Labour's pro-Israel Caucus Reaches Out to New Party Leader Corbyn

Chair of Labour Friends of Israel invites Corbyn to address caucus reception next week, says seeks 'open dialogue with the party’s new leadership,' despite Corbyn's past involvement in pro-Palestinian campaign groups.

Reuters

New U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been invited to address his party's pro-Israel caucus, local Jewish media reported Monday.

The chair of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) group, Joan Ryan MP, reportedly issued an invitation to Corbyn to address a reception to be held at the party's annual conference next week, against the backdrop of concern from the Jewish community in the U.K. over Corbyn election.

Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, Ryan said: “It’s the start of a process. What I will do over the coming weeks and months is have open dialogue with the party’s new leadership. The invite is the beginning of that process. It’s not a one-off – I’ve also asked for a meeting with him.

“It’s good that we are opening this dialogue. It would be wrong to turn away. There’s no reason to believe dialogue is not welcome. We have an open door and we will go through it with all our good and strong arguments.”

Corbyn, a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, has been vocal in his criticism of Israel in the past. He has previously described Hamas and Hezbollah as "friends," and has attended numerous anti-Israel rallies, including Al Quds Day rallies in London.

Labour's shadow-Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn MP is already scheduled to speak at the LFI reception. The LFI will also hold reception, a panel discussion about the two-state solution, in which Israeli Labor Party MK Erel Margalit will take part.

Corbyn's office have yet to respond formally to LFI's invitation, and Ryan stated that she did not know whether her party's new leader would attend.

Commenting on the prospects for Labour's Israel supporters under Corbyn's leadership, Ryan told the Jewish Chronicle that: “I don’t say life will be without its difficulties. But we have people in the party who give strong support. Our deputy leader [Tom Watson MP] is vice-chair of Trade Union Friends of Israel, so that’s helpful. I’ve spoken to a lot of MPs who may well be members of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, but believe strongly in a two-state solution.”

Since winning the Labour premiership a week ago, Corbyn has resigned from his position as chair of the Stop the War Coalition, which calls for Netanyahu to be arrested for war crimes. He has also reportedly agreed to meet with Jewish MP Ivan Lewis regarding anti-Semitism on the left, and has appointed pro-Israel Labour MP Luciana Berger to his shadow cabinet.

Corbyn also claimed last week, in an interview with the Church Times, that there was a "Jewish element" in his family.