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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

THE LABOUR FRIENDS OF ISRAEL

Chair
Andrew Gwynne MP

Vice Chairs
Andrew Dismore MP
Louise Ellman MP
Glenis Willmott MEP

Policy Council
Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
Rt Hon Stephen Byers MP (Chair)
Rt Hon Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland
Rt Hon Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
Rt Hon Adam Ingram MP
Rt Hon Jane Kennedy MP
Rt Hon Ian McCartney MP
Rt Hon Dr Denis MacShane MP
Rt Hon Alun Michael MP
Rt Hon Don Touhig MP

Parliamentary Executive
Rosie Cooper MP
Fabian Hamilton MP
Joan Humble MP
Eric Joyce MP
Dr Stephen Ladyman MP
Andrew Miller MP
Meg Munn MP
Nick Palmer MP
Dari Taylor MP
Chair (House of Lords)
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale
Peers
Rt Hon Lord Archer of Sandwell QC
Lord Clarke of Hampstead CBE
Rt Hon Lord Clinton-Davis
Lord Davies of Coity CBE
Rt Hon Lord Glenamara
Lord Harrison
Lord Haskel
Lord Janner of Braunstone QC
Rt Hon Lord Macdonald of Tradeston CBE
Lord Mitchell
Lord Stone of Blackheath
Lord Turnberg
Professor Lord Winston
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC

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About LFI
Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) was founded in October 1957 at a public rally during the annual Labour Party Conference. Anthony Greenwood MP was appointed its first Chair. For over 50 years LFI has remained one of the most active groups in the Labour Party, drawing wide support from ministers, MPs, MEPs, peers, members of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, advisers and activists.

Ensuring a balanced and constructive debate on the Middle East in the British political arena is our principal aim. LFI briefings, publications, seminars and delegations to the region provide understanding of the intricacies, nuances and personalities behind one of the most important issues in international politics. LFI aims to strengthen relations between the Labour Party and our sister Israeli Labor Party.

LFI is wholly and actively committed to a two-state solution which means Israel living in peace with her neighbours and the establishment of a viable and democratic Palestinian state. LFI works with both Israelis and Palestinian moderates led by President Abbas in the West Bank, to take forward the Middle East peace process. LFI delegations to the region include high level meetings with Israeli and Palestinian ministers, members of the Israeli Labor Party, academics and opinion formers.

There have been significant developments in the region during the last few years, which those advocating a peaceful resolution to the conflict have had to respond to. While the controversial security barrier nears completion, Israel has disengaged from the Gaza Strip. In 2006, Israel fought a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon and in 2009 carried out a devastating military operation in the Gaza Strip in response to eight years of Hamas mortar, rocket and missile attacks against its southern communities.

The Annapolis peace conference launched in November 2007 was the first peace process between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority since 2001. In 2008, Turkey mediated a series of indirect talks between Israel and Syria. Negotiations on both these peace tracks have, however, stalled. The new Likud-led coalition, including the Labor party, will have to deal with the immediate challenges of re-launching the peace process as well as exploring the opportunities presented by the Arab Peace Initiative.

With Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian internal situation is equally challenging. Egyptian efforts towards reconciling Fatah and Hamas will be an important factor in determining whether or not we see the establishment of an interim, non factional Palestinian government committed to making peace with Israel. At the same time, the international community will need to ensure that any future Palestinian government accepts the Quartet principles which bar Hamas from the negotiating table until it recognises the State of Israel, renounces violence and respects existing peace agreements. This must be achieved whilst confronting those governments that provide support to Hamas and Hezbollah, including Syria and Iran; as well as curbing the threat posed by IranÕs nuclear programme.

In responding to these challenges, LFI looks forward to working with all those in the UK, the EU and the international community who share a similar vision for peace in the Middle East.

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LFI seeks to promote a strong bilateral relationship between Britain and Israel. We work with the Government, Parliamentarians, advisers, and activists throughout the Labour movement. LFI also strengthens the bond between the British and Israeli Labour parties, organising meetings in both countries between senior figures, officials and the grassroots.

