Labour government could have ‘chilling effect’ on UK-Israel relations, says BICOM report

Labour government could have ‘chilling effect’ on UK-Israel relations, says BICOM report

Think-tank claims a Jeremy Corbyn-led administration would have a 'ripple effect' of anti-Israel sentiment

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn  

Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

A report by pro-Israel think tank BICOM this week predicts that a Labour government could have “a chilling effect” on UK-Israel relations.

The analysis of Labour Party foreign policy on the Middle East, published on Tuesday, warms of an anti-Israel “ripple effect” if Jeremy Corbyn were to adopt a negative attitude to Israel after taking the keys to Number 10 Downing Street.

BICOM researchers say Israel may “no longer be seen as a priority,” adding: “The two-way traffic of ministerial visits would likely slow. This atmosphere could negatively impact years of government support for cooperation in research, hi-tech and trade built up under a succession of Prime Ministers warm towards Israel.”

Economically, the report’s authors say a Labour government “could also lead to reduced Israeli investment in the UK, currently Israel’s top investment destination in Europe,” while politically, they worry about the UK’s stance towards Israel.

“The UK government would be more likely to back Palestinian diplomatic moves such as UN resolutions critical of Israel and attempts to secure recognition in international institutions,” they write.

“The UK would also be likely to immediately condemn Israel in a situation of escalated conflict such as fighting between Israel and Hamas or Hezbollah, in contrast to previous Conservative and Labour governments that supported Israel’s right to self-defence.”

BICOM chief executive James Sorene said Labour’s foreign policy was “an issue of deep concern to many of Britain’s closest allies,” adding: “Decades of intelligence and defence cooperation are at risk.”

On fears that Labour would seek to engage Israel’s enemies, he said: “If Labour move too close to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, this will undermine international efforts to fight terrorism and even limit the sharing of vital intelligence that saves British lives.”

Siding with the Palestinians would mean London losing its influence with Israel on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sorene said, adding: “Moves towards a boycott of settlement goods could provide a slippery slope to wider boycotts of Israel and this would seriously harm Britain-Israel relations and impair an expanding trade partnership that creates thousands of UK jobs.”

Earlier this month, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said she would happily buy Israeli produce but would not buy goods emanating from Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

In response to the BICOM report, a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said Labour calls for a two-state solution and that the Labour leader’s voting record showed he was more often right than wrong when it came to foreign affairs.

“[Corbyn] has consistently made the right calls in the interests of Britain’s security and international peace, from the war in Libya to his opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which had catastrophic consequences in the region and made us less safe at home,” they said.

“Labour has demanded an independent, UN-led investigation into evidence of violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition, a halt to UK support for the Yemen war and action to cut off the funding of terror networks from Saudi Arabia and allied states.”

However, the Board of Deputies said Labour should heed the warning. “Cosying up to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah… would threaten Britain’s security,” said Board president Jonathan Arkush. “Such countries and groups must be challenged, not indulged.”

He said it was up to Labour to convince British Jews “that they are worthy of our support,” adding: “The Jewish community made a clear difference in a series of tight marginal seats. I hope that Labour will read the BICOM briefing carefully and heed its warnings.”

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