UK general election: What are UK parties’ takes on Israel’s war on Gaza?

UK general election: What are UK parties’ takes on Israel’s war on Gaza?
As the British prime minister calls for a snap election this July, here’s a look into each party’s stance on the devastating conflict in Gaza.
5 min read
08 June, 2024
Demonstrators are seen at the Nakba 76 March for Palestine against Israeli attacks on Gaza in London, UK. [Getty]

In what has been described as a gamble by various commentators, Tory prime minister Rishi Sunak has called a general election for 4 July. 

In less than one month, the UK public will elect a new government. 

However, over seven months into Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, there is increasing discussions over Britain’s role in the conflict. 

British pro-Palestine protesters have taken to the streets across the country to call for an end to the devastating conflict in Gaza and the suspension of the UK’s arms supply to Israel. 

The health ministry in Gaza said on Saturday that at least 36,801 people have been killed in the besieged enclave since 7 October. 

Palestinian solidarity groups, such as the British Palestinian Committee, have since reiterated ahead of the parliamentary election that the UK must cease its ties with Israel and end its complicity in war crimes by "withdrawing its diplomatic support for Israel, imposing a two-way arms embargo, and working to ensure accountability for its grave breaches of international law."

As political leaders have officially kicked off weeks of campaigning, The New Arab looks into what the positions of the four main UK political parties on the months-long conflict: 

The Conservative government 

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The UK government has repeatedly declared its support for Israel since the outbreak of the war on Gaza. 

It has emphasised that it supports Israel’s right to defend itself, and ministers have stated that they back an "immediate humanitarian pause" in the fighting. 

The government has refused to call for an immediate ceasefire. 

Along with a humanitarian pause, the Tories advocate for the creation of a new Palestinian government for both the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

The government adds that it supports Hamas no longer running Gaza and a two-state solution.  

While the UK has implemented harsher measures to tackle Israel’s settler movement, by imposing sanctions on Israeli extremist groups and individuals, it has backed Israel amid allegations of war crimes. 

Prime Minister Sunak denounced the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders- arguing that there is no "moral equivalence" between Israel and Hamas. 

In making his announcement for the upcoming general election, Sunak emphasised the need for defending British "values", and called out those who challenge them. 

"In the Middle East the forces of Islamist extremism threaten regional and ultimately global stability," Sunak said on Wednesday. 

"These tensions are exploited by extremists who seek to undermine our values and seek to divide our values here at home."

The UK government has also refused to stop arming Israel despite critics warning that with the continuation of exporting arms to Israel could violate international law.

The UK has not officially recognised a Palestinian state, unlike neighbouring country Ireland and other European states such as Norway and Spain.

However, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in January that the government could formally recognise Palestine and a two-state solution to bring about an "irreversible" peace settlement.

Labour Party 

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer's policy on the war in Gaza largely mirrors that of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative government, but slight differences have emerged.

Both have insisted that Israel has a right to defend itself within international law while also expressing concern at the number of Palestinians killed. 

However, Labour’s stance has cost the party seats in traditional Labour strongholds after several councillors defected earlier this year.

Most recently, Labour lost seats at local council elections in England and Wales amid increasing anger among supporters. 

Starmer does not support an immediate ceasefire unless both sides agree, and the release of Israeli captives held in Gaza. Labour also backs the creation of a Palestinian state as part of the Middle East peace process. 

A member of Starmer's top team said recently that the UK should pause arms sales to Israel to stop an offensive in Rafah, a position the British government has rejected. 

Labour also recently contrasted the government’s stance by reaffirming its backing of the International Criminal Court (ICC), after its chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced a request for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes.   

Additionally, UK publication The Guardian recently reported that Labour is expected to include a pledge to recognise a Palestinian state at an appropriate time in peace talks in its election manifesto.

Many Muslims and younger voters are dissatisfied with both major parties over their handling of Israel's war on Gaza.

Green Party 

The Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer called for "new peace initiatives" to bring peace to the Middle East. 

This includes backing a "full bilateral cease-fire" to allow access to humanitarian aid, freeing the hostages, suspending arms sales to Israel, supporting South Africa in its case against Israel in investigating crimes of genocide and the ICC’s investigation of war crimes against Hamas and Israel.

The Green Party’s firm anti-war position has led to the likes of Lynne Jones, a former Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, to join the party following Keir Starmer’s takes on Gaza. 

The Greens have since criticised both the Tories and Labour for not taking stronger action amid the war on the devastated territory.

"We think the UK government — the current government and the incoming government — need to take seriously their responsibilities on the international stage, pushing Israel to make sure that they act within international law. The evidence is pretty clear that they are not doing that at the moment," Denyer told news outlet Politico in May.

Liberal Democrats 

The Liberal Democrats have called for an "immediate bilateral ceasefire" in Gaza, the release of captives and a two-state solution that sees Hamas not ruling Gaza. 

In November of last year, party leader Ed Davey said a military solution to eliminate Hamas would not be possible, adding that an immediate ceasefire would be the path to "lasting peace". 

The Lib Dems have also called for sanctions on the Israeli settler movement, which includes far-right members of the Israeli government such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. 

Davey said that such actions must be taken to avoid fighting being extended beyond Gaza. 

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, of Palestinian descent, has been an outspoken voice in the party in criticising Israel’s war on Gaza.  

Moran, who has been personally affected by the Gaza war with family members who sought refuge along with hundreds of Palestinian Christians in the besieged Holy Family Church in Gaza City, has backed an immediate ceasefire, a two-state solution, an immediate halt of arms sales to Israel and the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Press agencies also contributed to this piece