A letter on the Middle East peace process
I have received via this website a number of pro forma e-mails concerning Palestine and Israel. Each asks me to answer Yes/No/Don’t Know to a number of questions, some of which deserve more complex answers. Rather than answering each one, as I would have to have done, with significant provisos and explanations I thought it preferable to set out my position in one place at more length. Before anyone takes the point that my position is simply core Labour Party policy I should add that it also happens to entirely reflect my own views.
Firstly, I should say that I share your concern at the lack of progress on the Middle East Peace Process and the issue of Palestinian human rights.
I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours. After decades of diplomatic failure, there are those on all sides that today question whether a two-state solution is any longer possible.
Despite John Kerry’s exhaustive efforts in 2013, the latest round of negotiations collapsed in April last year. And the appalling loss of life that occurred in the conflict in Gaza last summer – with 2,131 Palestinians killed, the vast majority of them civilians, and seven Israeli civilians killed by rocket attacks from Gaza, makes the task of achieving a lasting and just peace all the more urgent.
Labour is clear that only a negotiated peace deal will bring the justice and security both sides deserve. That is why the international community must now take concrete steps to strengthen moderate Palestinian opinion. We are clear that Palestinian recognition at the UN would be such a step.
Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised and that is why, in both 2011 and in 2012 we urged the UK Government to support the Palestinian’s bid for recognition at the UN. Not as a means of bypassing the need for talks, but as a bridge for restarting them. Today, the immediate priority for the international community must be to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of Palestinians who are in desperate need and to help the rebuilding of basic infrastructure in Gaza.
All sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve, that means an end to blockade and occupation, and the end of rocket and terror attacks. Labour recognises that the settlements and their continued expansion remain key obstacles to resolving the conflict, as Ed Miliband has said, they are both illegal and immoral. We are clear, however, that the threat of boycotts of Israel is the wrong response. Labour has taken and will maintain domestic action to introduce labelling transparency, and will seek a Europe-wide approach to settlement products.
Thank you to all those that have taken the time to write to me with their views.
Nick Grant, Labour Parliamentary candidate, Twickenham