Two state solution further away than when I wrote about it 50 years ago in JC, says Lord Mandelson

Labour mandarin made the comment at a Yom Ha’atzmaut event at the Israeli Embassy


Lord Peter Mandelson at the Labour Party conference, October 2023 (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Labour mandarin Lord Peter Mandelson spoke in regret that the two state solution seems even “further away” than when he wrote his first ever article about it in the JC, nearly 50 years ago.

Speaking at a Yom Ha’atzmaut event at the Israeli Embassy, the former New Labour head of communications and MP said that both he and the “overwhelming majority” of his party remained “absolutely committed the immutable principles of Israel’s right to exist and Israel’s right to defend itself against those who want to extinguish it”.

Mandelson’s father George was an atheist Jew who was advertising manager of the JC and that connection no doubt helped get his politically minded son a platform in this newspaper. Although he was not brought up Jewish – his mother Mary was the daughter of another Labour politician, Herbert Morrison – he said Israel was in his “political DNA, my family’s DNA”.

“My grandfather Herbert Morrison was the deputy prime minister in the post war Attlee government and I’m proud to say that unlike some of his colleagues, who shied away from the establishment of the State of Israel, he was absolutely solid.

“Israel, that brilliant start up nation, that nation of Golda Meir, Itzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres; I was brought up with these people and their idealism and all that they achieved in the founding and building of such a great state.”

Apologising to his hostess, ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, who favours a one state solution, he said: “In 1975 I paid my first visit to Israel. I was an undergraduate at university and went there as well as surrounding countries and I came back and wrote my very first article about Israel. It was published in the JC and was about the creation of a two state solution which I’m afraid is even further away now than it was in 1975, I fear.”

He said that he became aware of anti-Zionist antisemitism within the left soon after that trip. “In the 1980s I became increasingly aware of the need to defend Labour’s support for Israel from ultra left militants both inside the Labour party and outside who had climbed onto the ‘Zionism is racism’ bandwagon that had initially been created by the United Nations General Assembly.”

Lord Mandelson visited Israel in January this year with other parliamentarians and went to scenes from the attack including Kibbutz Kfar Aza, describing “the scene of devastation”.

“I wish those who have forgotten what happened on October 7 and seem to only think about what’s happened since October the 8th could have gone to that scene as we did,” he said. “It had a profound effect on me. Deep repugnance at the savagery that took place and I felt deeply resolved not to leave Israel’s side at that time or any time in the future whatever disagreements I or others have with the particular policies of a particular government.”

The event, in a marquee in the gardens of the Kensington embassy, had around 400 guests including broadcasters Emily Maitlis and Julia Hartley Brewer.

The Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, also gave an emotional speech pledging to stand by the side of Israel and defend British Jews from the scourge of antisemitism.

“The steep rise in antisemitism is one of the abominations of October 7 and the United Kingdom’s government has been uncompromising even though I know there is more to do,” he said. “We have made the protests safer and less intimidating. We have published a new definition of extremism that tackles the radicalisation behind such intimidation and we’ve increased the funding for the wonderful Community Security Trust to a record £72million.

“I am also proud of the United Kingdom’s role in the formation of the state of Israel and our decades of cooperation since, including in the week of October 7 and particularly in the United Kingdon’s armed forces standing in defence of your freedoms when attacks rained down from Iran.”

That UK support was thanked by the ambassador who revealed British help ahead of the recent daring rescue of four hostages earlier this month.

“This strong alliance with the United Kingdom was never stronger than since the 7th of October,” said Ambassador Hotovely. “We are so proud of the fact that thanks to this incredible partnership we were sharing intelligence and the British special units were sharing with us know-how which helped us to recue our hostages. Friends are important.”

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