Yesterday in Westminster Hall, in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, ALLMEP’s campaign to create an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace received unanimous and enthusiastic support from all Members of Parliament (MPs) who rose to speak in a ninety-minute dedicated debate on the Fund.
Labour’s Catherine McKinnell, a vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel and a member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, led the debate in Westminster Hall yesterday calling for the British government to support the Fund. Spurred by the recent momentum in the US Congress, with the $250m bipartisan ”Middle East Partnership for Peace Act having passed the House of Representatives and been included in the Senate’s SFOPs appropriations bill, this was a moment for leading British foreign policy voices to make clear their intention to join this multilateral project aimed at providing unprecedented support to the region’s peacebuilders.
Ms. McKinnell argued that the international community should think “creatively and boldly about how we can best foster an environment in which peace negotiations and a two-state solution might resume and succeed.” Many MPs focused on the inspiration that the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) provides, a model from which ALLMEP has drawn heavily in its ten-year campaign to create an equivalent institution for Israelis and Palestinians.
In a week where the world marks the 35th anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which heralded the creation of the IFI, Northern Irish MPs from opposite sides of the sectarian divide echoed this point. Conor McGinn, a Northern Ireland native whose father was a Sinn Fein councillor remarked: “People on all sides trust it. It has no political agenda. Its only agenda is peace and reconciliation.” He added: “The lessons to be learned for any Israeli/Palestinian fund are almost all good.” Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist Party added: “The process in Northern Ireland was supported financially and physically by the EU, the USA, and across the world… We all say we want peace in the Middle East, but we need to put money into the right projects to achieve it. I look forward to hearing how we can move things forward in this House to bring real reconciliation.”
Nicola Richards of the governing Conservative Party concurred: “This International Fund offers a viable pathway forward to ensure that aid goes directly to projects that bring Israelis and Palestinians together, all of which is overseen by a transparent system of scrutiny and review. It is a path that we must seize and support.”
Wayne David, the Shadow Minister for the Middle East, concluded by saying: “I pay tribute, to the Alliance for Middle East Peace. ALLMEP has being plugging away for a long time on this. At last, we are seeing real fruition coming about today and there is tremendous optimism. I must say that a lot of optimism is required from time to time in the Middle East, but I believe the fund really offers that. All tribute to ALLMEP for championing that so consistently. We are talking about the United States, but I emphasize that the fund must not be for the United States alone; we require multilateral international support. The Europeans have given support and the British can give support as well. It is vital that we do. There is a huge opportunity for the Prime Minister, when he talks about global Britain, to be proactive and to give the lead even to the Americans to encourage them to move forward quickly.”
The meeting concluded with unanimous support for the International Fund, and with Under Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office James Duddridge committing to “look specifically at whether we should take one of those seats and at the timing of commitments. There is no point deciding late in the day that we do want to commit and that we would have liked a seat.”