My Lords, today’s burning question is how different faiths and cultures can live together in peace—nowhere more so than in the Middle East. The Palestinian territories have been occupied since 1967, and Gaza blockaded since 2006. If nothing is done, the latter may become uninhabitable in just four years’ time. Frustrations lead to wars and personal violence. The situation threatens world peace and is a spur to terrorists.
There are, however, some signs of new creative thoughts. In July 2014, President Abbas asked the UN Secretary-General for “an international protection system” for the Occupied Territories. He gave three strong reasons. He had support from various American academics and from Mr Indyk, a former US Ambassador to Israel. Prince Hassan of Jordan and Mr Churkin of Russia also spoke in favour, the latter in the Security Council. The benefit of protection is that there would be international responsibility for Palestinian self-determination and independence. To achieve this, the security of Israel should be guaranteed, thus allowing it to withdraw its forces from the West Bank and other places. Every existing institution should be co-opted in support of the rule of law for all Palestinians. Israel would gain by assurance of safety from external attacks, plus full recognition by all its neighbours. The goal should be two states living alongside in symbiosis. This would be a victory for all. Such an outline is not original. I trust, however, that it is realistic enough to be put into practice. I urge the Government to reflect on it and to promote it with all their diplomatic resources and skills. Moral imagination is surely needed after so many deaths, bereavements, wounds and violent expulsions.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stone, noted, the gracious Speech was silent on Israel and Palestine. However, I hope that what I have outlined is wholly consistent with our national security objectives. It agrees with the Foreign Secretary’s speech of April this year. It is in line with the four strategic objectives in the Treasury-DfID paper of last November. The first of these was global security and peace, and the last help for the world’s most vulnerable. Who could be more vulnerable than the people of Gaza? Therefore, I commend this proposal to your Lordships.
By way of postscript, I should like to see Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo all within the EU. For this reason and many others, I want us to keep our membership of the EU and to work for much-needed reforms. For many, the rebuilding and reopening of the Ferhadija mosque in Bosnia symbolises interfaith and cross-community co-operation in the kind of moral Europe that I would like to see happen.