Thursday, 28 May 2020

Campaign response – Renewed concerns about the Middle East Peace Process and the Israeli government's plans to annex land in the West Bank of Palestine

Thank you to constituents who have written to me regarding their concerns for the Middle East Peace Process in recent weeks.

The resumption of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians is the only way to secure the two-state solution that we all hope to see. It is regrettable that the Palestinian leadership has rejected peace proposals in the past, and it is incumbent on the international community to encourage both sides to make the difficult compromises necessary to achieve a lasting peace.

Constituents are also right to say that the UK has a historic responsibility in helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, we have a proud record of not only upholding but shaping the international rules-based order.

The recent cooperation we have seen between Israelis and Palestinians in coordinating their response to COVID-19 is commendable and demonstrates that positive engagement is possible. The UK is the fourth largest donor country to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to combat coronavirus, with over $1.12 million provided via the Inter-Agency Response Plan.

I continued to be deeply concerned that the Hamas terror group’s preference of the destruction of Israel over the wellbeing of the people of Gaza, and no doubt you share my view that until Hamas seeks peace instead of terror, there sadly can be no progress towards a peaceful resolution with Israel.

On the issue of Israeli settlements, while I believe settlement expansion to be counter-productive to the peace process, they should not be considered a permanent obstacle to peace. Not only does Israel have a history of removing settlements in the interests of peace, but both parties have accepted for decades, as per previous interim peace agreements, that a final two-state solution would include Israel retaining settlements in exchange for equivalent land swaps.

Questions remain over the details of the annexation proposals constituents refer to; this is not a foregone conclusion and premature reactions should be avoided. With that in mind, I support the UK Government in recognising a Palestinian state only at a time when it best serves the objective of peace.

While the latest US proposals for peace have not been universally welcomed, it is significant that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE have expressed optimism over the plan alongside the UK. It is regrettable that the Palestinian leadership refused to engage with the US during the drafting process, and rejected the proposals outright. The plan should be seen as the basis of negotiations, not a final agreement.
As a country renowned for its high-tech expertise and scientific discoveries, the UK benefits from Israeli innovation. Medicines from Israel save the NHS billions of pounds a year, and over 200 tablets or capsules made by Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva are taken by patients in the UK every second. Sanctions on Israel and the wider boycott campaign therefore stands to be damaging for UK-Israel bilateral relations and the wellbeing of our populations.

What is clear, above all, is that the need for a renewed peace process is more urgent than ever. Our Government remains committed to a two-state solution through direct negotiations, and all parties involved as well as the international community must step up efforts without delay.

Thank you again to constituents who have taken the time to contact me on this important matter.