Middle East Monitor / January 19, 2023
The UK Labour Party under Keir Starmer could drop its commitment to the recognition of a Palestinian state from its election manifesto, Jewish News reported yesterday. The paper cited Party chiefs who believe that a strong commitment to the Palestinian cause may jeopardize Labour’s chances of defeating the Tories in the next general election.
Every Labour manifesto over the past decades has stated that, in government, the Party would seek to immediately recognize a Palestinian state. The pledge was recently reaffirmed by the Shadow Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Bambos Charalambous. Asked early this month at the Jewish Labour Movement’s annual conference about this commitment, Charalambous is reported to have told the audience: “We would recognize a Palestinian state, as things stand.”
But, according to Jewish News two senior Party sources said that, under Starmer’s leadership this could change, as the Party seeks to slim down the manifesto. Starmer, who has said that he “support[s] Zionism without qualification”, has until later this year to finalize the manifesto.
Jewish News said that the slim-line manifesto favoured by some Party chiefs, would still include a broad commitment to “peaceful resolution of conflicts across the globe”. Pro-Israel groups have long complained about singling out Israel and, according to the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism which has been adopted by Labour, focusing on Israel’s human rights abuse more than the abuse committed by other countries is a form of anti-Semitism.
One Party source is reported to have said that leaving out the recognition of the Palestinian state from the manifesto does not mean that Labour is not committed to a two-state solution. “Nor does it mean we are not prepared to call out the most far-right Israeli government in history, when we need to do so”.
The source went on to say: “We are determined to become the next government, and have no wish to continue with manifesto commitments suited to political parties who wish to remain in opposition.”
Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF) will decide on the Party’s election manifesto. It will open consultation on 30 January. The process will run until 17 March, when stakeholders, affiliates or members will be given the chance to have their say over the Party’s policy. A final stage meeting will be held in July, when policies suggested during the consultation phase will be considered, before the final election manifesto is agreed.
Affiliates of the Labour Party have almost always taken a pro-Palestine position when given the chance. For example, a motion calling for sanctions against Israel for practicing the crime of apartheid was voted in at the Labour Party Conference. The Party hierarchy, however, has routinely backed away from reflecting the views of their affiliates and fuelled the accusation that they are undermining democracy.