Eagle eyed observers of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s website have been invited to splash out £150-a-head to attend what in effect will be a celebratory dinner for Labor’s pro-Palestinian lobby, with opposition leader Miliband as one of their guest speakers.
He is due to appear along with Manuel Hassassian, who is described as the “Palestinian Ambassador,” though officially in the UK can only be referred to as the Palestinian Representative.
The champagne reception and dinner has been arranged by ‘Labor Friends of Palestine and the Middle East’ for November 26, in Westminster’s Church House, where guests have been invited for “a memorable evening, with great Middle Eastern food, drink and live musical entertainment and the opportunity to raise awareness about Palestine.”
What Miliband will say to lobbyists will be listened to with great care, not least of by those whom he addressed not five months ago at the Labor Friends of Israel annual lunch – where after four years of admitting he had a “complicated relationship” with Israel, he seemed to indicate after his recent visit to the Jewish state, that he now “understood” what being a “true friend of Israel” was all about.
Sadly, his definition, instanced by his stance toward Israel’s self-defense during this summer’s Gaza war and by forcing his party to support the Palestinian recognition vote in the Commons earlier this month, will not be shared by the many Israelis angered and perplexed by the way Labor – which hitherto, had always claimed and demonstrated a close friendship with Israel, had changed policy with neither a reference to the party’s policy making machine, nor the agreement of its shadow cabinet.
Miliband and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, (who party insiders have indicated was the author of the changed Labor stance on the Palestinian issue) know that by effectively sponsoring the parliamentary recognition motion, they have lost much of the goodwill and potentially the electoral backing of those who reside in the UK, who support not only Israel but also its participation in concluding a negotiated two-state solution.
Israeli politicians too, will begin watching the UK opinion polls to see if Miliband can win next May’s general election. Labor have a small lead over the ruling Conservatives but in recent weeks, Miliband’s personal popularity has reached rock bottom, putting his aim to become the next premier at great risk.
However if a Labor government or Labor-led administration does gain the keys to 10 Downing Street, recognition of a Palestinian state – regardless of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – is likely to be a high priority foreign policy objective.
Miliband has also upset the many within the UK Jewish community who traditionally have been Labor Party supporters, but who may well decide to withhold their votes at the General Election in protest at his line toward Israel’s future.
Seasoned observers say that Alexander – who is leading the Labor Party’s election strategy team – has done the math, noting that he has to make sure his party is attractive to the 3 million Muslims in the UK, a large number of whom reside in marginal, inner city constituencies.
They far outweigh Britain’s roughly 280,000 Jews, only a small number of whom reside in similarly marginal constituencies.