Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander this week delivered a stinging rebuke to those in Israel’s government opposing a two-state solution, writes Justin Cohen.
And in a well-received speech, the former International Development Secretary demanded that those in the Labour movement stop calling for links with the Jewish state to be severed.
Alexander’s comments came in a speech to Labour Friends of Israel’s annual lunch, attended by scores of MPs and peers including Ed Balls, Ivan Lewis and David Lammy.
Addressing Tuesday’s gathering at the Royal Horticultural Halls, he described the state’s establishment as a “moral necessity” but called for Israel’s existence to be “recognised and celebrated” rather than “tolerated or simply accepted”.
He looked forward to a time when a peace deal with the Palestinians would be added to that list of achievements but warned there were now those on both sides who “either out of frustration or exhaustion, or through a misplaced belief that there can be total victory over than peace” argue for a one-state solution.
Rounding on the words of Israeli minister Naftali Bennet, who recently claimed that the idea of a Palestinian state inside Israel had reached a “dead end”, Alexander told the gathering: “To those who say a two-state solution is now a fantasy, I say it is a fantasy to think a one-state solution could ever be either sustainable or consistent with Israel’s democratic values. It would mean either the demise of Israel as a Jewish state or the demise of Israel as a democratic state. It would be the end of the dream of national self-determination for the Jewish people.”
He expressed hope Israel would see the creation of an independent state not as a “gift” but as a “strategic necessity”.
On the other side, he argued, the Palestinian leadership in both the West Bank and Gaza would have to form a “unified” negotiating stance against violence and in support of previous agreements.
He argued that the debate about how to achieve peace is diminished by “a facile assertion that all fault always lies on one side” and further endangered when the boundary between legitimate criticism of Israeli policy “gives way to some of the worst and most familiar kinds of anti-Semitism”.
The shadow foreign secretary said: “I believe that requires all of us to police that boundary on a daily basis.”
On the domestic front, Alexander spoke about the importance of LFI’s UK-Israel economic dialogue initiative but told the gathering: “For too many – in particular those that see themselves as being on the Left – being anti-Israel is seen as almost axiomatic. Yet those gathered here understand that there is nothing progressive or left-wing n allying oneself with those who seek Israel’s destruction, or who have no interest in, or commitment to, progressive values.
“Let me say very clearly to those within our own Labour movement – desist from a language of de-legitimisation: stop the movement to sever academic and trade union links; now is the time to deepen, not weaken our economic and cultural ties.” He added: “Supporters of peace must be prepared to recognise and defend Israel’s achievements.”
On Iran, meanwhile, Alexander said “all options remain on the table” in support of the dual track of pressure and engagement to halt Iran’s nuclear programme.
Israel Ambassador Daniel Taub, addressing the gathering, stressed that the “centrifuges are still spinning” despite the election of that country’s new president.
Jennifer Gerber, LFI Director, said: “It was fantastic to see such a large turnout at our lunch, including so many supportive Labour MPs and Peers. Their presence, and the warm and thoughtful words from Douglas Alexander, demonstrate that support for the State of Israel remains strong within the Labour Party.”