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Israel and Palestine: United States’ Proposals for Peace - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:59 pm on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative 4:59 pm, 27th February 2020

My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am Jewish and have relations who had to flee Europe as refugees or were, sadly, killed for their religion. I understand that the Palestinians are angry. They are confined and suppressed and have no country. I am sure the Palestinian people want a civilised, democratic country, but unless and until their leadership—both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas—accept and recognise Israel’s right to exist, the Palestinian people are in limbo.

I support peace. I support a two-state solution. As anti-Semitism rears its ugly head again across the West, I absolutely support the need for a Jewish homeland. But the Palestinian people are languishing—their children fed hate and incitement against their Jewish neighbours—and continually reject offers of peace. They name their schools after terrorists. Their curriculum and school textbooks glorify suicide bombing and incite children to hate their neighbours.

Does my noble friend agree with me that, unless and until we can create an environment of acceptance, the prospects for peace—from whichever plan or quarter they may come—are vanishingly small? Israel has shown itself willing to withdraw from settlements in the hope of peace, but the evacuation of Gaza led to an intensification of violence, incitement, rocket attacks and terror tunnels.

These United States plans are a catalyst for restarting discussions, not a final version. They are aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence, but trust has broken down. Trust in a partnership for peace needs to be rebuilt, but we also need a home for the Jewish people after millennia of prejudice, oppression and death. As we recall the liberation of concentration camp prisoners just 75 years ago—still within the lifetime of survivors who had nowhere to run to, no country they could call home—the Jewish state is absolutely vital. Every piece of this land has been fought for with huge sacrifices.

Israel’s Palestinian neighbours have not shown that they want a smaller Israel; they seem to want no Israel. There were no settlements in 1948, 1967 or 1973. The problem was not where its borders lie but that it has any borders. As so often in our history, it feels as if the aim is erasing the Jewish state and its people. Yes, criticisms can be levelled at the Israeli Government, as at any country’s Government—I am not by any means claiming that the Israeli Government are perfect—but rewarding Palestinian intransigence has not brought peace. The Palestinians keep falling further behind. Are we really serving them well by encouraging unrealistic positions such as the right of return or even a return to exactly the pre-1967 borders, which proved so impossible to defend?

Israel was built by refugees. Many of those Jews were thrown out of neighbouring lands because of their religion—these were not just refugees from Europe—but they had somewhere to go. I therefore implore the Palestinians to be a partner for peace in the Middle East. The Israeli people want to live in peace. They do not want to dominate the Palestinians. They, and I, respect a Palestinian right to a state, but it must be in peaceful coexistence with an Israeli state.