United Nations and Israel

I appreciate the points that have been raised by the Israel-Britain Alliance and others about the disproportionate focus on Israel by some UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council and UNESCO. While I understand these concerns, I believe it is important to remain a part of these organisations so that we can advocate for reform from within, particularly given the importance of their work. I therefore regret the recent decisions taken by the Israeli and US governments to withdraw from UNESCO.

As a longstanding friend of Israel, and having spent time there in my youth, I welcome the fact that we have a relationship in many areas, from trade and investment, to technology, innovation and security. However, as a friend, I believe we also have a responsibility to promote human rights and adherence to international law. Labour is committed to putting human rights at the heart of its foreign policy.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that the Prime Minister must make clear to the Israeli Prime Minister that the British government will stand unequivocally behind the rights of the Palestinian people, along with the many who support them in Israel, as well as human rights and justice across the region. The Shadow Foreign Secretary has stated that a two-state solution is still both achievable and necessary and that in Israel and Palestine there are enough progressive people on all sides to shift the debate away from extreme and entrenched positions towards a lasting peace. The Labour leadership recognises that it is essential that the UK continues to support dialogue and keep the two-state solution alive and we should be backing fully all initiatives to achieve this. The Palestinian Authority should act decisively and take all steps within its capacity to cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat terrorism. Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion and designating land for exclusive Israeli use.

I continue to believe that a two-state solution, recognising the importance of security and stability and guaranteeing a viable and secure future for both Israelis and Palestinians, must remain the goal of the international community. This will require all sides to avoid taking action that makes peace harder to achieve, and that means both an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements, and an end to rocket and terror attacks. This is why the UK supported UN Security Council resolution 2334 last year, emphasising both of these points. I will continue to urge the Government to press for an immediate return to meaningful negotiations and to fully back all initiatives focused on a diplomatic resolution.

I know from the many letters and e-mails I receive that there are strong views on this matter, and I can assure you that I will bear in mind the points you raise.