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Backbench Business — Palestine and Israel

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:18 pm on 13th October 2014.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Liberal Democrat, Cheltenham 9:18 pm, 13th October 2014

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He makes a valid point. I will come back to the message that we need to send to the Government who are responsible for that.

The deeper point to which I was referring was that if we are to tell Arabs across the region to reject extremism, rockets, bombs and massacres that are deliberately aimed at killing defenceless civilians, we must also do more to support the moderate, democratic, pluralist leaders, such as Mahmoud Abbas, who have painstakingly pursued the diplomatic path towards peace and self-determination. In answer to Robert Jenrick, if the only practical outcome of passing the motion is to strengthen the hand of Mahmoud Abbas against extremism and intransigence, however imperceptibly, we should do it. If we can tell the Iraqi Government of Nouri al-Maliki that it is not enough to be elected—even to be elected and face an existential threat—but that Governments must also be inclusive and demonstrate a commitment to peace, we have to deliver the same message, loud and clear, to the Government of Binyamin Netanyahu.

To those who suggest that it is wrong to recognise a new state whose borders have not been finally determined, I say that this House did exactly that in 1950. In case Members have any doubt, I refer them to column 1138 of Hansard on 27 April 1950, when Kenneth Younger, the Minister of State in the Attlee Government, announced:

His Majesty’s Government have also decided to accord de jure recognition to the State of Israel, subject to explanations on two points…First, that His Majesty’s Government are unable to recognise the sovereignty of Israel over that part of Jerusalem which she occupies, though, pending a final determination of the status of the area, they recognise that Israel exercises de facto authority in it. Secondly, that His Majesty’s Government cannot regard the present boundaries between Israel, and Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Lebanon as constituting the definitive frontiers of Israel, as these boundaries were laid down in the Armistice Agreements concluded severally between Israel and each of these States, and are subject to any modifications which may be agreed upon under the terms of those Agreements, or of any final settlements which may replace them.”—[Hansard, 27 April 1950; Vol. 474, c. 1138-1139.]

We have been waiting for those final settlements—indeed, the middle east has been waiting for those final settlements—for 60 years and more. We have seen occupations by Jordan and then by Israel. We have seen wars and uprisings, but the Palestinian territories are closer in practice to statehood now than they have been at any other time in that entire period. If we are to reward the diplomatic path to peace, the time has come to recognise the state of Palestine, as we did the state of Israel all those years ago.

We should join the 350 Israelis who today wrote an open letter to my noble Friend Lord Alderdice—former Members of the Knesset, former Ministers, former Government officials, former winners of the Israel prize and the Nobel prize, a former Attorney-General, artists, playwrights and soldiers—who said:

“We, Israelis who worry and care for the well-being of the state of Israel, believe that the long-term existence and security of Israel depends on the long-term existence and security of a Palestinian state.”

We should support them and we should support the motion tonight.