Israel – Gaza
The world was understandably shocked and horrified by the brutal terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas on the 7th October. The world is now understandably equally shocked and horrified at the suffering of the civilian Palestinian population. The UK Government has made emergency humanitarian aid of an additional £20 m available alongside the US and others; and have told Israel that they must ensure their actions comply with international law. I know that the Government will make more aid available.
It was good news last week that the Rafah crossing has re-opened to allow some casualties and international citizens leave Gaza. It is now essential that this crossing remains open and that more aid vehicles are allowed to enter Gaza. I support the calls for a humanitarian pause so that more food can be delivered, medical help supplied and more badly wounded to be evacuated. Such a pause would need to be properly policed and verified, and the obvious international body to do so would be the UN.
Whilst we all wish for peace, I think calls for a ceasefire at this stage are naïve. Before the 7th October there existed a ceasefire which was broken by Hamas in the largest single slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. The concern would be that Hamas, supplied by Iran, will simply use any ceasefire to re-arm and re-start its attacks on Israel. The international community recognises that the Palestinian people are not synonymous with Hamas and recognises that it is Hamas that uses innocent people as shields and fires rockets and coordinates attacks from underneath hospitals and refugee camps. The conditions that will allow a ceasefire will include a cessation of such attacks and the release of all hostages but also an international package of money and resource to ensure restoration and rebuilding of the civilian homes and infrastructure. I also believe that the must be commitment to the long-term goal of a two-state solution however bleak that prospect might be.
This weekend I attended a church service and prayer for peace evening at a local mosque.
On 26th October I spoke at the Merton’s Planning Application Committee, in opposition to the All-England’s plans to develop Wimbledon Park.
I have written about this application on several occasions in this column as it is the most controversial planning application in the last decade with many local people strongly opposed. In my allotted two-minute speech I highlighted the possible short- and long-term possible threats to the local eco system. And that even the Officers Report which recommended the application proceed noted that the development contravened all the usual Metropolitan Open Land obligations. I pointed out that by passing the application the Planning Application Committee has now set a precedent that all local green space could now be built upon. Unfortunately, the Committee passed the Application by six votes to four – the Mitcham Labour Councillors voting for whilst the Conservative and other opposition councillors who represent Wimbledon voted against.
Tennis and Wimbledon and synonymous, and we all want to see the AELTC succeed. However, the approval of this application not only sets a dangerous precedent for MOL across London and but is simply too big in size and scale. I have written to the Mayor alongside local Councillors to call for the application be reviewed at a London level. I am clear that this application is likely to have major difficulty in meeting the requirements of the restrictive covenant. For those who are interested I have posted a copy of my speech on my website and a video on my social media channels.
Finally, a new chapter for Wimbledon starts on November 18th as Wimbledon Quarter, the former Centre Court shopping, formally reopens with a completely updated look. Why not pop in between 11 and 5 – I hope to see you there.