Martin Linton, speaking as the delegate for Battersea, spoke in the international debate at Labour’s conference in Brighton this morning. He said:
“We should all welcome the fact that, after three years without peace talks, the Israelis and the Palestinians are again sitting down across a table to negotiate. (Applause)
“You have to admire the American Secretary of State John Kerry for his persistence. When everyone said he had no chance and he was banging his head against a brick wall, he hung on in there and finally got the two sides to sit down and talk.
“But sitting down and talking is one thing. Reaching a settlement is another.
“And you’ve got to wonder about how serious the Israelis really are when they approve seven new building projects in the illegal settlements in the West Bank in the seven weeks since the talks started. (Applause)
“Why are the Israelis allowed to build settlements in the middle of talks? It’s like moving the goalposts in the middle of a football match. The British government admits that the settlements are illegal, that they are an obstacle to peace and that they make the two-state solution more difficult to achieve.
“In fact they say this very often.
“But they don’t do anything about it.
“Ed Miliband took a courageous decision two years ago to support the Palestinians when they went to the United Nations and asked to be recognised as a state. (Applause)
“He showed he had the steel to take a principled position when the Government just abstained. (Applause)
“And when the UN voted to recognise Palestine with 138 countries in favour and only 9 against, Labour was on the right side of that argument. (Applause)
“Now he has to take another courageous step.
“He has to tell the Israeli government that we will trade with them, but we will not trade with illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
“If it’s illegal to build settlements on someone else’s land, it cannot be right to trade with those settlements. (Applause)
“After leaving Parliament in 2010 I and my wife set up an organisation called Labour2Palestine and we have taken over 100 Labour Party members to Palestine to see for themselves and to make up their own minds.
“They have seen with their own eyes how the settlements are taking land from Palestinians, how the settlers – 20% of the population – are taking 80% of the water, how they are building a wall that is no longer anything to do with security – it is about taking olive groves and agricultural land away from the Palestinians so more settlements can be built.
“The settlements are prospering at the expense of the Palestinians, whose land they take, whose water they take, and it’s trade with the European Union that keeps the settlements in business.
“If we’re serious about supporting the peace process, we will stop supporting the settlements. They are not a part of Israel. They are not part of the Israeli economy. This is an anti-settlement policy, not an anti-Israel policy. It’s a pro-peace policy, a pro-negotiation policy in the interest of both Palestinians and Israelis.” (Applause)
Labour2Palestine is holding a reception at the Smugglers Bar in Ship Street Brighton on Wednesday 25th at 12.30 pm for Labour Party member who are interested in joining a delegation to Palestine.
Labour2Palestine can be reached at martin@labour2palestine or labour2palestince.com or 160 London Road, Kingston KT2 6QW
07768 590077 and 020 7998 4732