We are fundamentally sympathetic to Israel’s position as a liberal democracy facing constant security dilemmas and existential threats. But we are not uncritical. Positive engagement with all sections of the Israeli political spectrum is important, as is an effective working relationship with Palestinian representatives. We are friends of both an Israel, secure and at peace with her neighbours, and of a viable and democratic Palestine.
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*** Key Issues is available to download online at www.lfi.org.uk/key_issues***
Welcome to the final edition of LFI’s Key Issues ahead of the general election. Our
weekly update on the Middle East peace process, regional developments, domestic
Israeli and Palestinian affairs and the UK’s relationship with Israel will resume after
the election.
Key Issues
update: 15 March 2010
Key Issues
MEPP: Israeli approval of East Jerusalem construction project during US vice
presidential visit stalls indirect peace talks and aggravates Israel-US relations
MEPP: Riots erupt in Jerusalem’s Old City for third weekend in a row; Israeli defence
minister prohibits passage between West Bank and Jerusalem
Relationship between the EU and Israel: European Parliament votes in favour of the
Goldstone Report; Ahead of Middle East visit, the EU’s High Representative for
Foreign Affairs suggests that improved EU-Israel relations are dependent upon peace
talks
Iran: Saudi Arabia and UAE to help press China to support tough sanctions on Iran’s
illegal nuclear programme
Gaza: British journalist Paul Martin deported from Gaza after 26 days imprisonment
for being “an agent for Israel”
Gaza: Israeli report containing newly declassified Israeli Defense Force evidence shows
Hamas committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip
MEPP: Israeli approval of East Jerusalem construction project during US vice
presidential visit stalls indirect peace talks and aggravates Israel-US relations
Proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, due to begin last week, stalled on
Wednesday (10 March) when US Vice President Joe Biden, in the region to support the peace
process, publicly criticised Israel for approving the construction of 1,600 new apartments ne
East Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood. Giving a media statement in Ramallah,
alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Biden asserted that “it is incumbent on
both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them”,
adding that “the decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing
units in East Jerusalem undermines that very trust”. Foreign Secretary David Miliband also
criticised Israel, saying that “this is quite the wrong decision at the wrong time”. US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on
Friday (12 March) and, according to US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley,
emphasised that “this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in
America’s interests”. Speaking at Sunday’s (14 March) cabinet meeting, Prime Minister
Netanyahu apologised for the incident saying that it “should not have occurred” and
described it as “regrettable” and “hurtful”. He also stated that the government has appointed a
team of senior civil servants to ensure procedures are in place to prevent such incidents in the
future. East Jerusalem is not covered by Israel’s partial West Bank settlement construction
freeze, in place since November 2009.
Despite the Israeli prime minister’s apology, senior advisor to US President Barack Obama,
David Axelrod, told the US ABC network on Sunday (14 March) that the announcement was
an “affront”, an “insult” and “seemed calculated to undermine” the proximity talks. Israel’s
Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday (15 March) that Clinton has demanded four
confidence building measures from Israel: that the Ramat Shlomo construction plans be
abandoned; that a full investigation takes place into why the plans were announced during the
US vice president’s visit; that Israel makes a substantial gesture towards the Palestinians,
such as a large prisoner release or additional West Bank areas being transferred to full
Palestinian control; and that Israel makes an official declaration that all future peace talks will
cover the conflict’s core issues - borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security arrangements, water
and settlements.
MEPP: Riots erupt in Jerusalem’s Old City for third weekend in a row; Israeli defence
minister prohibits passage between West Bank and Jerusalem
Following increased Israeli-Palestinian tensions over East Jerusalem construction and the
previous week’s clashes at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli Defense
Minister Ehud Barak announced on Thursday (11 March) that passage between Israel and the
West Bank would be prohibited to all but designated personnel until Saturday (13 March).
This closure period was extended on Saturday until Tuesday (16 March) after violence
erupted in Jerusalem’s Old City over the weekend. Palestinian youths hurled stones at Israeli
security forces on Friday (12 March) near the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
and attempted to breach the Ras el-Amoud checkpoint to gain entry to the area. Also on
Friday (12 March), hundreds of Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli Border Police near the
West Bank city of Ramallah. Hamas attempted to heighten tensions further by holding a rally
in the Gaza Strip, inciting the crowd to burn US and Israeli flags and chant “we will redeem
al-Aqsa mosque with our souls and our blood”. On Sunday (14 March) Israeli border guards
and police used tear gas to disperse Palestinian demonstrators throwing stones in East
Jerusalem’s Bab Hatta and Ras Al-Amoud neighbourhoods. Fatah leaders in the West Bank
called on East Jerusalem residents to strike at midday on Monday (15 March). Speaking with
visiting Brazilian President Lula da Silva on Monday (15 March), Israeli President Shimon
Peres appealed for calm and asserted that:
“Israel will respect every holy site and place of worship. What is holy to the Muslims will be holy to us;
what is holy to Christians will be holy to us. And of course, vice versa.” (15/03/10)
