Left Foot Forward: Hilary Benn shows the way: the party must support the peacemakers in Israel and Palestine, by Lorin Bell-Cross

This week marks the 20 year anniversary of the Oslo II Agreement between Israeli and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

What was meant to be an interim agreement on the route towards a final status deal became the last major diplomatic breakthrough between the Israelis and the Palestinians. 20 years on, an end to the conflict remains elusive and the cycle of violence and occupation is ongoing.

Spoilers on both sides are now thriving; they share a maximalist and uncompromising narrative. On the Israeli side, there are those (including some in the current Israeli government) who wish to deny Palestinian statehood and Palestinian history at all costs – believing in their biblical or god-given right to the Land of Israel.

On the Palestinian side, incitement against Israelis and Jews thrives – Israel is compared to ISIS and Palestinian President Abbas recently spoke of Jews ‘defiling’ the Al-Aqsa Mosque ‘with their filthy feet’. A similar ideological maximalism portrays Israelis as settler-colonialists with no right or any legitimate claims – and thinks 1948 and the establishment of the State of Israel were historic mistakes that can and should be reversed.

In this difficult moment for the two-state solution, it is vital that the Labour Party keeps its head and continues to empower the moderates and the peacemakers on both sides. In his speech to conference, Hilary Benn did just that:

“It is now time for the Palestinian people to have their own state so that they and the people of Israel can live in peace.”

To mark the 20 year anniversary of Oslo II, the online journal Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region  – where I am assistant editor – has released Two States for Two Peoples – an eBook collecting 25 essays and interviews drawn from our pages.

To read the article in full, go to Left Foot Forward.

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