SIR Keir Starmer tonight faced calls to boot out rebel MPs as the party’s splits over Israel intensified.
Corbynista backbencher Andy McDonald was slammed for using the incendiary “between the river and the sea” cry at a pro-Palestine rally this weekend.
And veteran leftie John McDonell sparked fury for defending him – while suggesting Israel should have reacted to Hamas’ ghoulish attacks with “negotiation”.
Labour has plunged into infighting following Sir Keir’s refusal to back a flat-out ceasefire and instead calling for a “humanitarian pause”.
His position has been defied by a quarter of his MPs – including several shadow ministers – as well as Mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, and Scots leader Anas Sarwar.
Top Starmer ally Mr Kyle yesterday indicated frontbench rebels would not be sacked and played down the conflicting stances as “dancing on the head of a pin”.
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But Tory MP Robert Largan blasted: “If Starmer does become PM, the country needs to know if he will be running things or if the Hamas appeasers in his party are actually in charge.”
Sir Keir was dealt a fresh headache last night as anger mounted towards Mr McDonald, who also suggested Israel was “ethnically cleansing” Palestinians in Gaza.
The Middlesbrough MP said: “We won’t rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty.”
The phrase is seen by many Jews as demanding the total extinction of Israel – ridding it from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean sea.
Shadow Cabinet Minister Mr Kyle warned it risked heightening tensions and told Times Radio: “I don’t think that people should use that phrase because of the impact it has.”
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Senior Tory MP Simon Clarke lashed out: “We all know the connotations of the phrase ‘between the river and the sea’.
“Andy McDonald knows exactly what he is doing by saying ‘Israelis and Palestinians’. He’s tiptoeing up to the line, and daring Labour to respond. Keir Starmer should.”
Ex-shadow chancellor Mr McDonnell insisted the chant had been “misrepresented” and was “actually a phrase about how people can live together”.
Yet he provoked incredulity for saying Hamas’ appalling invasion should have triggered “negotiation” rather than a “large-scale attack” from Israel.
Mr Largan accused the Labour veteran of “deliberate trolling of the Jewish community”- adding: “He is openly daring Starmer to remove the whip”.
On McDonald and McDonnell, a senior Labour source said: “There’s a reason these people and their friends don’t have formal roles in Keir’s Labour Party.”
Many Labour MPs and councillors fear a backlash from millions of Muslim voters by not calling for a ceasefire.
Refusing to flinch, Mr Kyle said: “We are not thinking ‘how do we win votes?’ or what votes we will lose at a time when there is war and conflict unfolding before us, and there are human tragedies of a scale we have not seen for a very long time.”
Former Labour MP Lord Walney said: “If Labour tries to downplay scale of internal disagreement by saying a pause and a ceasefire are close to the same thing anyway, that itself would be a big weakening of the party’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself against the antisemitic horror unleashed on it.”
Today shadow foreign secretary David Lammy will begin a three-day visit to the Middle East to call for a humanitarian pause to let aid get into Gaza.