Israel faces ‘tipping point’, says Emily Thornberry after visit

Israel faces ‘tipping point’, says Emily Thornberry after visit

Key Labour figure reflects on the challenges facing the peace process following her four-day trip to Israel and the West Bank

Emily Thornberry
Emily Thornberry

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has said she sees real possibilities for movement on the Middle East peace process, citing several “tipping points” including court cases and Palestinian

Labour’s foreign policy leader offered her reflections this week, following her return from a four-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, her first visit since attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Striking a cautiously optimistic note, Thornberry said: “It is easy to look from the outside and just see a stalemate – you think things are going nowhere, and nothing is changing for the better – but on the ground, you do see how each tipping point could make a difference.”

She said these potential tipping points included the Egyptian-brokered talks between Hamas and Fatah over governance in Gaza, the court case on the status of Palestinians in area E1, between Jerusalem and Jericho, and the optimism of left-wing politicians ahead of Israel’s next election.

Thornberry, who impressed the audience with her knowledge and nuance at the Jewish News-BICOM conference earlier this month, added that she told disillusioned young Israelis and Palestinians how Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had galvanised the next generation. 

“I was struck in many of my conversations by something very common to politics wherever you go, this sense that political elites on all sides are losing touch with younger people,” she said.

“I tried to offer in my conversations with politicians a sense of how Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party began to buck that trend here in Britain at the last election, and the difference it made to the outcome.”

Thornberry, who has said Labour would recognise the state of Palestine if it wins the keys to Downing Street, in what would be a largely symbolic gesture, was given security briefings by IDF commanders and visited a kibbutz near the Gaza border.

Noting “the tunnels, the random stabbings, the car ramming and the air raids” Israelis face, she said:  “If more people in Britain understood what it’s like for ordinary Israelis to have to live with that constant undercurrent of fear, there would be better understanding of why the security situation is so fundamental to any progress.”

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