Shadow Foreign Secretary says Israel is not a model for its neighbours

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UK Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has told a leading Israeli newspaper that she supports boycotting goods from Israeli settlements and that Israel is not a model society for its neighbours.

Ms Thornberry is on a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. She met with Members of Knesset from the Zionist Union, peace activists and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, as well as Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, when asked about whether Israel is a role model Ms Thornberry acknowledged that Israel is the Middle East’s only open-minded Western democracy, but said the continued occupation of Palestine meant it is not a model for its neighbours.

This view contrasts with Joan Ryan MP, the head of Labour Friends of Israel, who said earlier this week during a Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee meeting in the Knesset: “For me, Israel is a beacon of democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East, a model to which its neighbours should aspire.”

Thornberry also said that the current Israeli government “has lost its way,” and that it’s time to end the “occupation” and the “misery” of the Palestinians. She said that, speaking as a friend of Israel “we’re very critical of the Israeli government. Jeremy [Corbyn, Labour leader] would be extremely critical of the Israeli government. But guess what? A lot of Israelis are pretty critical of the Israeli government, too”.

Arguing that Labour and the Conservatives have very similar views on the Middle East, Ms Thornberry, who is a member of both Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine, said that bilateral ties are likely to “remain strong” even if Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister.

Thornberry said that a Labour Government would grant unilateral recognition to “the state of Palestine” and explained that such a recognition would give “some new momentum” and can be part of state-building.

Thornberry said she was opposed to boycotts of Israel but said she would conduct a personal boycott of settlement goods: “The occupied territories should not be occupied. It is illegal in international law. Therefore, in my view, I would not, if I was given a choice, buy goods from settlements, because I think it’s wrong.

Thornberry is also scheduled to visit Kibbutz Nir Oz and Israel’s border with Gaza where she will receive a security briefing from the Israeli army.