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Backbench Business — Palestine and Israel

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 6:16 pm on 13th October 2014.

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Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee 6:16 pm, 13th October 2014

I wish to draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

The tragic clash between Jewish and Palestinian nationalism can only be resolved with the creation of a Palestinian state with agreed and secure borders, with international backing and support, alongside the state of Israel, and the only way to bring that about in a lasting and peaceful way, to the benefit of both peoples, is through direct negotiations, where agreements are made, assurances are given and where there is full security and long-term peace. That needs agreement on borders, and some agreement has been made, but the differences are relatively small in length but critical in nature. It needs agreement on how to share Jerusalem, on refugee issues, agreement on security and agreement that setting up a Palestinian state would be the end of claims and the end of conflict, not a staging post for an attack on Israel’s existence.

We should remember that the peace treaty that was signed with Egypt in 1979 has stood the test of time, despite drastic changes in regime and Governments. In contrast, Israel’s unilateral withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 has not resulted in peace. It has led to the terrorist organisation, Hamas, violently overthrowing Fatah, launching its barrage of rockets and now directing the terror tunnels at the civilians of Israel. We saw the results in the horrendous events of last summer.

Two years ago, the Palestinian Authority were given some status in the United Nations in an attempt to look for a diplomatic UN route to try to resolve what appeared to be intractable problems. What has happened since then, and what use has been made of that diplomacy? The most recent effort to find a negotiated peace was that undertaken by John Kerry. The truth is that it was President Abbas who did not give an answer to the framework agreement that John Kerry put forward as a basis for further negotiations. Israel agreed to it, quite rightly, though it did not want to; it had to be pushed and pressurised to do so. President Abbas has still not given any answer; instead, he returned to the United Nations.

On 26 September, President Abbas addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. That was the sort of approach that the proposed resolution envisages: no direct negotiations, and dealing with this by resolution, and through United Nations debates. He spoke about “genocide” by Israelis, and about Palestinian “martyrs”. Is that the language used about the suicide bombings directed at the young people and civilians of Israel at a time when peace negotiations, following Oslo, were very much under way? He spoke about “forced withdrawals”. That is not the language of peace.

It should be remembered that while peace negotiations were under way following the Oslo negotiations, in one month alone—March 2002—80 Israeli civilians were killed and 600 injured in targeted suicide bombings on the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon, in a concerted attempt to undermine and destroy that peace process. No wonder there is concern among the people of Israel; they know that during those peace negotiations—it was right to stick to them and to keep going with them —terror groups sent by, among others, Yasser Arafat, were targeting, killing and maiming Israeli civilians. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza—a correct, unilateral withdrawal—was followed by rockets, the terror tunnels, and more and more death.

This is not an easy issue; if it was easy to resolve, it would have been resolved by now. Both Jews and Palestinians deserve to have their states, and to live in peace and security, side by side. Direct negotiations are the way—