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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 5:10 pm on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of The Marquess of Lothian The Marquess of Lothian Conservative 5:10 pm, 27th February 2020

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for having secured this debate. For many years, I have been both a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine—not always an easy balance to achieve in the ebbing and flowing of the two-state solution arguments—but President Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” has totally upset that balance. I have long championed Israel’s right to security within its legal borders, but when those borders are unilaterally changed by illegal acquisition or settlement —or even worse, as now, by American presidential diktat—that right to security is questionable, probably meaningless and arguably forfeited.

This deal would effectively mark the end of any acceptable two-state solution. The proposed illegal land grab and the quasi-Bantustan configuration of what would be left would hardly meet the concept of a genuine Palestinian state. The proposed swap of fertile land in the Jordan Valley for dusty land east of Gaza would understandably exacerbate—and it has—Palestinian resentment. With the Palestinians sidelined into the extremities of Jerusalem, gone too would be the possibility of a genuinely shared capital.

Over the years, I have spoken to Palestinians of all walks and politics, and I have no reason to doubt the universal intensity of their feeling. I fear violent consequences if these proposals are acted upon. This purported peace plan will strengthen the so-called resistance, and the spread of Israeli jurisdiction into Palestinian land will further stoke the flames of hatred and despair. I cannot understand how a United States Administration, who so frequently preach the importance of the rule of law, can propose a plan that so patently promotes illegality. The current occupation of the West Bank and the settlements within it are already illegal. Now, as well as entrenching these illegalities, they propose further illegal annexations.

United States presidential diktat cannot make what is illegal legal, whether it is in Jerusalem, on the Golan heights or, more widely, under the new proposals. Nor can the eerie silence of Arab neighbours make it any more acceptable. Currently our Government seem at best ambivalent and, at worst, quietly supportive of these proposals—although I still hope not. Since Sykes-Picot our involvement in this region has been somewhat less than honourable. The Balfour Declaration, and that which followed, undertook to respect the interests and rights of the Palestinians. If I may so: have we heck.

Backing the present Trump proposals would be one further betrayal. They are not about peace; they are about politics—the politics of the United States and the politics of Israel. The consequences could well be frightening. Violence in that part of the Middle East is never very far beneath the surface, and violence stoked by genuine grievances is a dangerous concoction. Before it is too late, we need to find our way back to a genuine two-state solution, opening up the possibility of genuine negotiations and, once again, the chance to be a friend of both Israel and Palestine. For that reason, I hope that the Palestinians continue to reject these dishonourable proposals and that, at the same time, we find the courage to do so too.