Middle East Peace Process — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:49 pm on 4th May 2011.

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Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour 7:49 pm, 4th May 2011

My Lords, I will make four points. First, the prospect six months ago of achieving peace in the Middle East through the peace process appeared very bleak. Progress made by Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas in 2008 was reversed by the new right-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who could plausibly point to the fact that there was no negotiating partner on the other side who could deliver, and to the increasingly sophisticated rocketry passed by Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas. Again the hopes raised by President Obama's Cairo speech were dashed, and most commentators at the time were confidently predicting the renewal of armed conflict.

Secondly, much remains unchanged, but there are now flickers of a positive movement both in the Palestinian economy and in their security services. The Arab spring has weakened the rejectionist Syria, and the new Egyptian initiative today unites the Palestinian factions. It would be helpful to have the Government's analysis of the significance of this. However, the way in which Hamas is mourning the death of bin Laden is surely not helpful.

New factors put Israel on the defensive; Egypt will shortly open its borders with Gaza, and a Government responsive to their people in Egypt might in fact repudiate the 1979 treaty with Israel. Again, the Palestinian Authority will press the United Nations General Assembly in September for recognition. There will be much international support, and this Government will have to have a clear position by that time.

Finally, the status quo is no longer tenable. Friends of Israel should urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to respond positively to the new challenges. Time is not on their side. One hopes that the challenge today of President Abbas-choose settlements or peace-will be answered positively.