Keir Starmer urged to snub Israeli ambassador over ‘Islamophobic’ rejection of two-state solution | Politics News
Sir Keir Starmer is under pressure to cut ties with Israel’s ambassador to the UK after she said her country would not accept a two-state solution when the war in Gaza ends, Sky News can reveal.
The Labour Muslim Network, a campaign group representing Muslims in the party, has written to Sir Keir urging him to ensure there are “no further engagements” with Tzipi Hotovely and that no platforms are shared with her in light of her “extremist” remarks to Sky News last week.
In the interview, Ms Hotovely was asked whether Palestinians should have their own state as part of a peace settlement with Israel – to which she replied: “Absolutely, no”.
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In the letter, seen by Sky News, the group argued associating with Ms Hotovely or other individuals who shared her views would be “Islamophobic” and bring the party into disrepute by potentially breaching its code of conduct.
The Labour leader and other shadow ministers have met Ms Hotovely on a number of occasions in the past.
Ms Hotovely, who previously served as deputy foreign minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, claimed the Palestinian people “never wanted to have a state next to Israel” but a state “from the river to the sea” – a reference to the destruction of Israel.
The two-state solution, in which an independent state of Palestine would sit alongside the state of Israel, is widely accepted in the international community as the only viable answer to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, which intensified after Hamas’ deadly attack on 7 October.
Israel’s alliance with the US came under further strain on Saturday when Prime Minister Netanyahu echoed Ms Hotovely’s comments at a news conference, in which he said he was “proud to have prevented a Palestinian state”.
Rishi Sunak immediately rejected Ms Hotovely’s remarks, saying the UK government did not “agree” and that its “long-standing position remained that a two-state solution was the right outcome”.
While the Labour leader is yet to respond to Ms Hotovely’s comments, in a recent speech at Chatham House he described the Palestinian claim to statehood as an “inalienable right” of its people that was “not in the gift of a neighbour”.
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In the letter to Sir Keir, The Labour Muslim Network said denying the right of Palestine to exist as an independent state is “not only an extremist position, but also completely contrary to international consensus”.
It said there had been a “worrying trend of senior Israeli officials and members of the government Ms Hotovely represents making statements that are genocidal in nature towards the Palestinian people”.
“Associating with such individuals or endorsing their views in any way is not only Islamophobic and morally reprehensible but also poses a significant risk to the Labour Party’s integrity and our commitment to human rights and international law,” the letter read.
“We are therefore writing to you as leader of the Labour Party with the expectation that no further engagements be made or platforms shared by Labour Party representatives with the current Israeli ambassador, Tzipi Hotovely.
“Any Labour representatives that shares engagements and/or platforms with Ms Hotovely would not only be legitimising her extreme positions, but could also be violating our Islamophobia code of conduct.”
Speaking to Sky News, one Labour MP agreed that no shadow minister should appear next to Ms Hotovely – arguing such a move would be “mind-boggingly offensive” and “dangerous in the precedent it would set”.
“It shouldn’t be too difficult for our party’s leadership to work out the dark and disturbing implications Tzipi Hotovely’s recent comments as regards her rejection of a two-state solution,” they said.
“Given she presumably wouldn’t entertain a one-state solution, what effectively remains is the ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. No other outcome is viable.
“As such, and until she clarifies or withdraws her remarks, no one from our front bench should be appearing next to her – let alone sharing a platform.”
Paul Bristow, the Conservative MP who was sacked from his government post in October after calling for a ceasefire, also told Sky News: “What’s clear is that of course we must be able to have a full and frank discussion with Israel – and we need a two-state solution – but nothing good will come out of not speaking to anyone.
“We need to speak to Israel with an honest voice.”
His views were echoed by Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who told the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge he believed Ms Hotovely’s position was “appalling” – but that “we’ve got to engage with people”.
“I wouldn’t cut ties or stop talking to the ambassador,” he said. “It’s important we talk more, actually – but I absolutely condemn the one-state solution approach.”
The letter to Sir Keir comes just weeks after eight shadow ministers resigned or were sacked from their positions on the frontbench over the party’s decision not to back a vote in parliament calling for a ceasefire in Gaza – a move the Labour leadership fears would only “embolden” Hamas and allow it to carry out further attacks against Israel.
A Labour Party spokesperson told Sky News: “A political solution, with hard and continuing diplomacy, is the only way to achieve an end to this conflict.
“We must address the urgent and catastrophic situation in Gaza. That means working with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other governments in the region to deliver a new cessation of hostilities to protect civilians, unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza, the release of all the remaining hostages.
“Diplomacy requires engagement even – and sometimes especially – with those we disagree with. The whole international community must reaffirm its support for a two-state solution as the only route to long term peace.”
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