The parliamentary chair of Labour Friends of Israel has declared that the Jewish state can once again rely on the Labour Party.
Speaking to Israeli media on a week-long trip to Israel, Steve McCabe MP said that Labour has returned to be being “a very good friend and supporter of the State of Israel” and that bilateral relations for a Sir Keir Starmer government will be “a very high priority”.
However, McCabe also had sharp criticism for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms, saying they “sound like a power grab”, and criticised hard-right minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
McCabe has spent this week in the Jewish state as part of Labour Friends of Israel’s largest delegation in over a decade. Alongside frontbencher Alex Davies-Jones MP, Jewish MP Margaret Hodge, Catherine McKinnell MP, Taiwo Owatemi MP, Christian Wakeford MP and James Frith, former MP for Bury North, he met with Israeli president Issac Herzog, leader of their sister party Merav Michaeli, along with National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.
LFI parliamentary chair Steve McCabe MP giving Israeli president Herzog a copy of Harold Wilson's book - with a personal message from Sir Keir Starmer inside (Photo via LFI)
The group also visited Yad Vashem among other important cultural sites, and they also met with Palestinian Authority representatives and visited the Gaza border region.
Speaking to the Times of Israel in Jerusalem, McCabe declared that Labour has “returned to its traditional position” of supporting Israel: “A Keir Starmer-led Labour government will put that as a very high priority, and the people of Israel will be able to rely on it.”
Despite the warm words, McCabe also sharply criticised members of the current governing coalition, telling TOI: “It’s hard to see how some figures in this government should be in any government, or that someone like [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben Gvir should be in charge of policing, given his own past. He strikes me as the sort of person I don’t particularly want to have any great association with.”
He also intervened in the ongoing row over Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms that have triggered protests in Israel, the UK, and around the world: “It does sound like a grab for power and a diminution of the natural checks and balances that are part of sustaining a democratic society. I would say I have a degree of anxiety about that.”
He added that it does not seem that the government is prioritising peace with the Palestinians, but laid most of the blame at the door of the Palestinian leadership: “Until there is some absolutely fundamental gesture from the Palestinian Authority about guaranteeing Israel’s security, it’s hard to see exactly how you make big steps forward.”
The week-long visit to Israel is part of Labour’s efforts to show Jewish voters that they can trust the party once again, and five of the six delegates are visiting for the first time.
McCabe had sharp criticism for Starmer’s predecessor, saying: “Ordinary voters in the UK, people who were not Jewish, were just as appalled as what Corbyn had done.
“I became the chair of Labour Friends of Israel after the 2019 election, largely because I was horrified by the damage that Corbyn had done to the Labour Party and the way he’d allowed antisemitism to flourish.”