Middle East Peace Settlement — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:57 pm on 14th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Liberal Democrat 7:57 pm, 14th January 2014

My Lords, I will first echo my noble friend Lord Carrington’s comments about Ariel Sharon; I shall not dwell on the matter more than that. I will address the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, and perhaps flesh out some of the things he did not have time to go into in his speech.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council announced in December that in the event of a peace agreement it would offer both Israel and a future Palestinian state a special privileged partnership with the EU, including increased access to European markets, closer cultural and scientific links, facilitation of trade and investments, promotion of business to business relations and enhanced political dialogue and security co-operation.

The council also said that the EU would,

“contribute substantially to post-conflict arrangements for ensuring the sustainability of a peace agreement. The Council will work on concrete proposals, including by building on previous work undertaken on EU contributions to Palestinian state-building, regional issues, refugees, security and Jerusalem.

We constantly hear a lot about what Israel must do to reach a peace settlement, such as stopping the expansion of settlements—the list of actions that Israel should take goes on. I have no problem with some of these demands, but demands should also be made of the Palestinians as, without give and take on both sides, no progress will be made.

The UK Government and the EU frequently endorse a key Palestinian demand with regard to the 1967 lines being the basis for a territorial agreement. They have not acknowledged one of Israel’s key concerns: namely, that an agreement must be along the lines of two states for two peoples, as my noble friend Lord Carrington outlined. It is important to set realistic expectations for both sides regarding the end game, and in particular to reassure the Israelis that a peace agreement will secure, not threaten, Israel as the only state in the world with a Jewish majority.

What does Israel see? The glorification of terrorism and violence in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas media, along with a denial of the Jewish connection to the land and any right to statehood. That sends out a very negative message to Israel about Palestinian intentions regarding a negotiated two-state solution, which we all want. Israel’s public support for talks is high, but faith in the Palestinian partner is, sadly—whether correctly or incorrectly—very low. This is a considerable source of concern, particularly when there seem to be continued Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

Given the role of the EU as a financial supporter of the PA, to which the noble Lord, Lord Soley, rightly drew the attention of the House, could it not do more to pressurise the Palestinian Authority to address that problem? Will Ministers consider strengthening public statements regarding the glorification of violence against Israel in the Palestinian media? That is the way forward to the two-state solution that we all want.