Keir Starmer drops Corbyn-era policy on Palestinian statehood

Labour leader tells the JC any recognition would not be unilateral but come as part of a peace process


LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06: Shadow Secretary of State for Defence John Healey (L), Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs David Lammy (2L), Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer (3L), Shadow Cabinet Minister for International Development Lisa Nandy (3R), Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department Yvette Cooper (2R) and Deputy Leader, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Angela Rayner (R) arrive ahead of a meeting in the Cabinet Office, to discuss the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza, on November 06, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Sir Keir Starmer has said that a future Labour government would not recongise a state of Palestine preemptively or unilaterally – but rather it would make the move as part of the peace process involving a number of nations.

Starmer said there was “no risk” that the party would return to the policy it inherited under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, which was to recognise a Palestinian state on “day one” of a Labour government.

Speaking at JW3 on Sunday, Starmer told the JC that Labour was “committed to the two-state solution.” He said: “Recognition has to be part of a process, and an appropriate part of the process.”

Starmer said that the new position was the same one that Labour had held for years before Corbyn.

Starmer’s comments confirm recommendations made by the party’s policy forum in October 2023 and passed by Labour’s National Executive Committee. The policy stated that they would “work alongside international partners to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as part of efforts to contribute to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

On Sunday, Labour’s shadow Middle East minister, Wayne David, said that the move marked a departure from “T-shirt politics”.

The shadow minister added: “We will recognise the state of Palestine at a point which will help the peace process once negotiations between Israel and Palestine and the others are taking place.”

“It’s not about the Labour government going, ‘right we recognise Palestine’, big deal!” David said. He suggested that the party’s previous position would have “counted for very little apart from antagonising some people”.

He went on: “We want to see a state of Palestine being established but there is not a state of Palestine now.”

Labour government would, according to David, recognise the State of Palestine in “conjunction with other countries.” The recognition would “give reinforcement [to] a process”. This was a sharp departure from the party’s previous stance, in which Palestinian recognition would have happened irrespective of a peace process.

The shadow minister said a two-state solution could only come to “fruition in a way which is acceptable to the state of Israel. That is the way to bring about peace – a mutually agreed two-state solution.

“The objective is to achieve lasting peace. It will require negotiations of great detail over a long period of time. There are many complex issues to be sorted out.”

These issues would involve moving “away from everything Hamas stands for” and “would also require a different mindset from leading politicians in Israel.”

David said this would not be possible with Netanyahu in power: “He does not believe in a two-state solution. He believes in a greater Israel. There is no peace along that route.”

David hoped for “more moderate politicians who are prepared to engage in that process and eventually make the compromises that are necessary to sustain long term peace.”

Starmer and David’s comments come after Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy wrote in November that Labour would "strive to recognise Palestine as a sovereign state, as part of efforts to contribute to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

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