Louise Ellman, who rejoined the party after she left over Labour’s failure to tackle antisemitism, joined our delegation to Israel. She explained to the Jewish Chronicle that she was “delighted” to be present and was “heartened by the continued progress Labour has made back to re-building ties with the Jewish community and returning to its historic position as a friend of Israel and honest broker on the Middle East”.
She said those joining the trip “will have benefitted hugely from this experience, coming away with a much deeper understanding of the complexities of Israel and the wider region that will prepare them well for Parliament.”