December 14, 2016

56 MPs sign letter backing International Fund

In an open letter, UK MPs urged Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel to support International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace:

“We urge you to both support the creation of the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, and to show Britain’s commitment to this vital cause by increasing spending on coexistence work. As an interim measure, we would like to see spending rise from its current level to £1.35m.

Without sufficient funding – either from governments or private philanthropy – coexistence projects are currently only able to have a limited impact. Operating at scale and properly funded, they could, however, help to build powerful constituencies for peace in Israel and Palestine, forcing leaders in both countries to return to meaningful negotiations.”

Key Issues Report – Courtesy of LFI:

“Labour MPs from across the parliamentary Labour party have given their backing to LFI’s campaign – For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace – which calls for the creation of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and for increased spending on coexistence work. MPs signed an open letter this week to Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for International Development, to back the proposed fund. Signatories included Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith and shadow Scotland and Northern Ireland secretary Dave Anderson. The letter can be viewed here.

The number of signatories demonstrates real support within Labour for increased funding for coexistence projects. Commenting on the letter, LFI Director Jennifer Gerber said: “We are delighted not just by the degree of support that our campaign has already attracted but also the breadth of support from across the party. This demonstrates Labour’s continuing support for a balanced debate and a two-state solution.”

As part of the campaign LFI chair Joan Ryan and parliamentary supporter Ian Austin met with Priti Patel last Tuesday, asking her to support LFI’s campaign for the creation of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

During a wide-ranging discussion, they also raised the issue of prisoner payments, incitement and whether the Palestinian Authority is adhering to the ‘Partnership Principles’ of non-violence and respect for human rights set out in the Memorandum of Understanding which governs the department’s aid funding to the PA.

Commenting on the meeting, Ian Austin said he was “pleased” about commitments given, but that action was required. On the topic of coexistence initiatives, he said: “Ministers continue to suggest they wish to invest more in the kind of coexistence projects which will underpin any future peace agreement but there needs to be progress on this issue as such funding appears to have been entirely eliminated this year.”

The Department for International Development, the Foreign Office, and the Ministry of Defence operate a joint fund for initiatives that promote peace and reconciliation in international conflicts. However, recent research by LFI revealed that funding for coexistence projects has been cut completely in 2016-17. This move seems to contradict repeated assurances by government ministers that they support people-to-people projects.

Joan Ryan criticised the government’s “deeply regrettable” failure to support essential coexistence work. Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle last week, she said: “By fostering the values of mutual understanding, reconciliation and trust, such projects provide the vital underpinnings of any sustainable peace settlement. I am appealing to my fellow parliamentarians from across the House to back this effort and thus persuade the government to honour its repeated assurances that it wishes to invest more in coexistence work.”

In a response to a similar letter from LFI supporters, a Department for International Development official said that the Secretary of State, Priti Patel, was “undertaking a full examination of DFID’s programme” in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The response did not, however, make any commitment to increasing funds for coexistence projects.

As part of the campaign, Joan Ryan has secured a ten minute rule bill slot to push for the creation of the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace in January.”

Read the full letter here or read more about the ‘For Israel, For Palestine for Peace’ campaign on the LFI website.

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