Liberal Democrats call for radical new approach to Israel/Palestine conflict

The Liberal Democrats have called for more trade with Palestine and Israel, more resources for peace and upholding of international law by ceasing trade with illegal settlements.

Liberal Democrat members have today passed a motion at party conference calling for a new approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The motion, the first on Israel/Palestine at Lib Dem conference since 2017, reaffirms the party’s call for immediate recognition of the state of Palestine alongside calling on the UK Government to commit further resources to peace.

The Liberal Democrats have become the first UK political party to formally support the creation of a peace fund for the region to build trust between Israeli and Palestinian communities, modelled on similar schemes previously used in Northern Ireland.

The motion sees party members call for increased trade links and cooperation with both Palestine and Israel. It also proposes legislation to ensure that goods and services from illegal settlements in Palestinian territory do not enter the United Kingdom until a negotiated peace settlement is agreed.

Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and the first MP of Palestinian descent, commented:

After the events of the last few years, the two-state solution, promised to the likes of my family, seems more elusive than ever. That’s why the UK Government urgently needs to adopt a radical new approach to the conflict – as set out in this motion.

This is a distinctly Liberal approach which upholds human rights and the rule of law, while using trade and cooperation as the tools for peace which we know they are. That’s why we want to see more trade with Palestine, more trade with Israel, and the introduction of legislation that will see the UK take steps to uphold international law by ceasing trade with the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, unless and until a negotiated settlement is reached.

The Prime Minister was shamefully absent from the world stage during the awful violence in Israel and Palestine in May. If he truly cares about ‘Global Britain’, he should finally show some awareness of the historic obligations which Britain owes to the region. That starts by recognising the state of Palestine – and adopting the radical new approach as set out in this motion.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Sep '21 - 4:01pm

    As someone who is hugely interested in this area, member of Liberal Democrats For peace In The middle east, activist and writer against prejudice, in different organisations, I welcome progress thus.

    My concern is, how do we trade more with israel, while not accepting trade with illegal settlements. As these settlements are not illegal under israeli law, are regarded as such by UN resolve, there are no consistent labels, that say “made in settlement.”

    We must be very careful not to be associated with the BDS movement, clearly the decisions are against that stance, as we as Liberals want trade. But i reckon much needs to be done on the detail of the point I raise here to make it have the right bite and not the wrong bark!

  • Brad Barrows 20th Sep '21 - 6:01pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    I’m really disappointed by the call for more trade with Israel. I don’t recall the Liberal Democrats calling for more trade with South Africa when we were trying to pressurise the country to get rid of Apartheid. We should absolutely be demanding a trade boycott of Israel until they are willing to reach a just settlement with the Palestinians.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Sep '21 - 8:18pm

    Again, I believe in the promised land. Israel is not a very large land mass. After the war it was a little piece of land to make their own. I don’t understand about the arguments as I don’t understand the conflict in other areas.
    In life I try to be fair, and fight for what is so unfair and inhuman. Like the cladding scandal and the Housing Associations on the ITV programme, the lack of safe accessible homes.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Sep '21 - 11:00pm


    I do not agree. South Africa was not , under the previous govts, a democracy ,and the black population were denied the vote. Israel is a very staunch democracy with active Arab parties and the Palestinian territory has a separate system not controlled by Israel.

    It is wrong to compare them. BDS is not the same as boycotts of South Africa, if it is to stop really sensible and liberal trade between democracies. If it is to make a protest about illegalities in the seriously awful settlements, then so be it, to not buy from there makes some degree of sense. But I believe, as I wrote here, earlier on, it needs to be properly formulated, and fully explained, in its implementation.

  • Brad Barrows 21st Sep '21 - 7:50am

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    Whether the country that is treating the Palestinians so unfairly is a democracy or not is surely not the issue. The international community needs to act to pressurise for change and, just as worked against Apartheid South Africa, a trade, cultural and sporting boycott may be the most effective means of forcing such change. Targeting the West Bank settlements is not enough – we need to target the country that is appropriating Palestinian land and building settlements…democracy or not.

  • Peter Hirst 21st Sep '21 - 1:49pm

    Calling to increase trade is a double edged sword. If we oppose taking climate change from our trade deal with Australia, surely we can impose come conditionality on trade in the Middle East. An arms embargo on the whole area is probably unworkable though would go some way to reducing tensions if accepted by major arms exporters.

  • The most hotly contested aspect of this conference motion was the amendment calling for a complete ban on all trade with the illegal settlers. Condoning such trade contravenes Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The call for a ban was carried by a large majority, despite a number of speeches opposing it.
    Anything that gives the UK a louder voice in Israel should be commended, and increasing trade links with Israel and Palestine fits with that, but the call to apply international law to the illegal settlers should be seen as a reminder from the Liberal Democrat Party that we care about human rights, and that we are not an uncritical friend of Israel; we will hold them to account where necessary, as any true friend would.

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