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Palestine: Recognition — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:49 pm on 29th January 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 5:49 pm, 29th January 2015

My Lords, in a powerful speech at RUSI last October, my right honourable friend Sir Alan Duncan said:

“No one who has travelled to Israel and Palestine … can fail to become emotionally engaged in the rights and wrongs of the arguments between the two. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is one of the most polarising and vexed issues in the world”.

How right he is.

I declare my interests as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to the Palestinian territories, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council and president of Medical Aid for Palestinians, in which role I follow in the illustrious footsteps of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, my noble friend Lord Patten of Barnes, who I am pleased to see him his place, and my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood. I am enormously grateful to my noble friend Lord Steel for giving us the opportunity to debate the indivisible right of the Palestinians to self-determination.

I travelled to the Occupied Palestinian Territories twice in December. Just before Christmas, I had the pleasure of travelling with my noble friend Lady Warsi on a Caabu and Medical Aid for Palestinians delegation.

Earlier in the month, as trade envoy, I visited Gaza. I had not been to Gaza since 2011 and I was shocked not only by the devastation caused by last summer’s bombing but by the general deterioration. There is hardly any fuel, people cannot keep warm, and every other mode of transport is a donkey and cart—and most of the donkeys are lame. The international donations promised at the Cairo conference to rebuild Gaza are not materialising, and young children are dying from the cold. We are honouring our commitment, and many people have found a warm home through the money that DfID has given to pay rents.

In the West Bank, I witnessed ever-increasing settlement building, the threatened removal of the Bedouin from their lands to townships and a proposal to extend the wall—or the separation barrier—in the Cremisan Valley, a most beautiful part of Bethlehem, which will separate the land from local farmers and religious communities.

I also witnessed the work of and pay tribute to some amazing and dedicated Israelis who are working tirelessly for Palestinian dignity and self-determination. I never fail to be impressed by the resilience and good humour of the Palestinian people, but it is hardly surprising that they have had enough. It is also hardly surprising, when they are constantly told that the time is not right, that they have sought to take matters into their own hands. In an article in the Guardian on 9 November 2011, just before the Palestinians applied for full member status at the UN, my right honourable friend Sir Nicholas Soames and I warned:

The UK cannot support the right to self-determination in every country in the Middle East and then deny the same right to the Palestinians. The World Bank, IMF, UN and EU have all assessed the performance of the Palestinian Authority and reported that it is ready for statehood”.

Recognition will bolster those Palestinians who believe that the path of non-violence will lead to a state coming into being through diplomacy and democratic expression, not destruction, a state which lives side-by-side with Israel in peace and prosperity.

There are those who seek to make recognition of Palestinian statehood dependent on the conclusion of successful peace negotiations. I believe that such negotiations will not come to fruition without Palestinian statehood. Time is running out for all the conditions to be met. How can we talk about a two-state solution when we recognise only one state?

In 2010, President Obama promised in his speech to the UN that Palestine would be a new member of the United Nations by September 2011. That promise was endorsed by the United Kingdom. We should fulfil that promise now.