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Backbench Business — Palestine and Israel

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 7:25 pm on 13th October 2014.

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Photo of Hugh Robertson Hugh Robertson Conservative, Faversham and Mid Kent 7:25 pm, 13th October 2014

It absolutely was. By the same token, I believe that many people on the Israeli side are genuine partners for peace. I am afraid, however, that the ability to make the crucial decisions and the really tough compromises necessary to deliver a peace process was in the end absent, as they have been in the past.

Thirdly, the international community needs to look at an appropriate and calibrated programme of incentives and disincentives at key points in a peace process, and recognition of a Palestinian state is one key component. It will be extraordinarily difficult, but the process must be done in such a way that it is in neither side’s interest to derail it.

Finally, I fear that we need in practice to look again at our own policy. Having sat on the Front Bench only a few months ago, I know that the Minister is bound to say that the British policy is to support a two-state solution—that is good—based on the 1967 boundaries, with agreed land swaps. However, as I did when I stood looking at a settlement in East Jerusalem, we have to recognise that the international community lacks the will to bulldoze £1 million houses built illegally in settlements. We will have to form a new border, probably based on the wall, and then deal with the settlements beyond it if we are to make any progress.

I firmly believe that the principle of a Palestinian state is right and fair. I am delighted to be a signatory to the former Foreign Secretary’s amendment to that effect. However, I feel that declaring it unilaterally at this time could well be the catalyst for a further period of instability. The international community needs to re-engage on this issue as never before, led by the USA with the Arab world and Egypt alongside it. It must lay out a road map, including incentives and disincentives, to a final agreement in which the recognition of a Palestinian state is a key milestone. There is no doubt that that will be extraordinarily difficult, as many of our predecessors have found, but the alternative is unacceptably grim. This House can play a part in that process tonight.