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Backbench Business — Palestine and Israel

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 6:35 pm on 13th October 2014.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 6:35 pm, 13th October 2014

I am afraid that I cannot, because I would run out of time.

I believe that the Palestinian Authority have acted in good faith and are a worthy partner in negotiations. They have expressed their commitment to a two-state solution. Although he does not actually have a state, I believe that President Abbas has displayed statesmanlike qualities, not least during the recent Gazan conflict, but I believe that he and his Authority are making a mistake in going down the unilateral road.

There is a problem, which the hon. Member for Easington did not recognise, in the form of Hamas. Hamas is a different matter. Although the Palestinian Authority has acted in good faith, and although President Abbas has been statesmanlike in many ways, I am afraid that the Palestinian Authority took a backward step when they entered into a unity deal with Hamas in April this year. It would have been fine if Hamas had shown any inkling that it was moving towards a peaceful solution, but it has not. It has had many opportunities to commit to the requirements of the international community and say that it will go down the road of peace, but from its inception, and according to the tenets of its founding charter, it has set its face against any sort of peaceful co-existence with the state of Israel and turned its hand to a campaign of unremitting terror and violence. No Government would stand by and allow such a campaign to be directed against its population without taking proportionate measures in self-defence.

We must not overlook the fact—it is often overlooked—that Hamas has caused Gaza, a rather sad place to say the least, to be locked into a deeply depressing cycle of violence, intending to inflict casualties on Israel and reckless as to the consequences for the civilian population in Gaza. It is against that background that we must approach these issues.

I very much hope that in future Hamas will show some willingness to become part of a peaceful solution and to engage in normal democratic politics and peaceful and legal means, but it has not done that so far. The pressure should be on Hamas to desist its campaign of violence and enter into negotiations genuinely, together with the Palestinian Authority, with the state of Israel.

This is a terrible conflict. We must all look forward to the day when both sides get down to the business of making the compromises that will be needed to bring it to an end. Israel certainly has to make compromises as well, but in the meantime we should all take steps that will make those compromises more, rather than less, likely. My fear is that the motion—a unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state—by encouraging one party to walk away from negotiations, would put off that day. We should be doing everything we can to induce both sides to negotiate, because only that way, as our Government have recognised, will we see a peaceful solution to this problem.