March 30, 2021

Labour and Tory MPs publish joint oped in The Times, calling on the UK to join the International Fund

Today, Britain’s newspaper of record, The Times, featured an article co-authored by Stephen Crabb, a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Conservative Party who are currently in government, and Steve McCabe, an MP for the Labour Party, currently leading Her Majesty’s Opposition. In it, they make a bold bipartisan statement: “an international fund for Israel-Palestinian peace could not come at a better time. Britain should seize this moment to be part of it.”

This unusual cross-party call for the UK Government to join a “ready-made multilateral programme” that “is waiting for the UK to engage and lead alongside the US and our international partners” comes on the back of the passage in the US of the bipartisan Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA). The legislation, “originally conceptualised by the Alliance for Middle East Peace”, “envisions international partners both contributing to it, and participating in its governance. Indeed, it specifically creates seats on its board that are reserved for foreign governments or other international actors. This multilateral dimension thus chimes well with [President] Biden’s own preferred approach to the region.”

Mr. Crabb, as the Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, and Mr. McCabe as the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, are joined by many other MPs, including Labour’s Catherine McKinnell, a vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel and a member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, who led a parliamentary debate in November, “when every MP who participated spoke in support of the international fund — ministers promised to examine the feasibility of the UK joining the board of the fund. We strongly urge them to do so. Our experience of the International Fund for Ireland, strong and historic ties to the Middle East and the UK’s development expertise means Britain has unique and vital perspectives to offer.” 

With the UK hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall this June, the two MPs jointly urged the British government to use this venue to  “underline to President Biden that it shares his commitment to international institutions and multilateral co-operation,” with his teams at the State Department and USAID already making preparations for implementation of MEPPA.

Mr. Crabb and Mr. McCabe also drilled down into MEPPA and the International Fund’s origins: “The inspiration for the international fund — which has been promoted by the sector-leading Alliance for Middle East Peace and championed here in the UK by both Conservative and Labour parliamentarians — lies rather closer to home. During the darkest days of The Troubles in the mid-1980s, the new International Fund for Ireland began investing in peace-building work in Northern Ireland. Those projects provided the civic society foundations upon which the Good Friday Agreement was later built and helped establish a reservoir of public support in both the Unionist and Nationalist communities that has sustained peace in Northern Ireland through multiple ups and downs over the past two decades.” 

Both MPs are deeply familiar with the sort of programs that can be scaled via UK partnership on this ambitious international project. “We have both seen first-hand some of the remarkable peace-building projects operating in the region — which range from sport and summer clubs to tech training and environmental programmes. Our discussions with those participating in them bear out the growing body of research which suggests that such work significantly improves Israeli and Palestinian participants’ attitudes to one another and lead to higher levels of trust and co-operation.” 

Even before MEPPA was enacted by the US Congress, in 2018 Britain became the first country to endorse the concept idea of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, when then-Middle East Minister Alistair Burt announced the UK’s support in the House of Commons. Now, the authors argue, Westminster should “seize the moment,” as “the US legislation provides the chance for the UK to turn that commitment into concrete action.”

We at ALLMEP thank Stephen Crabb MP and Steve McCabe MP for their support of our community of peacebuilders, and their call for UK participation and leadership within an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace that can scale such efforts to a level never before seen. 

Read the full article in the Times here.