Matthew Offord attacks Young Labour position on Palestine at Balfour debate

Hendon Conservative MP Matthew Offord accused Young Labour delegates of “repeating  the historic mistake of the Arab leadership in 1947”


Hendon Conservative MP Matthew Offord has used a Balfour Centenary debate at Westminster to express concern over recent the decision by the Labour Party’s youth wing to reject a motion supporting a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

In his opening address during the Wednesday afternoon session Mr Offord accused Young Labour delegates of “inexplicably repeating  the historic mistake of the Arab leadership in 1947 of rejecting a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians” at their annual conference earlier this month.

He added: “I do hope this not become official Labour Party policy.”

The comments, during the Westminster Hall debate, sparked an immediate interjection from Ian Austin, Labour’s MP for Dudley North, who insisted his party had “supported a two state solution throughout its history.”

Addressing the historic failure of the Palestinian and Arab leaders to embrace any peace deal with Israel since 1948, Mr Offord  said there had been “encouraging” signs that relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours were improving.

He said: “With shared concerns over Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and destabilising influence Israel is now working closely with Egypt and Jordan as well as countries which don’t have diplomatic relations with the Jewish state including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.”

Mr Offord also said that since its inception Israel "has stood as bastion of freedom & democracy in region where liberties cannot be taken for granted".

Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South was twice challenged during a strongly pro-Palestinian speech.

Having recently met Holocaust survivors and Kindertransport veterans, she said “their moving and humbling stories were a timely reminder of the importance of the existence of the state of Israel.

“But their stories were also a timely reminder that we must always speak out against injustice and abuses of the rules of law and on behalf of refugees’ rights.”

When John Woodcock, Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, intervened to ask whether she were equating the plight of the Palestinians with the victims of the Holocaust, she responded, “Of course not”.

The Balfour Declaration, she later said, had “created the framework for Palestinian dispossession” and the establishment of a state “whose basic laws and subsequent policies have privileged the rights of Jewish inhabitants above those of Palestinians.”

Andrew Percy, Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, asked whether she was saying that Israeli Arabs were treated differently by Israeli law than Jews.

She said she was referring to the treatment of Palestinians in military courts in the West Bank.

Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Pembrokeshire, said Israel’s commitment to same values that we hold so dear in this country make it a close and vital ally."

He attacked as an “absurdity” the fact that in 2017 there are more than 30 members of the United Nations that refuse to recognise the Jewish state.

Labour’s Louise Ellman and Ivan Lewis both spoke out in support of Israel and forthcoming Balfour commemorations.

Earlier at PMQs Prime Minister Theresa May had told the House of Commons that the UK "is proud of the role Britain played in the creation of the State of Israel."

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