*** Check against delivery ***
Labour Friends of Israel
Tuesday 22 November 2022
Steve McCabe MP, Chair Labour Friends of Israel
Chief Rabbi, Ambassador Hotovely, friends.
It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to Labour Friends of Israel’s Annual Lunch.
We wouldn’t be here today without the support of many in this room. Our work is more vital than ever, and your generosity makes it possible.
Special thanks must go to our long-standing lunch co-sponsors, Sir David Garrard and Isaac Kaye.
Sadly, due to ill-health, both Sir David and Isaac aren’t able to be with us today. I’m sure you’ll all want to join with me in wishing them all the very best.
I would also like to thank our chair in the House of Lords, the redoubtable Baroness Meta Ramsay. As some of you will know, there are good reasons not to mess with Meta. I’d also like to thank all LFI’s Vice Chairs and parliamentary supporters.
Can I also thank our guest of honour and keynote speaker – the Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, a woman of enormous talent who really will make the British economy work for all.
We also have a very special guest who has flown in from Israel this morning to be with us: the leader of the Israeli Labor party, Merav Michaeli. Merav is a fighter for equality and social justice, a politician of immense integrity, and a true friend of our party.
Merav, we’re honoured to have you with us today.
We’re particularly grateful also to the Ambassador and Deputy Ambassadors of Bahrain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates for joining us today for the first time and we thank you for the work you are doing to support the Abraham Accords. Your excellencies, you are most welcome.
I know that many of us will be disappointed with the results of this month’s Israeli election.
The vote for the far right – as we have witnessed in other western democracies – has naturally dominated the headlines. It should act as a wakeup call for the left and centre but of course we should acknowledge all those Israelis who voted for parties opposed to Mr Netanyahu’s bloc. Today we send our solidarity to our friends in the Israeli Labor party and all the many people in Israel committed to the country’s founding principles of equality for all. They are part of a forceful opposition to the politics of division.
Whoever forms the government, the ties of friendship between Britain and Israel transcends and will always transcend party politics.
Last year, Keir Starmer stood before us and repeated the pledge he made on the day he became Labour leader – to tear antisemitism up by its roots and make our party once again a welcome home for British Jews.
That mission is not yet complete, but thanks to Keir’s leadership, the battle against antisemitic anti-Zionism is being won.
Preparing for government
As Labour returns to its core values, so the British people are returning to Labour.
Over the coming months, our challenge is two-fold: to continue to win back the trust of the electorate and prepare for government. That means sensible, practical measures, as Tony Blair says the best policy is the best politics.
Thanks to Keir and David Lammy, we are seeing this once again in our foreign policy:
Outward Looking and internationalist.
Committed to liberal democratic values and our place in the western alliance.
Clear-eyed about the nature of threats posed to our national security.
We see this in Labour’s approach to the Middle East, where a balanced and constructive stance is crucial.
At LFI we intend to play our full part.
Our latest paper, Steps to a Two State Solution, lays out actions to help lay the foundations for a settlement and we’ll be using the months ahead to urge Labour to adopt a bold, progressive agenda, one which never loses sight of the long-term goal of a 2-state solution with a viable, democratic, and independent Palestine alongside a secure Israel, safe within recognised borders.
It supports the establishment of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and the re-establishment of British investment in people-to-people work which the British government sadly ended last year.
Using Britain’s strong regional ties to deepen and expand the Abraham Accords; a milestone achievement which, surprisingly wasn’t mentioned in our government’s most recent strategic review.
And strengthening Britain’s bilateral relationship with Israel, including a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between our two countries.
We oppose the BDS movement and the targeting of the world’s only Jewish state.
We say that aid sent to the Palestinian Authority and international agencies should reflect a commitment to non-violence and support for two states.
And we reject the delegitimisation of Israel in international institutions – Britain must always be vocal and vigorous in opposing farcical and frankly offensive decisions like last year’s election of Iran to the UN Women’s Rights Commission.
We call for Britain to work with our international allies for enforcement of UN resolutions to prevent Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel as well as an international plan to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, disarm Hamas, reassert the authority of the Palestinian Authority and recognise the need for reform and democratisation of the PA itself.
We call for robust action against the Iranian regime. Britain must stand with the people of Iran, Israel, and the region against the threats from this regime.
It’s shameful that Britain has still not proscribed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and been so half-hearted in the use of the Magnitsky Acts against Khamenei’s henchmen, torturers, and murderers.
I say Labour can do better.
Support for Israel in this country has long been a cross-party endeavour.
It should remain so.
But it’s time to look to the future and the fresh support and measures that a Labour government might bring to the table.
Ones which reflect our long, proud tradition of support for Zionism.
Which build on the work of previous Labour governments.
And which seek an even stronger and closer relationship with Israel and its people. Our enduring allies and friends.