An international push for a two-state solution: the only true route to peace in the Middle East

Humanitarianism, human rights, and the pursuit of peace are the internationalist values at the heart of Open Labour. With those principles in mind, we hosted an Israel-Palestine briefing in December with speakers Alex Sobel MP and Danielle Bett, Director of Communications at Yachad.

Open Labour members had written in with broad-reaching questions – ranging from asking how the Israeli hostages can be released, and how Palestinians in Gaza will rebuild their lives, to the increase in settler violence, and what can be learned from peace and reconciliation efforts in other conflicts around the world.

Alex Sobel opened by touching on his own family history; His father served in the 1967 War, after which he attended Tel Aviv University and joined Siah, an Israeli group that not only recognised the right to self-determination of Palestinians but took action to defend Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories. Sobel drew on the words of Gramsci for hope in times of darkness – ‘my mind is pessimistic, but my will is optimistic’.

Danielle Bett, joined us from Israel and gave us an on-the-ground perspective. She set the scene of the internal Israeli politics at play: the broad support in Israeli society for war following the horrific attacks by Hamas terrorists on October 7th, a now deeply unpopular Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, acutely aware that once the fighting stops he will be out of office, and his disastrous approach of strengthening Hamas to weaken the Palestinian Authority.

The week before our briefing, three hostages were mistakenly shot dead by the Israeli Defence Force, sparking a spontaneous protest on a Friday night (highly unusual in Israel) in Tel Aviv, followed by marches of thousands in other cities too.

Fifteen minutes into our event, news broke that Keir Starmer had joined the UK government’s call for a sustainable ceasefire. There are still a few key differences between the Labour and Conservative positions, such as Labour’s recognition of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction in Gaza. Whilst the discussion at hand was nuanced, focused and forward-thinking, I felt it highlighted the need for Labour to be better prepared for the elevation to the international stage that being in government will bring. Once in power, the party will need to show true leadership on complex global issues like this war, just as Labour has done historically such as in Kosovo and Northern Ireland.

Consumed by grief and trauma, it is hard for both Israelis and Palestinians to even imagine a two-state solution at this point – something they have been long led to believe is simply not possible. Nevertheless, Bett stressed that this is why the international community must work even harder to bring it about and end the cycle of violence. Asked about the Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely’s viral remarks rejecting a two state solution, Bett replied that she wasn’t shocked: ‘She’s the voice of the Israeli government’. 

Sobel drew comparisons with the strength of international political will needed in Kosovo to both bring about and sustain peace. He suggested an international peacekeeping force, which Gazans may have more trust in, and which polling suggests Israeli citizens would support as an interim security measure. 

Bett spoke of the need to rebuild Gaza and help Palestinians to put their lives back together. Whilst she stressed the need for saving lives most immediately at risk, and the work required to reinstall functioning basic governing services in Gaza, Bett also spoke of the need for mental health support in the long-term.

Yachad has called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Gaza that would need to be implemented by the Arab world, alongside the USA, the EU and other international actors. This is vital for a sustainable peace process, particularly as so much civilian infrastructure in Gaza is destroyed. And people who feel their lives improving are much more likely to support peace efforts than those who feel the despair of having ‘nothing left to lose’.

Several certainties shone through the discussion. The war must end, a sustainable ceasefire be reached, the hostages be released, greater humanitarian aid be sent to Gaza, and immense further suffering be prevented. And when this happens, a pathway to a just and lasting peace must be built. Reasserting a negotiated two-solution as the practical means out of this horrendous conflict is of critical importance. The international community must rise to the occasion.

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