Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has addressed the growing tensions within his party over the conflict in Gaza, defending his stance on the issue.
While more than 60 Labour MPs have called for a ceasefire, Sir Keir argued that a humanitarian pause was the only credible approach at the moment.
He emphasised that a pause would allow aid to reach Gaza and enable civilians to leave, while a ceasefire would leave Hamas’s infrastructure intact for future attacks.
Addressing an audience in London, Sir Keir sought to quell the dissent within his party. Mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, and 15 frontbenchers have all diverged from the official party line on the conflict.
Additionally, around 250 councillors have called for a ceasefire, with some resigning from the party over the leadership’s position on the war.
During his speech, Sir Keir was repeatedly asked about potential disciplinary action against frontbenchers who broke with the party line.
He stated that the party was unified in wanting to alleviate the situation and that he would engage sensitively with his colleagues’ concerns, but did not confirm any disciplinary measures.
Sir Keir’s approach to the conflict is driven by a desire to defend Israel’s right to self-defence against terrorist attacks while also acknowledging the suffering of Palestinians caught in the crossfire.
He believes that a humanitarian pause is the only credible approach to alleviate Palestinian suffering in Gaza.
When asked about Israel’s compliance with international law, Sir Keir deferred to lawyers to make that determination and cautioned against premature pronouncements by politicians.
The Labour leader’s car was mobbed by pro-Palestine demonstrators as he left Chatham House, where he gave the speech. Police cleared a path for the car amidst shouts and drumming on the windows.
By not backing a full ceasefire, Sir Keir aligns with the UK government, as well as the US and EU. Humanitarian pauses, unlike formal ceasefires, are short-term and primarily focused on providing humanitarian support rather than achieving long-term political solutions, according to the United Nations.
While Sir Keir defended his position, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and London Mayor Sadiq Khan reiterated their calls for a ceasefire.
Mr Sarwar also expressed that past comments made by Sir Keir had caused hurt to Muslims and any peace-loving citizen. Mr. Khan emphasized his belief in de-escalation and called for a ceasefire.
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