Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP has introduced a bill to promote civil society projects benefiting both Israelis and Palestinians, after the UK government cut its “pitiful” £150,000 coexistence fund entirely.
In a speech in parliament on Wednesday, she said: “As the example of Northern Ireland taught us, any peace process needs a political dimension, an economic dimension and a civil society dimension. Coexistence projects that bring together Israelis and Palestinians… is that civil society dimension.”
Ryan, who recently travelled to the U.S to meet Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Joe Crowley, is hoping to persuade Washington, Brussels and London to help fund the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
She said recent polls suggest that while the majority of Israelis and Palestinians still hope for a two-state solution, mistrust between the two groups are at near-record levels, with nine in ten Palestinians believing Israeli Jews to be untrustworthy.
Deriding the “pitiful” funding to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence projects, she described how £714 million had been spent on grassroots coexistence work in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years, and that this helped lead to peace.
Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel MP will now consider whether to throw money at the Fund, a move supported by 56 Labour MPs and Sir Eric Pickles, the chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel.
It follows a tough week for Ryan, who was the subject of undercover filming by Al-Jazeera, which showed her in contact with Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy employee who sought to establish supposedly independent youth groups in the Labour party.