Labour-Is­rael bondis‘strong an­druns­deep’


LABOUR’S SHADOW For­eign Sec­re­tary has urged the party to com­bat dele­git­imi­sa­tion of Is­rael, but avoided spell­ing out op­po­si­tion to boy­cotts of the coun­try.

Hi­laryBen­ntold­sup­port­er­sof Labour Friends of Is­rael that the bonds be­tween his party and the coun­try were “strong and run deep”.

A num­ber of se­nior party mem­bers spoke at the West­min­ster lunch on Tues­day, but none men­tioned the name of Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn, who did not at­tend.

Mr Benn did not re­fer to Mr Cor­byn’s anti-Is­rael ac­tivism, but told the au­di­ence that the party was com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing the coun­try.

“Our fu­ture re­la­tions must be built on co-op­er­a­tion and en­gage­ment, not iso­la­tion of Is­rael. We must take on those who seek to dele­git­imise the state of Is­rael,” he said.

The coun­try had be­come, Mr Benn said, “an eco­nomic gi­ant, a high-tech cen­tre, sec­ond only to the United States. A land of in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship, ven­ture cap­i­tal and grad­u­ates, pri­vate and pub­lic en­ter­prise.”

It was es­sen­tial to work to­wards a peace process for Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, and a two-state so­lu­tion. “There should be an ur­gency about the search for peace rather than the shrug­ging of a shoul­der,” Mr Benn said.

The “spirit and lead­er­ship” of Yitzhak Rabin were needed “now more than ever”, he added.

Mr Benn said he un­der­stood some Is­rael supporters had “grave reser­va­tions” about the nu­clear deal with Iran, but it was, he said, “the right thing to do. We must, of course, hold Iran to the un­der­tak­ings it has made.”

LFI chair Joan Ryan MP opened the lunch, which was at­tended by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and communal lead­ers. Shadow cab­i­net mem­bers Andy Burn­ham, Lu­ciana Berger, and Michael Dugher were among the au­di­ence, as were for­mer front-benchers Yvette Cooper, Tessa Jow­ell, and Jim Mur­phy.

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