UK’s Labour sets out its Gaza policy with pledge for ‘balanced position’

Britain wants a “balanced position” on Israel’s war on Gaza and will use diplomatic efforts to ensure a ceasefire is reached and captives held by Hamas are released, its new foreign minister David Lammy told Reuters.

Lammy is on a visit to Germany, his first international trip following the Labour Party’s victory in Britain’s election on Friday. The election ended 14 years of Conservative government and propelled Keir Starmer to power as prime minister.

“I want to get back to a balanced position on Israel and Gaza. We’ve been very clear that we want to see a ceasefire …We want to see those hostages out.”

He added: “The fighting has to stop, the aid has got to get in, and I will use all diplomatic efforts to ensure that we get to that ceasefire.”

Lammy also said Britain would seek to reset its position globally on issues including the climate crisis as well as key relationships, such as with European and emerging powers.

In one of his first calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Starmer urged a “clear and urgent need for a ceasefire, the return of hostages and an immediate increase in the volume of humanitarian aid reaching civilians”, as well as a two-state solution.

He also said he was committed to continuing cooperation between Israel and Palestine.

While in his conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Starmer discussed the importance of reform, ensuring the legitimacy of Palestine and “the undeniable right” of Palestine to be recognised as a state – the UK government said in a statement.

The Labour Party suffered significant election setbacks in areas with large Muslim populations in the election on Friday amid discontent over its position on the war on Gaza, despite a landslide victory in the parliamentary vote.

Starmer was quick to condemn Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October, asserting Israel’s right to defend itself and to cut off power and water in Gaza, causing a chunk of its core Muslim voter base to back pro-Palestine candidates instead.

Before shifting his policy in February, the now-Prime Minister was also against calling for an immediate ceasefire in November after strongly opposing an SNP motion calling for one.

Efforts to secure a ceasefire and captive release in Gaza gathered momentum on Friday after Hamas made a revised proposal on the terms of a deal, and Israel said negotiations would continue into next week.

The Gaza Health Ministry revealed over 38,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October.