What happened: Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy has called for the UK Government to be clear with Israel that any move to apply its sovereignty to the West Bank would result in a ban of Israeli settlement goods entering the UK.
- Nandy told the Observer: “The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East. It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness. Across the world concern is growing … so far the UK government has been conspicuously absent from this global response.”
- Nandy added: “This is now urgent. The government must be clear with the Israeli coalition government that concrete action will follow, including a ban on goods entering Britain from the illegal settlements in the West Bank. This is a major step, but such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences. It will take a level of courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show.”
- According to the Guardian, her sanctions proposal is backed by Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who is working to repair the image of the party, which was seen as antisemitic and anti-Israel under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
- Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl issued a statement urging the Labour Party “not to go down this route”. She said: “The tactic of BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] is divisive and seeks to strike at the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish State.”
- Last week, 240 UK political figures joined more than 1,000 European parliamentarians in signing a letter opposing annexation, saying “acquisition of territory by force … must have commensurate consequences” and calling on European leaders to “act decisively”.
Context: The UK Government is opposed to any Israeli move to apply its sovereignty to the West Bank, but has not yet announced what it would do were Israel to move ahead.
- In response to a question asked on 16 June in the House of Commons about possible sanctions on Israel over the proposed annexation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I believe that what is proposed by Israel would amount to a breach of international law. We have strongly objected. We believe profoundly in a two-state solution and we will continue to make that case.”
- Nandy’s proposal is a significant toughening of Labour’s policy on Israel, reflecting that in September 2019 the Labour Party conference voted overwhelmingly to boycott settlement goods and subject any future trade agreement with Israel to an ‘ethical policy’.
- The UK-Israel relationship has grown closer in recent years in all areas, but particularly bilateral trade, foreign policy and defence ties, education and scientific collaboration, and cultural links. In 2018, UK-Israel bilateral trade was worth $10.5bn, an increase of 72 per cent since 2012. Israeli cyber security experts play an important role maintaining London’s status as a safe and secure global financial centre.
- In February Nandy, who is the chair of the parliamentary group Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, tweeted that she opposes the Trump peace plan. She has also endorsed three pledges put forward by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, including a promise to oppose any middle-east peace plan not comprising Palestinians’ right “to self-determination and to return to their homes”.
- Nandy’s leadership bid was backed by the Jewish Labour Movement and she was praised for her performance at communal hustings in February in which she described herself as a Zionist and also criticised the party’s handling of antisemitism.
Looking ahead: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet to announce any West Bank move but according to the coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White, he can bring the issue to Cabinet or the Knesset as early as 1 July.
- Last week the Trump administration held talks on whether it should support Israel’s proposed annexation but no decision was made.
- On Friday, President Trump’s peace envoy Avi Berkowitz, mapping committee member Scott Leith and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman arrived in Israel. Berkowitz held talks with Netanyahu on Saturday night and is due to meet with Gantz today in a bid to build consensus in Israel on next steps in implementing the Trump peace plan.