Backbench Business - Middle Eastbackbench Business

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:09 pm on 30th November 2015.

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Photo of Tania Mathias Tania Mathias Conservative, Twickenham 9:09 pm, 30th November 2015

I, too, commend my hon. Friend Dr Lee for securing this important debate, and I was pleased to hear what the Minister said, particularly concerning funding for diplomatic contacts.

My hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi spoke about the UK’s role in the middle east over many centuries. I wish to focus particularly on the role that is nearly 100 years old—a role that started with a declaration from the UK Government that said:

Her Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

The same declaration also said that it was

“clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

My point is that our role then decreased in 1948, and many people in that area—Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians —would say that the UK Government walked away and

“left the key under the mat”.

Today, we have been involved in action in Libya and Iraq and we may have more action coming up in Syria. My plea is that our role and responsibility must be future-proofed—it must be long term. What this means is that our role involves what some people talk of as jaw-jaw and not war-war—and I say that it is jaw-jaw that is continuous. I believe that the UK’s role has been lacking in the Palestine-Israel area, and that the UK must continue to negotiate and have diplomacy. We must still be talking about the borders of Palestine-Israel. We must still be talking about the settlements. We must still be talking about security for Palestine and Israel.

We must talk about refugees’ rights to return, which I have raised with the Minister with responsibility for Syrian refugees. I particularly asked what was happening for the Palestinian refugees who are in the Syrian camps. Can they go home; will there be homes built for them in Palestine? We must, of course, also still talk about Jerusalem. The UK’s role and responsibility in the middle east must be long term and ongoing. Contrary to what was said by my hon. Friend John Howell, this is not a sideshow. There can be no long-term peace and stability in the region until there is peace and stability for Palestine and Israel.