October 6, 2011
As the 2011 party conference season recedes into history, you might be interested to know more about the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) fringe meeting that took place at the Lib Dem Conference in September.
Jeremy Browne MP, Lib Dem Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, was among the speakers. Picking up an LDFI leaflet, Mr Browne said: "It says 'The Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel are strongly committed to a two-state solution, with Israel living in secure borders, free from the threat of terrorism alongside an independent Palestinian state'. That articulates where the Liberal Democrats stand, and where the UK Government stands.
"Understandably, Israel is often viewed through the prism of security. I want to move the debate on from that, to issues such as Israel’s prosperity. We must think how we can use Israel as a strong example of a democratic and civil country in the Middle East."
The visiting Israeli speaker was Dr Alon Liel, a former Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr Liel, a key figure behind the (non-governmental) Israeli Peace Initiative (IPI - http://israelipeaceinitiative.com/), warned of the consequences of what he called an ongoing "freeze" in the peace process. He said: "If we fail to create two states, we will end up with one state – a nightmare for Israelis, Zionists and Jews. With the help of the world community, the two sides must enter a room and moderate their positions."
Speaking for his government, Israeli Deputy Ambassador Alon Roth-Snir reiterated Israel's strong support for a negotiated two-state solution, explaining why Israel opposes a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence at the UN. He praised the Coalition Government for pulling the UK out of Durban III and for reforming the law on universal jurisdiction, thanking the Liberal Democrats for their role in both.
LDFI President Sir Alan Beith MP also addressed the meeting, praising Israel's vibrancy as a democracy. He praised the Lib Dems' key role in reforming the law on universal jurisdiction, which was taken through the House of Lords by Lib Dem ministers. Sarah Ludford (Lib Dem MEP for London and Vice-President of LDFI) chaired the meeting, which was opened by LDFI Chair Gavin Stollar.