Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel Statement on the proposed Israeli annexation of the West Bank

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) would like to express our deep concern about plans by the current Israeli Government to annex large swathes of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.

We are strong supporters of the State of Israel and a negotiated two-state solution; however, we believe this action by the Government of Israel is neither in the best interests of the State nor the Israeli or Palestinian peoples. Significant parts of the UK’s Jewish diaspora have voiced both concerns about and opposition to these proposals. The proposed annexation, reportedly scheduled for 1st July also has the potential to impact Israel’s political, diplomatic, and economic challenges, including their hard-won peace deals with Egypt and Jordan in addition to their burgeoning relations with the Sunni Arab states.

However, it is important to acknowledge that for the achievement of a two-state solution, a partner for peace is required and, as it stands, sadly, one does not currently exist. Therefore, we call on those Palestinian groups calling for Israel’s destruction to desist forthwith, and for these groups to sit down at the negotiating table instead of rejecting all offers of peace that are put forward. This stalemate further fuels radical voices on both sides of the conflict leading to the alleged justification for egregious policy shifts. We have seen the success that ‘land-swaps’ have had in the past, with Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai under previous Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and how it brought about peace with Egypt.

The LDFI, it’s Honorary Executive, our ordinary members, and the Party’s Parliamentarians are overwhelmingly friends of Israel. Furthermore, we recognise that as the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, it is often held to higher standards than that of its neighbours. That, however, is the price of democracy – it is sometimes lonely on the moral and political high ground. For the reasons stated above, we agree with the UK Government and its Middle East Minister in opposing annexation, while continuing to stand up for Israel and all she represents.

* Toby Davis, the Honorary Parliamentary Officer for the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel - @_LDFI

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27 Comments

  • James Belchamber 1st Jul '20 - 3:46pm

    “However, it is important to acknowledge that for the achievement of a two-state solution, a partner for peace is required and, as it stands, sadly, one does not currently exist.”

    Well, technically, as it stands, two don’t exist.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Jul '20 - 4:12pm

    I agree with this. But, and this is said as someone very supportive of the Sate of Israel’s plight and right, in years of writing and speaking, especially in these years, doing so against antisemitism, the current decision by the current government in Israel, didn’t have anything to do with the good, bad, or ugly, attitudes of the Palestinian Authority.

    It has a lot to do with the whole approach of the lsraeli pm of recent years and the US president of a few too!

    When Israel wake up to the need for a return to the politics of old, social democratic, liberal, it can stand upright in a comparing and contrasting with extremism on the opposite side, and the two sides, who knows, might come to be closer, and the other side, might also moderate somewhat!

  • Toby, can you be specific about which Palestinian organisations are calling for Israel’s destruction, and which you say need to “desist, forthwith” ?
    It might also be interesting to know why you chose to publish this on the very day that Netanyahu said he would begin the destruction of the state of Palestine. Coincidence ? Insensitive timing ? Triumphalism ? Perhaps you could clarify that too.

  • Miranda Pinch 1st Jul '20 - 5:29pm

    Toby, I take exception to the last two paragraphs of this statement and am shocked at the way it has been accepted as a reasonable position.
    1. I belong to a number of pro-Palestinian human rights groups, none of which advocate the destruction of Israel . To make the statement in the way that has been done here is to a make a mischievous generalisation . Perhaps you would like to name such groups in the UK or retract the statement?
    2. To describe the Parliamentary Party as overwhelmingly friends of Israel is again to use language intended to mislead in a equally mischievous manner. Have any Lib Dem Parliamentarians actually agreed to being labelled in this way?
    3. under the Israeli/Egyptian peace deal, Israel left all of occupied Egyptian territory and must do the same for both Palestinian and Syrian land. So the statement concerning land-swaps is totally inaccurate.
    4. If Israel is to be measured to the same standards as other western style democracies then the condemnation of their government should be even stronger as there is no other western style democracy that is illegally occupying land and continually breaking international law and human rights while doing so.
    5. what moral and political high ground are they referring to? Israel is the occupying military force.
    6. does standing up for Israel and all it represents mean standing up for the continued occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people?
    Just a few very basic questions in order to clarify your stated positon.

