Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has said he backs US calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state when the war in the Middle East ends, and branded Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the plans “unacceptable”.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan branded the Israeli prime minister “the roadblock to peace”.
Mr Lammy said Mr Netanyahu’s position would mean “occupation and siege continues” in Gaza, where the Palestinian death toll is approaching 25,000, according to local health authorities.
The senior Labour MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “We are committed to the recognition of a Palestinian state.
“We want to work with international partners to achieve that. And there are a number of countries in the developed world saying that they believe the time has come as well, but obviously you’re doing that in conjunction with that two-state solution that is required.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments were unacceptable. A Palestinian state is the unalienable right of the Palestinian people.
Labour is committed to the recognition of Palestine as part of efforts to secure a two state solution. We will work with international partners to achieve it. pic.twitter.com/eEzIPxL0dA
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) January 20, 2024
“And this is a critical moment that comes out of this crisis. And we’ve got to seize that opportunity.”
Mr Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with the offensive in Gaza for many months despite mounting pressure on Israel to rein in its military action as the scale of death and destruction intensifies.
In a press conference earlier this week, he also said he opposed US calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as part of any post-war plan.
But Joe Biden voiced hope that it was still possible even while Mr Netanyahu remains in office, following a call with the Israeli leader on Friday – their first talks in nearly a month.
The US president said Mr Netanyahu was not opposed to all two-state solutions, and there were a number of possible ideas.
Mr Lammy said Mr Biden was “right”, adding: “And I have to say, I think Netanyahu’s words were unacceptable.
“Of course, the Palestinians people deserve a state and if they don’t, the consequence of that is either one state in which Benjamin Netanyahu would have to explain how Palestinians and Israelis live side-by-side with equal rights, or no state, in which what he’s really saying is occupation and siege continues.”
The Labour frontbencher was echoing Sir Keir Starmer, who hardened his tone towards the Israeli prime minister by branding his position over a future Palestinian state as “unacceptable”.
On Saturday, the Labour leader told talkSport: “I think we’re all shocked by what we’re seeing in terms of the sheer number of people who’ve been killed in Gaza, particularly the percentage of them that are children.”
He called for a sustainable ceasefire that would “open up a political route to a solution”.
Mr Khan told a Q&A at the Fabian Society conference in London on Saturday: “It should worry us that the Israeli prime minister and members of his cabinet have walked away from a two-state solution.
“I think it’s really important to recognise when you look across the globe, whether it’s South Africa, whether it’s Sri Lanka, whether it’s on our doorstep in Ireland and Northern Ireland, it is possible to achieve peace.
“It is possible for people who in decades before hated each other, killed each other, to live side by side.
“It won’t be possible with the roadblock we’ve got with Netanyahu.”
It comes amid a deepening rift between Israel and the US over the scope of Israel’s war and plans for the future of Gaza.
Earlier this week, the White House announced it was the “right time” for Israel to lower the intensity of its military action in Gaza.
Israel launched the offensive after an unprecedented cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7, in which 1,200 people were killed and some 240 others taken hostage.
Roughly 130 hostages are believed by Israel to remain in Hamas captivity.
Israel’s assault on Gaza has been one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history.
Mr Netanyahu struck a defiant tone this week, repeatedly saying the offensive will not be halted until it realises its goals of destroying Hamas and bringing home all remaining hostages.
Both the UK Conservative Government and the Labour opposition, along with the US, have said they back Israel’s right to defend itself following Hamas’s October 7 attacks.
Both have expressed support for a two-state solution to the conflict and a “sustainable” ceasefire – but have resisted calls to back an immediate one.
However, the Israeli government has been urged by western allies to limit the scope of its offensive and act within the parameters of international law.
The country currently faces a case at the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) brought by South Africa, which accuses it of genocide over its actions in Gaza – a charge Israel denies.