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UK’s Lammy to visit Israel amid report Labour reversing pro-J’lem stance

Ahead of the visit, the office of Keir Starmer's new foreign secretary disputes British media reports claiming the U.K. will reverse Sunak's policy on ICC warrants against Israeli leaders.

British Foreign Secretary David Lammy leaves 10 Downing Street following Labour's landslide election victory on July 5, 2024. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.
British Foreign Secretary David Lammy leaves 10 Downing Street following Labour's landslide election victory on July 5, 2024. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.

David Lammy, who was appointed as the British foreign secretary earlier this month after Labour won the general election, is slated to visit Israel on Monday. His itinerary includes meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and other senior government officials.

Ahead of the visit, British diplomats have engaged in preliminary discussions with their Israeli counterparts, addressing recent media reports.

Specifically, they said that an article in The Guardian suggesting London’s new government would abandon the U.K.’s effort to challenge the International Criminal Court over attempts to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “not accurate,” emphasizing that the matter remains under review.

The previous government, under Rishi Sunak, joined Israel in fighting against ICC prosecutor Karim Khan after he applied to have the court issue an arrest warrant for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged war crimes, along with Hamas leaders.

Sunak’s administration had secretly filed a challenge on June 10, questioning the ICC’s jurisdiction over Israeli nationals in relation to alleged war crimes in Gaza. However, Labour officials, according to the Guardian report, have recently said that the party continues to believe the ICC, based in The Hague, does have jurisdiction over Gaza.

Lammy said over the weekend that he will seek a “balanced position” on the Israel-Gaza conflict following the Labour Party’s landslide victory last Thursday.

“We want to see those hostages out,” Lammy told Reuters. “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.”

In May, after the ICC prosecutor requested arrest warrants against Netanyahu and 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 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.”

Britain’s new Prime Minister Keir Starmer told Netanyahu during a phone call on Sunday morning that his government remains committed to continuing London and Jerusalem’s “vital cooperation to deter malign threats,” Downing Street said.

The British leader reiterated his condolences for the “tragic loss of life” in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre. He repeated the need to return the 120 hostages held by the terrorist group, implement a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and increase humanitarian aid.

Starmer also stressed to Netanyahu the need “to ensure the long-term conditions for a two-state solution were in place, including ensuring the Palestinian Authority had the financial means to operate effectively.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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