Middle East Peace Process — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:59 pm on 4th May 2011.

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Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Chair, EU Sub-Committee F - Home Affairs 7:59 pm, 4th May 2011

My Lords, I raise three questions, and I hope that the Minister can respond to them.

The first is whether this is the moment at which we should be trying to revive the peace process, or should we be-as the Israeli Government would wish us to-sitting back, waiting for the dust to settle, doing nothing hasty, and making no innovations? I am sad to have to say that I think that the second choice is disastrous. I hope we will explain to our Israeli friends that we think it is disastrous because the new regimes that are emerging in Arab countries will be more sensitive to public opinion and will be open to radicalisation, and if there is no process to engage with we can be quite sure what will happen. We will drift towards confrontation and perhaps even hostilities. I believe in everything that the Minister and her colleagues have said in recent weeks, and I hope that they share this view and will be active in trying to revive the process.

Secondly, how is the vacuum in the peace process best filled? I do not think we can hope that Israel or the Palestinians will fill it spontaneously. In those circumstances, I feel that it is important to argue with the United States that it, together with the quartet, should put some kind of outline down on the table and test the views of the parties to that outline. It need not be anything particularly ambitious. It could be within the parameters of the Clinton negotiations at the White House and the subsequent Taba negotiations, but we need some substance on the table, otherwise the thing will just go round in circles.

Thirdly, who should we, Britain, and our European allies be talking to? I believe we should be talking to everyone, and that includes Hamas. We must surely now make a distinction between talking to everyone and negotiating. That is the essence of diplomacy. We should not negotiate with anyone, including Hamas, who does not desist from violence and does not accept the Arab peace initiative, but we should talk to everyone because we will have something to say if an outline is put on the table, and preserving the old system of boycotting Hamas completely will be counterproductive.

I hope that we can hear a response from the Government on those three points. We are at an important moment, and I hope that we will turn it into an opportunity, not another entry in the long catalogue of missed opportunities.