The Labour Party has expressed strong disapproval of the Israeli government for the first time since the Hamas attacks on October 7th. They have condemned the statements made by right-wing Israeli ministers regarding the West Bank, stating that their language towards Palestinians has been unacceptable and offensive.
David Lammy wrote a letter to James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, highlighting the differences in policy between the government and Labour regarding the crisis in the Middle East. In the letter, Lammy requested information on the actions taken to address the issue of violence in the West Bank caused by Israeli settlers and government forces.
The foreign secretary of the opposition party demanded that the UK government instruct Israel to cancel its decision to cut financial support to the Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah, which governs the West Bank. He also proposed that individuals living in Israeli settlements who are known for inciting hatred or breaking the law be denied entry to the UK.
The Labour party leadership has received strong backlash from within for not urging for a ceasefire in Gaza. While the recent letter does not alter their position, it does signal the end of the united support for Israel that has been evident since the Hamas attacks on October 7th.
Lammy condemned the attacks as “shocking” and referenced Yesh Din’s report stating that since October 7th, “Israeli security forces and settlers” have caused the deaths of 144 Palestinians in the West Bank and displaced over 900 individuals, including adults and children, due to extremist settler aggression.
He stated that there has been a concerning increase in radical and extreme language among conservative politicians. There have also been instances of violence against Israelis, such as a man who was fatally shot while driving on November 2nd, and reports of thwarted terrorist attacks.
Lammy reported that by the conclusion of September in 2021, the death toll in the West Bank had reached 184 Palestinians and 26 Israelis, surpassing any previous recorded total since 2005 by the UN. Additionally, the UN documented 769 Palestinians being harmed by live gunfire and 812 structures being destroyed.
Lammy reported a rise in incidents of settler violence, threats, and intimidation against Palestinian communities since October 7th. These actions include vandalizing homes, cutting off water supplies, stealing livestock, and threatening civilians at gunpoint.
During situations of conflict, the most devastating impacts are often felt when old wounds from the past are reopened. For Palestinians, being forced from their homes is a painful reminder of past traumas. As the dominant authority, Israel is responsible for upholding its obligations under international law.
Lammy expressed deep worry over the statement made by Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, in which he declared the withholding of tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority. This could potentially harm the PA and create instability in the West Bank, especially at a critical moment. Mr. Smotrich and minister for national security Itamar Ben-Gvir have also made highly inappropriate and offensive remarks regarding Palestinians.
He stated that the Palestinian Authority is crucial in the West Bank and serves as a significant ally for the UK. Additionally, he emphasized the necessity of their involvement in future talks for a permanent resolution and the creation of a two-state solution.
According to Lammy, individuals who oppose the idea of a two-state solution must be strongly confronted in order for the support of this solution to be seen as genuine rather than just empty words.
He proceeded to list a set of inquiries, which included urging the UK government to request that the Israeli government takes measures to stop settler violence, hold perpetrators accountable, and denounce extremist language.
The individual also inquired with Cleverly about his efforts to convince the Israeli government to retract Smotrich’s choice to withhold crucial funds from the Palestinian Authority. They urged the foreign secretary to disclose how they had collaborated with Jordan to establish a stronger and improved Palestinian Authority in order to stabilize the West Bank.
He requested that ministers declare their intentions to prohibit entry into the UK for any individuals found to have participated in “serious criminal behavior” or promoting hate.