Andy Burnham MP- now standing for Leader of the Labour Party – responded to PSC’s survey of candidates in the run up to the General Election, May 2015.
These are the questions the candidates were asked to respond to:
- I urge the UK Government to uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel. Yes/no
- I consider the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal and unjustifiable.Yes/no
- Do you agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine?
- Do you agree that the blockade on Gaza should be lifted immediately?
- Do you agree that we should stop trade with Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain?
- Do you agree that the EU Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations?
- Do you agree that the government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law?
Here is Andy’s response:
I share your concern at the lack of progress on the Middle East Peace Process and the issue of Palestinian human rights.
I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours. After decades of diplomatic failure, there are those on all sides that today question whether a two-state solution is any longer possible.
Despite John Kerry’s exhaustive efforts in 2013, the latest round of negotiations collapsed in April last year. And the appalling loss of life that occurred in Gaza last summer – with 2,131 Palestinians killed, the vast majority of them civilians, and seven Israeli civilians killed by rocket attacks from Gaza, makes the task of achieving a lasting and just peace all the more urgent.
Labour is clear that only a negotiated peace deal will bring the justice and security both sides deserve. That is why the international community must now take concrete steps to strengthen moderate Palestinian opinion. We are clear that Palestinian recognition at the UN would be such a step.
Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised and that is why, in both 2011 and in 2012 we urged the UK Government to support the Palestinian’s bid for recognition at the UN. Not as a means of bypassing the need for talks, but as a bridge for restarting them. Today, the immediate priority for the international community must be to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of Palestinians who are in desperate need and to help the rebuilding of basic infrastructure in Gaza.
All sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve, that means an end to occupation and illegal settlement building by the Israelis, and an end to the rocket and terror attacks by the terrorist group Hamas. Labour recognises that the settlements and their continued expansion remain key obstacles to resolving the conflict, as Ed Miliband has said, they are both illegal and immoral. We are clear, however, that the threat of boycotts of Israel is the wrong response. Labour has taken and will maintain domestic action to introduce labelling transparency, and will seek a Europe-wide approach to settlement products.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.