Liverpool Labour insist position on Gaza in line with national party

Liverpool Labour has insisted its position on a ceasefire in Gaza is in step with the national party amid rumours of a potential internal fallout.

Hours after Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day pause of fighting to allow for the release of hostages and those held in jails on both sides, city councillors agreed to a motion welcoming the move and strengthening hopes it could become a lasting ceasefire.

Council sources told the LDRS how agreements were thrashed out on all sides right up until moments before the meeting was held.

With Labour frontbenchers in Parliament resigning – including Liverpool Wavertree MP Paula Barker – or being sacked for backing an SNP motion calling for a formal ceasefire, city officials within the party have stressed the council’s position matches that set out by Keir Starmer in Westminster.

It was confirmed early on Wednesday morning that a deal had been reached between Israel and Hamas for the release of 50 women and children hostages held in Gaza in return for 150 Palestinian women and children to be freed from Israeli jail. As a result, fighting will stop for at least four days.

A motion had been moved by opposition members at Liverpool Council initially calling for an immediate ceasefire. After days of negotiations, all members agreed on a text that called for a cessation of conflict and called for the UK government to “support this process and renew international efforts to find a lasting peace and two state solution.”

It said, “The recently negotiated four-day ceasefire and hostage return between the Israeli government and Hamas is a welcome first step which we hope will become the basis for a permanent ceasefire and long-term settlement.”

Rumours swirled of potential divisions with the ruling Labour group, with some potentially prepared to back an original motion outright calling for an immediate ceasefire, laid by opposition Liberal Party leader, Cllr Steve Radford, and backed by members of the Green Party and Liverpool Community Independents. The agreed text was finalised just moments before councillors sat at 5pm.

Cllr Radford said, “We absolutely condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas… We want a two-state solution and a viable long-term solution that will assist communities to live and co-exist.” He added how he thought before the last two weeks, the “unmentionable C word in Liverpool was conservative, not ceasefire”.

A Labour Party source said the new motion, which did not explicitly call for a ceasefire given the four-day pause reached earlier on Wednesday, was “in line with the position nationally”.

Before proceedings got underway, dozens of people with Palestinian flags gathered outside chanting “ceasefire now” and “in our millions we’re all Palestinians”. Campaigners also encouraged those gathered to boycott businesses including Barclays and Puma over their work with Israel.

Labour group leader, Cllr Liam Robinson, who could face a clash with his national party and avoided using the word ceasefire, said he acknowledged it was a “challenging issue” and was conscious it could be the most difficult speech he delivers given the “complex and historic” nature of the matter. He added how across the city people have been “deeply troubled and concerned” by the images in the Middle East and he would not allow the issue to “divide our city”.

Cllr Robinson said the four-day ceasefire was a “positive development” and the city had a “strong commitment” to a two-state solution. Cllr Alan Gibbons, who supported the original motion, said in reaching an agreed text: “We did something simple tonight, we talked.”

In a moving statement, Cllr Lucille Harvey recalled her own trip to the West Bank before conflict in 2006. She said: “To our collective shame, Britain has not done enough.”

The Labour member added, “My vote is for a lasting peace, lasting hope and a lasting ceasefire.”

Image: Mohammed Abubakr

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