Middle East Peace Process — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:53 pm on 4th May 2011.

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Photo of Lord Weidenfeld Lord Weidenfeld Crossbench 7:53 pm, 4th May 2011

My Lords, I am afraid that the two-minute speaking limit prevents me arguing certain basic facts with the noble Baroness, having myself been involved for over 60 years with Israel. There are many facts concerning even its creation which I should very much like an opportunity to discuss here at greater length.

I think that the Arab spring is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it has given fresh hopes; on the other, the symbolism of Tahrir Square has also meant assault and savagery against a hopeless American woman. I think that the important thing now is the attitude of the reunited two forces, Hamas and Fatah. If Prime Minister Abbas, whose Administration has a great record of economic improvement and recovery, were willing to prove to the whole world that Hamas is unmistakably and irrevocably prepared to accept the existence of the state of Israel and of two adjacent states, an Arab state of Palestine and a Jewish state of Israel-and, indeed, if Hamas itself would endorse that-then I think that the road is open for negotiations.

I had the opportunity in recent weeks to be in Israel and to speak to leaders of the Government, the opposition and other people of importance and influence in the country, and I can tell your Lordships that there is considerable desire for true peace along the lines of two countries, Arab Palestine and Jewish Israel. However, Hamas has to submit to the supreme test-that it is unmistakeably and irrevocably agreeable to the existence of Israel. Nothing else would suffice or enable a negotiation to start.

I also believe that in the shadow of the death of the greatest terrorist of all time, we will all have to be watchful. The fanatical followers of bin Laden will try to wreak revenge. We therefore need to have an iron will, patience and understanding, and still not falter in our desire to have peace.

Finally, I believe that the unilateral recognition of a state of Palestine is a disastrous move that would aggravate the issue unless it were immediately preceded by efforts to get the parties to the table. I know that responsible European leaders are using their influence in every way to prevent this proposal coming before the United Nations, and certainly not before the Security Council.

I believe that we should all now be working together under the leadership of the United States, reinvigorated as it now is by the success against bin Laden; try to see the position fairly; and bring the parties together on the basis of total and unconditional mutual recognition.