Relationship between the EU and Israel: European Parliament votes in favour of the
Goldstone Report; Ahead of Middle East visit, the EU’s High Representative for
Foreign Affairs suggests that improved EU-Israel relations are dependent upon peace
talks
The European Parliament passed a resolution on Wednesday (10 March) urging the EU’s 27
member states to “demand the implementation of the Goldstone Report’s recommendations
and accountability for all violations of international law”. The measure, passed by 335 to 287
votes, called for Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security
Policy of the European Union, to actively monitor Israel’s and the Palestinian Authority’s
investigations into allegations that war crimes were committed in Gaza last winter. In
response to the vote, Yoel Mester, spokesman for the Israeli Mission to the European Union,
said:
“While other players are striving to support the peace process and to start the proximity talks between
Israel and Palestinians, it is regrettable that the European Parliament chooses to concentrate on a highly
controversial issue.” (24/02/10)
In addition, Catherine Ashton, who began a tour of the Middle East on Sunday (14 March),
hinted that the EU will only be willing to strengthen relations with Israel if substantive peace
process talks are resumed. Asserting that a negotiated settlement “needs to happen quickly
and now” Ashton said that, if this was to happen, Israel would “be able to enhance the
relationships it wants with us”. Ashton, who flew to Egypt on Sunday (14 March), is due in
Israel on Wednesday and the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, on Thursday after
stopovers in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Iran: Saudi Arabia and UAE to help press China to support tough sanctions on Iran’s
illegal nuclear programme
The United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Ben Zayed Al Nahayan
announced on Saturday (13 March) that the UAE will respect any sanctions imposed by the
United Nations against Iran’s illegal nuclear programme. He made the statement speaking
alongside Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou. However, he also stated that he hoped
the international community will solve the crisis “through diplomatic means... before
reaching this phase” of imposing fresh sanctions on Tehran. His remarks come days after a
visit to Abu Dhabi by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who said on Thursday (11 March)
that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had signalled a willingness to press China to support tough
new sanctions on Iran. Western governments, particularly the US, UK and France, are
seeking further sanctions on Tehran to encourage it to cease enriching uranium. Of the five
permanent Security Council members, only China opposes new measures against Iran.
Gaza: British journalist Paul Martin deported from Gaza after 26 days imprisonment
for being “an agent for Israel”
British journalist Paul Martin was deported by Hamas from the Gaza Strip on Thursday (11
March) after 26 days imprisonment. Hamas did not file any charges against Martin but senior
Hamas leader Mahmud al-Zahar said he was being deported because, by accusing the
Palestinian people of Gaza of smuggling weapons into the territory, he was “guilty of being
an agent for Israel”. Martin denied the accusation and said his release was a “great victory for
the rights of journalists”, adding that “I was never accused of any crime although I was
interrogated for something which was blatantly impossible for me to have done”. Martin had
travelled to Gaza to give evidence in the defence of a Palestinian man he had interviewed,
who had also been accused of spying for Israel. The journalist was handed over to a
delegation from the British consulate by his captors and driven in a diplomatic vehicle to the
Erez crossing with Israel.
Gaza: Israeli report containing newly declassified Israeli Defense Force evidence shows
Hamas committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip
A new report by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center into Operation Cast
Lead asserts that Hamas gunmen used Palestinian children as human shields and established
command centres and rocket launching sites in over 100 mosques and hospitals in Gaza
during last winter’s conflict. The report is based on evidence shared with it by the Israeli
Defense Force, including hundreds of photographs, videos and prisoner interviews. One
example of the material revealed in the report is an-until-now classified Hamas sketch of the
village of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, which details an extensive deployment of improvised
explosive devices and snipers inside and adjacent to civilian homes. In addition, according to
a previously undisclosed interview of a Hamas operative, one Hamas cell transported rockets
on the back of a wagon in which children were also sitting. In other cases, Hamas fighters
disguised themselves as women carrying babies to ensure that they would not be targeted by
Israeli troops. One declassified Israel Air Force video from 6 January 2009 shows a terrorist
shooting at troops from the roof of a building. After spotting an Israeli aircraft, the terrorist
goes to the building’s entrance and calls to nearby civilians to help him escape. A few
moments later, a group of children arrive at the entrance to the home and the terrorist walks
out.

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News & Events
Here you will find reports and information on recent LFI events.


Speech by David Miliband at the LFI Annual Lunch- 4 November 2008



Speech by Gordon Brown during LFI Annual Reception at Labour Party Conference- 22 September 2008



Andrew Gwynne MP interviews Isaac Herzog MK



Speech by Gordon Brown to the LFI Annual Reception - 25 September 2007



SPEECH BY GORDON BROWN MP - Chancellor of the Exchequer at Labour Friends of Israel’s annual lunch held in London on Tuesday 17th April 2007



Speech by PM Tony Blair to LFI Annual Reception - 26 September, 2006



Briefing with Ambassador Dennis Ross - 1 June, 2006



LFI Delegation: 26 February - 3 March, 2006

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