  • The proposed annexation by Israel of land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is certainly not in Israel’s or Palestine’s best interests.
    It’s also illegal according to international law; against the principles of human rights and does not accord with the values of Liberal Democrats – where ‘all people share the same basic rights’; fighting ‘oppression’ and ‘aggression’; and promoting ‘free movement’.
    Which ‘Palestinian groups’ is the writer suggesting would ‘call for Israel’s destruction’? It is my observation – in Palestine – that Palestinians overwhelmingly prefer to make non-violent responses to aggression.
    Of course meaningful negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is needed. But the Palestinian Authority appears able to have far less influence on the decisions of the Israeli government than Trump does.
    More than 1000 European politicians including most of our own parliamentarians recently signed a letter calling for strong action against the Israeli state in the event of annexation going ahead. So trying to label all our MPs as friends of Israel is disingenuous – unless they were all copied into your statement and asked to sign it before it was published. If that was the case, please feel free to say so.
    Some balance in your statement, please LDFI.

  • Tony Greaves 1st Jul '20 - 5:58pm

    I’m afraid this is too wishy-washy, weasel-worded once you read past the first paragraph. Another question is – can Israel be regarded as a democracy? And if the answer is yes, would it still be yes after an annexation in which some of the people who have been annexed are not allowed to be citizens?

  • Toby, there is clearly a lot of delay in this string, as you’ve been asked many times who you were referring to when you said they should “desist forthwith”, and you haven’t yet responded yet. LDV articles can serve a number of different functions, but given the rather patchy support your message has received, to put it as kindly as possible, I wonder if you are learning anything about the level of support for Israel in the party, and are having second thoughts about the stance you have taken in your article.
    We are essentially a liberal and democratic party, and the current leadership in Israel is hard right and undemocratic. This must make it difficult for you to keep up the appearance of being both Lib Dem and pro-Israel. We might all be a bit more sympathetic if you you were more open about the way this divides your loyalties.
    There is nothing wrong with being for the idea of the Israeli state, but strongly opposed to the current right-wing government. True friends of Israel have duty to tell them when they are going badly wrong.

  • Innocent Bystander 1st Jul '20 - 9:20pm

    Miranda,
    Turkey would fit both the description of “western style democracy” as well as doing all those other things you mention.

  • Hamas advocates the “liberation of all of Palestine”i.e. all the territory that consisted of the Mandate.

  • Toby, the time delays due to our hard-working moderators’ need for sleep (fair enough, Mark !) make it difficult to know exactly what you are thinking.
    However, there is still no response (as I write, at 8:21am) to various comments about the veracity of your claim that Palestinians are calling for the destruction of Israel, and the time is approaching when you must either back up your claim, or withdraw it. If you withdraw it, your article on the LDFI website (identical to this LDV blog, for those who haven’t seen it) also needs to be corrected, although given the criticisms of other parts of your article, quietly deleting the entire thing might be a wiser course.

  • …………..However, it is important to acknowledge that for the achievement of a two-state solution, a partner for peace is required and, as it stands, sadly, one does not currently exist………….

    Disingenuous to say the least..It has always been in Israel’s long term interests to have a fractured opposition and if one or more are ‘bogey-men’ so much the better..There have been umpteen attempts at getting a peaceful agreement but, sadly, it is Israel’s intransigence rather than that of the Palestinians that has prevented these.

    A major effort in 2002/3.. The The Roadmap for peace was a plan proposed by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations…G.W. Bush (hardly a ‘dove’ post 2001) was it’s spokesperson..
    The Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas accepted the Roadmap but the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated that a settlement freeze (hardly an ourageous request during talks) would be “impossible” due to the need to build new houses for settlers who start families. .

    Right Wing Israeli ministers then added more and more conditions which made it any talks, let alone any agreement impossible..

    For example,
    Item 1…”Palestinians will dismantle the (PA’s) security organizations and reform the structures.
    The Palestinians must cease violence and incitement and educate for peace;
    The Palestinians must complete the dismantling of Hamas and other militant groups and their infrastructure, and collect and destroy all illegal weapons;
    No progress to Phase II before all above-mentioned conditions are fulfilled;
    (unlike the Palestinians) Israel is not obliged to cease violence and incitement against the other party, pursuant to the Roadmap.”

    There are 12 more ‘conditions’ each more restictive than the last (They can all be viewed online) Perhaps Toby Davis might care to respond?

  • Miranda Pinch 2nd Jul '20 - 9:37am

    Innocent Bystander. Your assertion is not entirely true as Turkey can hardly be classified as a Western style democracy as has been seen through its abortive attempt previously to join the EU. And indeed Turkey is judged harshly by many.
    Manfarang. Actually the new Hamas charter accepts Israel within the 67 borders. Amazing how everyone ignores that and only refers to their, quite understandable, early position. Also amazing how Hamas, a product of Israeli policies, is always blamed for being the cause!

