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Backbench Business — Palestine and Israel

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:05 pm on 13th October 2014.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 9:05 pm, 13th October 2014

I meant no discourtesy to the Minister earlier; I was simply aware that colleagues were anxious to make their contributions, and that is why mine will be brief. I speak in support of the motion in the name of my hon. Friend Grahame M. Morris and of the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr Straw.

This House has a duty to support Palestinian statehood. The Palestinian claim to statehood is not in the gift of a neighbour—it is an inalienable right of the Palestinians, and tonight we should speak up on their behalf. As Sir Alan Duncan said in a superb, eloquent speech, the other half of the Balfour commitment places on us a further obligation and duty to support the Palestinians tonight.

Every speaker has spoken in favour of a two-state solution; everyone on both sides of this House is passionate about a two-state solution. However, I fear that confidence is draining away from the idea of whether a two-state solution is possible. Is it any wonder that confidence in a two-state solution is draining away when the Israelis push ahead with illegal settlements in the west bank? Is it any wonder that confidence is draining away when Bedouin Arabs in the E1 area live in fear of being moved on, and are not allowed to build proper schools for their children and so are forced to build them out of recycled tyres? Is it any wonder that confidence is draining away when those same Arabs put up swings for their children, and because they are denied the relevant permit from the authorities, the Israeli authorities come and take down the swings that the children play on? Is it any wonder that confidence is draining away when we see a conflict in Gaza that leads to 110,000 displaced Palestinians and the destruction of 22 schools?

There are times when this House has to send a message—when this House has to speak. I believe that the will of the British people is now to support Palestinian statehood. Many have questioned what is the practical purpose of supporting this motion; well, I ask what is the practical purpose of opposing it. If we oppose the motion, this House will be sending a message that we endorse the status quo, and I do not believe that that is the will of the British people.