Middle East Peace Process — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:02 pm on 4th May 2011.

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Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Liberal Democrat 8:02 pm, 4th May 2011

My Lords, I think it is worth restating that, quite rightly, the coalition Government's, and I hope most people's, policy is for a two-state solution. To carry this forward, all sides have to put the past behind them, however unpleasant-and much of it is unpleasant-and concentrate: first, on understanding that Israel's natural priority is its own security; secondly, on ensuring that Israel understands that settlements, other than the large towns grouped near the 1967 border, will eventually need to go, just as Israel moved all its settlements out of Gaza; and, thirdly-these all go together-understanding that Hamas needs to accept, albeit reluctantly, the state of Israel permanently and that no longer will rockets pour down on Israeli towns such as Ashkelon and Sderot.

Progress has been made between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, the Fatah-Hamas agreement does raise real difficulties and challenges. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, referred to this, and I shall give greater detail. Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, said about Osama bin Laden:

"We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior".

The Times, which is not noted as a pro-Israel newspaper, carried an interesting editorial on 29 April. It stated:

"Hamas ... promotes its own concept of peace, founded on the Islamic concept of hudna, or an extended ceasefire. Yet it seeks an Islamic state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, promulgates The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, launches rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, and has received money and arms from Iran".

So my question to the Minister is: how does this affect the securing of an eventual settlement that, as the Times put it,

"respects Israel's security needs and creates a viable, pacific Palestinian state"?

I firmly believe that this is the way to create a stable Palestine alongside a secure state of Israel. Both sides have to sit down at the negotiation table, put the past behind them and look towards the future. This Question is about the "assessment ... of progress". That is the future.