Labour Friends of Israel have launched our new campaign, ‘For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace’. The campaign aims to persuade the British government to support the creation of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. The $200m fund has been designed by the Alliance for Middle East Peace to boost spending on coexistence projects in Israel and Palestine. Before the fund becomes a reality, we want to see British funding for people-to-people coexistence projects in Israel-Palestine rise from its current level of around £150,000 to £1.35m – a rough approximation of what the UK would be expected to contribute to the fund after its creation. The rest of the fund would come from the USA, EU, the Arab world and the private sector.
Coexistence projects can inspire Israelis and Palestinians to campaign for peace. Whilst polling has shown that majorities of Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution, a significant proportion of the Israeli and Palestinian public believe that majorities across the Green Line in fact oppose a settlement. This misperception – where Israelis and Palestinians underestimate the other side’s commitment to a two-state solution – drives down support for a revived peace process. People-to-people coexistence projects are the perfect antidote to this mistrust. By introducing pro-peace Israelis and Palestinians to each other, support for a negotiated solution to the conflict can only grow.
Grassroots political change can have a direct effect on Israeli and Palestinian political leadership too. Under Israel’s proportional representation electoral system, changes in public opinion often have a swift and dramatic effect on Parliamentarians in the Knesset. A real groundswell of pro-peace public opinion, facilitated by this international fund, could boost left-wing parties and create a political climate supportive of serious negotiations. Whilst there have been no legislative elections in Palestine since 2006, a series of successful coexistence projects would nonetheless undermine support for Hamas, who currently rival the more moderate Fatah in the battle for public opinion in the West Bank.
Peace in Israel-Palestine ultimately lies in the centre-ground. A two-state solution will occur when moderates on both sides find common cause in negotiation and reconciliation. Peace moves further away when hardliners dominate the public and political sphere and tell Israelis and Palestinians that peace is not possible. Coexistence projects will empower moderates and seek to bring Israelis and Palestinians together rather than drive them apart. Following the precedent of the International Fund for Ireland in the 1980s, furthering the cause of peace in Israel and Palestine is exactly what our campaign aims to do. You can find out how to support it here.