Keir Starmer Continues To Rule Out Israel-Gaza Ceasefire Arguing It Would Enable Hamas
Labour leader Keir Starmer has continued to insist a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is not the "correct position now" arguing that doing so would benefit Hamas and impact efforts to push for a two-state solution in the Middle East.
The Labour leader made a speech at Chatham House after he faced mounting pressure from a significant number of his party's MPs and influential Labour mayors who have called for Starmer to join them in backing a ceasefire.
Senior Labour figures have called for a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict in Gaza, and insisted there can only be a “political solution” to the crisis.
While almost 50 Labour MPs have called for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, Starmer said that a ceasefire was not the correct position, and claimed it would allow Hamas to build up its artillery and forces again.
"While I understand calls for a ceasefire at this stage, I do not believe it is the correct position now for two reasons," he said.
"One, because a ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies, and as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7th.
"Attacks that are still ongoing, hostages who should be released, still held. Hamas would be emboldened and start preparing for future violence immediately.
"And it is this context which explains my second reason which is that our current calls for pauses in the fighting for clear and specific humanitarian purposes, and which must start immediately. is right in practice, as well as principal.
"In fact it is at this moment, the only credible approach that has any chance of achieving what we all want to see in Gaza."
Starmer added that he believed a long-term solution would not be solved by “bombs” and “bullets”, and insisted a political agreement "is the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all".
"[The attacks on 7 October were] the biggest slaughter of Jews – and that is why they were killed, do not doubt that – since the Holocaust," Starmer continued.
"Men, women, children, babies. Murdered, mutilated and tortured by the terrorists of Hamas. Make no mistake, this is terrorism on a scale and brutality that few countries have ever experienced.
"And that it is an immutable fact that must drive our response to these events. As must a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, which again, plays out on a previously unimaginable scale."
Starmer reiterated that Israel had a right to "self-defence" but added that this did not amount to a "blank cheque".
"Supply of basic utilities like water, medicines, electricity, and yes fuel to civilians in Gaza, cannot be blocked by Israel," he said.
"Every life matters. So every step must be taken to protect civilians from bombardment. Palestinians should not be forced to leave their homes en masse. But where they have no choice but to flee within Gaza, we need crystal clear guarantees that they will be able to return quickly."
He added that in conflicts "like this" the most painful blows are "those that land on the bruises of history."
He said for too long the international community had put the Israel and Palestine conflict in the "too difficult" box.
“There's no recent equivalent of anything like the concerted push for peace we saw in the 1990s and the early 2000s. No, what has happened is we have continually paid lip service to a two state solution,” he said.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe