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New UK foreign secretary to pursue ‘balanced’ Israel policy

"We want to see the hostages out," said U.K. Foreign Secretary David Lammy of the Israel-Hamas war, "but ... the fighting has to stop. The aid has got to get in."

U.K.'s new Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs David Lammy. Credit: YouTube.
U.K.'s new Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs David Lammy. Credit: YouTube.

David Lammy, the United Kingdom’s incoming foreign minister, said on Saturday that he will seek a “balanced position” on the Israel-Gaza conflict following the Labour Party’s landslide victory on Thursday.

“We want to see those hostages out,” Lammy told Reuters. Israel puts the number of hostages still held by Hamas, living and dead, at 120.

The foreign secretary devoted most of his comments to his concerns for the humanitarian crisis faced by Gazans.

“But when we see the tremendous loss of life, 38,000 people—women and children—the fighting has to stop. The aid has got to get in,” he said.

The 38,000 figure has been thrown into doubt by recent reports, suggesting they are likely inflated by at least 10,000. The numbers themselves are supplied by Hamas.

Lammy also called for an end to the fighting.

“I will use all diplomatic efforts to ensure that we get to that ceasefire,” he said. “We’ve been very clear that we want to see a ceasefire and we have been calling for that since the end of last year.”

Lammy didn’t specify whether he meant a temporary ceasefire or permanent cessation in hostilities.

In February, he said, “You can have a ceasefire that lasts for a few days. We want the ceasefire to last and to be permanent and to move towards the diplomatic solution. It will only be a political solution that brings an end to this.”

Lammy’s position may put Labour at loggerheads with Israel’s government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that while open to a temporary halt to the fighting in order to free the remaining hostages, he would not agree to a complete end to the fighting until Hamas is destroyed.

“Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: The destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel,” Netanyahu said on June 1.

“Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter,” he said.

In May, after the International Criminal Court in the Hague’s chief prosecutor requested the court issue arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Lammy said he would comply with such warrants.

“Labour believes that the U.K. and all parties to the Rome Statute have a legal obligation to comply with orders and warrants issued by the court. Democracies who believe in the rule of law must submit themselves to it,” he said.

His position put him at odds with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and U.S. President Joe Biden, who criticized the ICC chief prosecutor’s decision.

In April, Lammy said he had “serious concerns about a breach in international humanitarian law” concerning Israel’s actions in Gaza, and that “far too many people have died.”

In November, with Israel still reeling from the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack, Lammy wrote a letter to then-Foreign Secretary James Cleverly calling on him to “condemn acts of violence and extremism by Israeli settlers.”

Citing numbers from extremist Israeli left-wing NGO Yesh Din, Lammy said attacks by settlers and Israeli security forces against Palestinians were “appalling,” The Guardian reported.

He said settlers who incited or acted unlawfully should be banned from entering the United Kingdom.

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