Update, 20th December 2023:
I wished to provide an update regarding the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel.
Universally there is distress at the appalling loss of civilian life which began with Hamas’ brutal massacre on 7th October and the Israeli invasion of Gaza. I have written to our government to support humanitarian pauses and to ensure that Israel exercises its right to defend itself within the rules of international law.
Last weekend, the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Lord Cameron, called for a ‘sustainable cease-fire’ alongside the German Foreign Minister. I support calls for a sustainable end to the conflict which must end the unnecessary and tragic loss of civilian life. Lord Cameron has made clear that this shift in rhetoric reflects a desire to see an end to the fighting as soon as is reasonably possible stating: “We do not believe that calling right now for a general and immediate cease-fire, hoping it somehow becomes permanent, is the way forward.”
I am very pleased to see the reports this week that there is a possibility of another truce and urge that any pause in fighting is used to bring the war to an end, This war cannot continue forever. Hamas’ commitment to the elimination of the world’s only Jewish State cannot be allowed to succeed. However, whilst Israel has the right to defend itself against external threats, the loss of civilian life within Gaza has been far too great.
All parties must find a long-term sustainable solution that Lord Cameron has argued for. Making peace requires uncomfortable concessions and compromises with one’s enemies. The international community must work collaboratively to find a solution which delivers positive outcomes and deradicalisation in Gaza. I believe the only realistic long-term solution is a two state solution however difficult that looks to achieve.
14th November 2023:
I understand the concern at the horrific events that have taken place in Israel and Gaza. I was appalled by the terrorist attack on Israel and am equally appalled by the plight of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
The massacre of innocent Israeli civilians shocked the world and I do believe that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorists. However, I do not believe that Hamas are synonymous with the Palestinian people as it offers nothing more than conflict, terror, and bloodshed. It is morally abhorrent that they continue to use civilian infrastructure and civilians as human shields for their terrorist activities.
The loss of innocent life is a tragedy, and the UK Government has repeatedly stressed to Israel that it must take every precaution to minimise civilian casualties and its campaigns must be targeted against Hamas’ leadership, militants, and military infrastructure. The Prime Minister has stressed to President Herzog and Prime Minister Netanyahu the need to act in accordance with International Law. The new Foreign Secretary will work with our allies to urge “restraint” and put increased pressure on Israel not to target civilian and medical targets. I will do all I can do support the Foreign Secretary’s efforts.
The UK Government has funded an extra £30m of additional aid to Gaza which more than doubles our existing aid commitment of £27m. It is essential that the Rafah crossing remains open so that aid can enter, and casualties can leave.
I would support a humanitarian break negotiated by the international community to allow more aid to reach civilians and to organise safe areas and safe evacuation paths. However, I do not sign EDMs.
Whilst I understand your humanitarian call for a ceasefire and obviously any long-term solution will require fighting to cease, I cannot support the call for an immediate ceasefire. The most likely consequence of which would be Hamas re-arming and resuming its campaign of sending rockets into Israel. Iran must cease its funding of Hamas.
Any ceasefire requires both sides to abide by its conditions. Hamas broke the last ceasefire on the 7th October and understandably Israel is sceptical that Hamas would comply with any ceasefire. Whilst the SNP have tabled an amendment calling for an immediate ceasefire, there is no guarantee that it will be voted upon. Unless it has cross party support it is likely to have little impact. If the amendment receives such support, I shall consider it carefully.
I will continue to urge Israel to abide by international law and exercise restraint. I know that my colleagues in Government are doing the same. It is also clear that the international community must continue to condemn Hamas and its murderous terrorists. The only possibility of enduring peace in Palestine and Israel is a two-state solution. However difficult that is to achieve I believe everyone in the international community should pursue this solution.
I am concerned at the impact this war is having on community cohesion in our country. The rise of antisemitism and islamophobia must stop. Jewish and Muslim communities must feel safe in our country. The behaviour of extremists over remembrance weekend, both EDL and some within the PSC has rightly appalled many people in Wimbledon and the UK.
Finally, today (14th November) in The House of Commons I pressed the Foreign Office Minister on how more aid can reach Gazan civilians in need during any humanitarian pause – which will need to be longer than four hours.