Labour Has Consulted US Over Its Gaza Approach
Labour has consulted with US government figures over its approach to Gaza, and has been influenced by the US position, PoliticsHome understands.
At a regular meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night, Labour leader Keir Starmer told MPs he is in regular contact with Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Adviser. Senior Labour and US diplomatic figures are also understood to have discussed how to address the violence in Gaza.
Labour has faced continued criticism, including from many of its own MPs and supporters, for not calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict that escalated after Hamas killed 1,200 people in a terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October. Retaliatory strikes by Israel have since killed 23,210 in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian health ministry.
PoliticsHome understands the party's current stance of seeking a "humanitarian truce" with a view to work towards a "sustainable ceasefire" between Israel and Hamas has been specifically devised to mirror the US position following discussions with US figures. It is also believed that Labour sees this as a way of conveying the impression it is a government-in-waiting by factoring in the positions of key international players.
During a visit in South Carolina on Monday, US president Joe Biden said he had "been quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get [Israel's military presence] out of Gaza". US secretary of state Anthony Blinken has also been dispatched to Israel this week in an attempt to de-escalate the conflict and prevent it becoming a regional war.
Despite this, the US vetoed a resolution for a ceasefire at the UN in December – with US deputy ambassador Robert Wood stating the country did not support an "immediate ceasefire" because "Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace" or "two state solution".
Israel has vowed to "destroy" Hamas, but it is Palestinian civilians bearing the biggest toll of the war – with 85 per cent of 2.2m Gazans displaced and much of its core infrastructure – including hospitals – destroyed. Humanitarian organisations are increasingly warning that an outbreak of disease in Gaza could prove more deadly than the war itself as medical systems collapse in the strip and food runs out.
In parliament on Tuesday, foreign secretary David Lammy reiterated Labour's calls for a "humanitarian truce" that could lead towards a "sustainable ceasefire".
"There has been no let-up to the intolerable suffering in Gaza and no end to the cruelty for hostages," Lammy said.
"Millions are displaced, desperate and hungry. Israel continues to use devastating tactics that have seen far too many innocent civilians killed, with unacceptable blocks on essential aid, nowhere safe for civilians, a growing humanitarian catastrophe, and now warnings of a deadly famine.
"Meanwhile, Hamas terrorists continue to hold hostages, hide among civilians and fire rockets into Israel. This dire situation must not continue."
The shadow foreign secretary also said the government must "do everything they can to work for a sustained ceasefire, which will also ease the growing regional tensions across the divides and avoid the catastrophe of a wider war".
One former shadow minister who believes Labour should support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza said they were unhappy with their party's approach, and expressed concern over how much the US position appeared to be influencing Labour's foreign policy approach.
"We don't have an independent foreign policy, a Labour policy," they told PoliticsHome.
"We have outsourced it to the US administration: that's not helpful. I don't like it."
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