Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy made an unpublicised three-day visit to Israel last week, which included paying his respects at Yad Vashem and lengthy meetings with Merav Michaeli, the leader of Israel’s Labour Party, and Yair Golan, the deputy business and industry minister who is running to lead Labour’s left-wing rival, Meretz.
Mr Lammy also held talks with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah, the capital of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Mr Lammy’s spokesman said a major reason for the trip was to see and appreciate the complexities of the Israeli – Palestine conflict on the ground.
The visit, which was organised by Labour Friends of Israel, was part of a wider Middle East tour, in which Mr Lammy also spent time in Jordan. During his trip he dined at the British embassy in Tel Aviv, although it is understood that ambassador, Neil Wigan, was away on holiday.
Diane Corner, the UK’s Consul-General in East Jerusalem, introduced him to Mr Shtayyeh and Palestinian civil society organisations in both Jerusalem and the West Bank.
A spokesman for Ms Michaeli said his talks with the Israeli Labour leader followed a meeting Mr Lammy held in London in May with a delegation led by the party’s chief executive, Nir Rozen, and was part of a continuing effort to rebuild what was once a close fraternal relationship that was all but destroyed during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure at the helm of UK Labour.
“Merav and David talked intensely about strengthening party to party ties now that the Corbyn era is over,” the Israeli Labour spokesman told the JC. “They discussed the way UK Labour is changing and our campaign for the Israeli general election due to be held in November.
“Like UK Labour, we too are enjoying a sense of renewal and optimism. David and Merav also discussed how vital it is that Labour again becomes a major force in Israeli politics.”
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli attending a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 27, 2022 (Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Under Ms Michaeli, Israeli Labour has begun to rebuild its fortunes. Before she became leader last year, the party was scoring just 0.3% in national opinion polls, but went on to win seven Knesset seats in the March 2021 election. “We believe the chances of improving on this performance this year are strong,” the spokesman added.
Meretz, in contrast, appears to be divided, with a bitter leadership contest now taking place between Mr Golan and Zahava Galon, who previously led the party for six years 2012 -12.
Mr Lammy told the JC: “It was great to have the chance to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories after visiting Jordan last week.
David Lammy paid his respects at Yad Vashem during his secret trip (Getty Images)
“Labour is committed to rebuilding relations with our sister parties in Israel. In government we would seek a positive and constructive relationship, rooted in our commitment to supporting the goal of a negotiated, diplomatic settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on two states: a safe and secure Israel, alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”
Michael Rubin, LFI’s Director, told the JC: “David Lammy’s first visit to Israel as Shadow Foreign Secretary is an important moment in the restoration of Labour’s deep and historic ties of friendship with the Jewish state. David participated in a moving memorial service at Yad Vashem, including laying a wreath in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
"During the visit we also met with Merav Michaeli, leader of the Israeli Labor party, to reaffirm the crucial sister party relationship, as well as receiving a briefing on the wider regional security situation, and giving our support to those campaigning for peace and a two-state solution.”