‘Stand-out’ conference for Lib Dems as Vince Cable calls for two-state solution

In a Rosh Hashanah message, the party leader said he wanted to thank “the entire Jewish community for all your ongoing and invaluable contributions to this country”.


The Liberal Democrats have said “the time is now right” for Britain to recognise a Palestinian state, while celebrating the role liberals played in the Balfour Declaration a century ago.

The party’s annual conference in Bournemouth featured a series of events looking at the party’s relationship with the Middle East.

In his first major interaction with the Jewish community since becoming leader in the summer, Sir Vince Cable said he was committed to pushing for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a Rosh Hashanah message, Sir Vince added that he wanted to thank “the entire Jewish community for all your ongoing and invaluable contributions to this country”.

The JC revealed last week that Sir Vince had approached Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, at a recent reception to assure the envoy he was a friend of his country.

The veteran MP’s position on Israel was uncertain following his efforts as Business Secretary to impose an arms embargo on the country in 2014.

On Sunday evening, more than 100 people attended the Lib Dem Friends of Israel’s fringe meeting.

A panel of speakers included Jamie Stone, the party’s new MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross; Sharon Bar-Li, Israel’s deputy ambassador to Britain; Baroness Ludford, LDFoI vice-president, and Gavin Stollar, the group’s chair.

They discussed the role the Liberal Party played in the Balford Declaration a century ago. 

Mr Stollar said: “Lest we forget that committed Zionist and Prime Minister of the time, David Lloyd-George, and Sir Herbert Samuel, Home Secretary, both Liberals, presided over the drafting and authorisation of the Declaration. 

“The Liberal Democrats celebrated the centenary at our fringe and throughout the conference.”

Mr Stollar said LDFoI’s stand at the conference exhibition was “inundated” with support from “positive visitors”.

“This has been a stand out conference for friends of Israel,” he concluded.

Earlier on Sunday, conference delegates overwhelmingly passed a motion on Israel and the Palestinians. It predicted Britain would lose influence in the Middle East after leaving the European Union.

The motion said a Palestinian state “should be recognised and that the time is now right for the British government to do this”. The Lib Dems also called for countries in

the region which had not yet recognised Israel to now do so.

It reaffirmed the party’s support for a two-state solution “in which Israel and Palestine both exist with secure boundaries recognised in international law with normal relations (including diplomatic, security and trade relations) between them and with their neighbours”.

The Lib Dems backed land swaps as part of a negotiated peace settlement.

Lord Palmer, who advises Sir Vince on Middle East issues, said: “The motion strikes a positive note. Peace will only be possible when both sides sit around a negotiating table. I still believe that is possible.”

Russell Langer, public affairs manager at the Jewish Leadership Council, attended the conference and told the JC: “We welcome the Lib Dems’ decision to reaffirm the commitment to the two-state solution and its condemnation of violence. We continue to believe that a state of Palestine should only be recognised as part of a final status negotiated agreement.”

Lib Dem Friends of Palestine hosted a fringe meeting featuring Ilan Pappe, the anti-Zionist historian, and Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

The Friends of Palestine group said the motion was “much weaker than we would have liked” but added its hope “that it will open the way to proper debate and further motions”.

Sir Vince Cable's Rosh Hashanah message in full:

"Shalom and Shana Tova to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah. For millions, the High Holidays offer the chance for contemplation, prayer and renewal; to reflect on our actions, character and responsibilities to one another.  

"This year is particularly significant as it marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, an important moment in history that marked support for the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine.

"As we look back over the historical, legal and political significance of the declaration, we should remember those brought it into being - including the great former Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

"There is no doubt that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex issue, with no easy solution. However, as leader of the Liberal Democrats, I am committed to seeing a negotiated peace settlement with a two-state solution, and I will continue to champion the values of human rights and the rule of law for everyone on both sides of the conflict. 

"Our most important task is finding a way for all of us to work together so that we can bring a lasting end to the brutal violence and persecution, so many have had to endure. 

"I would like to end by thanking the entire Jewish community for all your ongoing and invaluable contributions to this country. Your work and achievements are to be celebrated.

"The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand with the Jewish community to fight anti-Semitism, division and hate. Let us all work together to make the world a kinder, more peaceful place.

"I extend my warmest wishes for a year full of good health, peace and great joy."

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