  • Toby Keynes 2nd Jul '20 - 10:11am

    @Mark Valladares: “I am mildly concerned that the tone of this debate is straying towards demanding a response from the author. Whilst LDV does encourage authors to interact with the comments thread, we do not, and cannot, insist upon it, and the author has every right to make a choice either way.”

    Mark is of course quite right: any LDV author is entirely entitled to be silent in response to criticism and challenges; they are also entitled to take time before making any considered response.

    It is equally true that we are all entitled to draw our own conclusions when an author fails to response at all.

    Personally, I am very much heartened by the unanimity with which these contributors have challenged and rejected the author’s assertions.

  • Whether you agree with everything Toby has written or not, I welcome a statement from the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel that criticises the Israeli Government.

    My own piece yesterday in the Huffington Post – ‪https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/boris-johnson-israel_uk_5efc8329c5b6acab28498065?ncid=other_twitter_cooo9wqtham&utm_campaign=share_twitter‬ – went a little further and called for action to show our strong opposition to the annexation but I welcome healthy debate in our party. We should always show respect for others with different views but when in this case LDFI have clearly been willing to criticise their own “side”, I think it’s even more important to recognise the significance of what they are saying.

  • @Mark Valladares (moderator) “I am mildly concerned that the tone of this debate is straying towards demanding a response from the author. Whilst LDV does encourage authors to interact with the comments thread, we do not, and cannot, insist upon it, and the author has every right to make a choice either way.”
    Fair enough and thank you for clarifying; presumably that’s why my comment this morning was not published. So I have to draw my own conclusions from the OP’s silence.

  • Gavin Stollar 2nd Jul '20 - 11:34am

    Thanks for your support and recognising LDFI’s statement Ed – much appreciated. I think your comment says everything that needs to be said.

  • Miranda
    Yes I am aware of the 2017 new Hamas constitution but the question is how many remain committed to the original goal? On your second point throughout the Middle East generally there has been a shift from Arab socialism to Islamism.

  • Miranda Pinch 2nd Jul '20 - 4:15pm

    Ed Davey, it is a pity that the statement by LDFI has been spoilt by the misleading and accusatory comments they included in what might otherwise have been a positive and useful declaration.
    Manfarang. Of course there will be members of Hamas who hate Israel as much as many of those in the Israeli government hate all things Palestinian. It seems strange to judge the occupied and oppressed more harshly than the the occupier and oppressor. Also I thought you were comparing Israel with Turkey. If Turkey is moving towards Islamification, then are you suggesting that Israel’s Judaification is similar and therefore no longer a democracy?

  • Toby Davis’ states that Israel needs a partner for peace. I think that the best opportunity for peace was wasted by Israel in 2000. Morally the Palestinian state should be based on the 1947 partition plan for Palestine, with the Israeli state recognising that all the people displaced since the 1947 UN resolution was passed have a right to return to their homes and these rights can be inherited by the descendants of the displaced. The failure of the Israeli government to recognise that even discussing a Palestinian state based on only the West Bank and Gaza with land swaps, the Palestinians had conceded huge amounts and therefore to get peace the Israeli government should have ensured East Jerusalem is in the Palestinian state and the issue of the right of return is resolved to the satisfaction of the Palestinians, even if this means the Palestinian state being more than the 23% of the land of the 1920 Mandate of Palestine. (23% being about the amount of the total land of the Mandate of Palestine which are the occupied territories.)

  • Meral Hussein-Ece 3rd Jul '20 - 3:58pm

    I’m afraid expressing “deep concern” about plans to illegally annexe large sections of the West Bank, and the Jordan valley In the face of international condemnation, is inconsistent with Liberal Democrat policies to respect and uphold international law. It’s why we unequivocally condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and supported sanctions, and it’s why we have come out equally strongly on the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on the people of Hong Kong.

  • Miranda
    I said Arab socialism. Ba’athism and the like.
    Turks are not Arabs. Turkey established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Despite recent strains both countries have ambassadors.

  • Gavin Stollar 5th Jul '20 - 12:02pm

    If we just expressed “deep concern” but did not “oppose” annexation, your claims might have some merit, however LDFI does oppose annexation, something you have not recognised at all in your critique – in fact it is something you wilfully ignore. It is more than a little unfortunate to selectively quote parts of any statement – let alone one of such a sensitive issue as this.

    Furthermore, this statement has been positively commended and recognised by both leadership candidates in addition to LDFI being inundated with messages of support for taking this principled stance.

    As such, LDFI are very comfortable with our statement.

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