Coexistence campaign launched by Labour Friends of Israel

Coexistence campaign launched by Labour Friends of Israel

Labour politicians addressed a parliamentary reception to back the LFI initiative, under the slogan 'For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace'

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

The chair of Labour Friends of Israel will travel to Washington next week at the start of a campaign to support a new fund for coexistence projects between Israelis and Palestinians.

Labour Friends of Israel yesterday launched a campaign under the banner ‘For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace’ urging the UK Government to support the creation of the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which it is hoped will distribute £150m annually to support people-to-people coexistence and reconciliation initiatives. Money will come from the US – where a bill has already been introduced in Congress – as well as Europe, the Arab world and the private sector.

Conceived by the US- based Alliance for Middle East Peace, it is inspired by the international Fund for Ireland, which spent more than $1.2bn over 20 years building grassroots cooperation and support for peace in Northern Ireland.

The launch in Parliament was addressed by former shadow middle east minister Ian Lucas and Joel Braunold, executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

LFI Director Jennifer Gerber said: “Projects that bring ordinary Israelis and Palestinians together are absolutely essential for a lasting peace in the middle east, and we in Britain must do everything we can to support them. Now more than ever, it’s vital that the government supports the work on the ground that will lay the foundations for a two-state solution.”

She described the current £150,000 spent by the UK on people to people projects as “pitiful” and asked for it to be increased to £1.35m as an interim measure.

Both LFI and CFI have repeatedly called for more of its aid funding to the Palestinians to be spent on coexistence projects. Coexistence projects are currently funded through the Conflict Stability and Security Fund – a joint MOD, DfiD, FCO fund – and constitute less than 13 percent of its spend in Israel-Palestine. Among coexistence projects currently operating is Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET), a technology programme bringing together young Israelis and Palestinians.

Braunold said: “ALLMEP is delighted and honored that British MPs want to take up the cause of the international fund and they join legislators from around the world looking to make long term investments in the people of Israel and Palestine.”

Joan Ryan will become the first LFI chair to travel to a country other than Israel in her official capacity. She said: “My visit to Washington underlines the importance LFI attaches to our campaign to persuade the UK Government to back the establishment of the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and to increase our support for coexistence work.

“I shall be meeting with those who are campaigning for the creation of the fund in the United States, hearing especially about the congressional efforts on behalf of it and finding out more about the US Government’s support for people to people projects in Israel-Palestine.”

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