Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy addresses packed LFI panel debate on how to best promote a two state solution

Over 100 people gathered in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening to participate in the joint Labour Friends of Israel and We Believe in Israel debate on: How can we best promote renewed negotiations and a two state solution?

The panellists, led by Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy, called for renewed negotiations; passionately argued that a two state solution is the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; called for support and empowerment for the moderates; and condemned violence and extremism.

Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP spoke alongside: Dr Or Rabinowitz, former news desk editor at Israel’s Channel 10 news and research associate at King’s College’s Centre for Science and Security Studies; Hitham Kayali, Palestinian peace activist and advocate for a two state solution; and Matthew Doyle, former political adviser to Tony Blair, including in his role as Middle East Quartet Representative. The debate was chaired by LFI Vice Chair Michael McCann MP, a member of the International Development Select Committee.

Jim Murphy called for those interested in peace “to stay engaged” with the Middle East peace process. He said that a “sense of being besieged is a predominant sentiment among Israelis and Palestinians,” explaining that, for Israelis, this is due to volatility and insecurity in the region, and for Palestinians it is the ongoing settlement construction and “unbelievable poverty” that exists in Gaza.

Matthew Doyle, former political adviser to Tony Blair, stressed that: “The only way this question is going to be resolved is through face to face negotiations between the parties themselves.” He argued that “delivering the justice and dignity that would come with Palestinian statehood, alongside a safe and secure Israel is not just the right thing to do for Israelis and Palestinians but it would be a powerful signal to the world in support of the forces of moderation and coexistence.”

Dr Or Rabinowitz highlighted that “most Israelis support a two state solution” but raised concerns that the Israeli public have removed the occupation “from the conscious agenda.” Protesting calls for academic boycotts of Israelis, Dr Rabinowitz argued that: “We should fight very, very strongly against delegitimisation campaigns.”

Hitham Kayali asserted that to get the peace process back on track: “We have to create the same conditions as we had before the Oslo peace process,” pointing towards the interaction that existed between Israelis and Palestinians. Hitham also said that it is vital that settlement building ceases.

Concluding the debate, Michael McCann spoke of his “heartening” experience meeting with schoolchildren in southern Israel during a 2011 LFI delegation. He said that the desire of the children for peace with their neighbours, despite living under the perpetual threat of rocket fire, gave real “hope for the future”.

Following the debate, LFI Deputy Director Ben Garratt said:
“We were delighted to be joined by so many from the Labour party and beyond, to debate how we can work together to promote a two state solution. The fantastic turnout demonstrates a real appetite for serious engagement with the challenges facing Israelis and Palestinians.”

Following the debate, Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel said:
“We were delighted to support this event. There was a high level of debate and an excellent turnout.” “We are committed to supporting the vital work of all the party political friends of Israel groups.”

See further quotes below

ENDS

The debate took place at 6:30pm on Tuesday 15th January

It was hosted by Labour Friends of Israel, in cooperation with the non-partisan We Believe in Israel coalition

Additional quotes from the night:

Jim Murphy asserted that we need to see Israel as “more than an army,” and highlighted the “remarkably clever, innovative” nature of Israel and its scientific and academic achievements. He added that “Israel is rightly tested by different standards,” testament to its “vibrant multi-party democracy.”

Matthew Doyle added that the “international community must remain united, and must be on the side of the optimists and not the pessimists.” Asserting that “firing rockets into southern Israel is totally unacceptable,” he said that “you cannot have a two state solution when one of the parties doesn’t recognise the right of the other state to exist.” He also described Israel’s E1 settlement announcement as deeply unhelpful and wrong.

Dr Or Rabinowitz highlighted that “most Israelis support a two state solution” but raised concerns that the Israeli public have removed the occupation “from the conscious agenda.” Protesting calls for academic boycotts of Israelis, Dr Rabinowitz argued that: “We should fight very, very strongly against delegitimisation campaigns.”

Hitham Kayali, speaking of both Israelis and Palestinians, he warned that “the moderate majority has become so apathetic that they have left the stage to extremists.” On the issue of settlements, Hitham suggested that EU and UK trade with settlements should cease.

LFI Deputy Director Ben Garratt said: “Our expert panel made clear that we all have a responsibility to stay engaged, to promote the forces of moderation, and to call for the difficult compromises that Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to negotiate, in the face of serious threats to peace and security.”

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