Last week marked 4 months since the appalling 7 October Attacks and the start of the conflict that has so devastated Gaza.

For absolute clarity the Labour Party position is that we demand an immediate truce for the fighting to stop now and a sustainable ceasefire to facilitate a process towards permanent peace and a two-state solution. I’ll discuss this in further detail below. Any ceasefire must be sustained so that there is no restart of this conflict and progress can be made towards a permanent peace.
The horrors of recent months in Israel and Gaza have been intolerable. The recent well publicised stories of children being slaughtered, in particular, are as shocking as they are disgusting. We cannot become desensitised to the unnecessary civilian deaths we are witnessing. There has been no let-up to the suffering and deaths in Gaza, no end to the cruelty for hostages. Millions are displaced, desperate and hungry. It can’t go on and must stop now – indeed long before now.
I hope you’ll forgive me running through the current major issues.
Rafah offensive
Israel’s offensive in Rafah, the last remaining refuge on the Gaza strip, where Palestinians were advised to go to to avoid bombing further north is a complete and utter disgrace. Almost 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are now living in Rafah and reports from NGOs who have travelled to the region in recent days say that nothing could have prepared them for what they are witnessing. It also looks as though the Egyptian government will not open the crossing to let Palestinians out (not even those seeking urgent medical help) or unfettered aid in. It’s incredulous that Netanyahu had requested a “combined plan” that would also include the evacuation of the civilian population, with “safe passage to safe zones” ensured but with the rest of Gaza razed, aid agencies are right to question how this is at all possible. 
Netanyahu appears out of control, and it looks increasingly likely that the diplomatic negotiations to get us to a truce and sustainable ceasefire are stuck with claim and counter claim. We have expressed very strong condemnation of Netanyahu and the Rafah campaign. It’s simple an a outrage.
Aid through Rafah 
The aid supplies through Rafa are already severely restricted, therefore the impact of any Rafah offensive is going to be irreparably damaging. It is impossible to get large quantities in by sea, and while the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing is welcome (and something we have been pressing the government on very hard) there is nowhere near the ability to get unfettered quantities of aid that is required without a ceasefire. They are totally interlinked. Adequate and unfettered aid can only be delivered with a ceasefire.
The UK has some of the world’s best technical specialists in aid delivery and they need to be at the heart of resolving this issue. We have also been pressing for the UK to help transfer those needing medical attention into Egypt and to set up field hospitals to help with the injured and ill. This has fallen on deaf ears with the UK government to date but we will continue to press.
 I have written to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to ask for an update on this situation, and to seek assurances that the UK Government is doing everything it can to make sure our aid and everyone else’s gets into Gaza. I will be in touch as soon as I have a response.
The humanitarian situation remains the absolute key concern and is worsening by the second. It is the issue that many of you continue to contact me about so I have listed some sources below where you can find up to date information on this particular part of the conflict:

Ceasefire talks

I’m totally disheartened and disappointed that talks between the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar ended today without a breakthrough. This has been a direct result of Israel’s assault on Rafah. 
Nonetheless, talks have created a space for negotiation and while this is a major setback, all parties cannot lose sight of the goal of a ceasefire and disregard the progress that has been made to get to the point where fine details of a deal is being negotiated. 
A humanitarian truce to stop the fighting and a sustainable ceasefire is a necessary step from which we can begin a bigger push towards a political solution and a just and lasting peace with a 2-state solution. The Qatari and Egyptian brokered offer for the first extended ceasefire of war should have been the catalyst for this crisis to have stopped but it didn’t. 
Recent negotiations, which also involved Qatar’s prime minister and Egyptian officials, were part of an intensifying effort to secure a ceasefire before Israel proceeds with a full-scale ground incursion into Rafah. But news that these have now ended with no breakthrough is terrible news for innocent civilians in Rafah. 
A sustainable ceasefire has to get over the line, but I understand the sticking point is there is no trust on both sides to see it through. The 90 days that was put to Israel and Hamas is important as it will provide the space to get a permanent ceasefire and no return to conflict. Please be assured I am following this issue closely and we will continue to bring a debate in parliament at least weekly to keep scrutiny on the UK government and to get updates. Parliament is currently in recess but please trust that this will be the fist issue on the agenda when the house returns.
Helpfully, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called today for Hamas to speedily reach an agreement to exchange hostages for prisoners with Israel to spare the Palestinian people further catastrophe but the sticking point for both sides is that Israel wants conditionality on hostage releases and Hamas wants conditionality on releasing the hostages that the bombings will cease. These two issues are mutually exclusive but there is little to no trust (which is hardly surprising).
Two-state solution
Our goal of two states won’t be achieved while rockets fly over Israel and bombs drop on Gaza. A sustainable ceasefire means Hamas must release all remaining hostages and end attacks on Israel and it means Israel must end its bombing campaign and allow full humanitarian access into Gaza, Palestinians the right to return and a pathway to peace.

 I’m clear that there  must be a new political process that has the capacity, conviction and commitment to turn the rhetoric around two-states living side by side in peace into reality. Israeli and Palestinian leaders must engage with this process as the only long-term hope of delivering peace and stability. I’m firmly of the view that this will require new leadership in both states to make it happen as there is unarguable doubt the current leadership on both sides cannot and will not do this.

 Populations on both sides are also becoming more polarised for obvious reasons and that needs to be allowed to heal. Many make the comparison with peace in Northern Ireland and there are comparisons, but the main difference is that the populations were talking and wanting the same thing. I am not sure this is the case at the moment while things are so raw.

That is why Labour has been championing support for a new international contact group, to replace the now defunct Quartet, to coordinate with our Western and Arab partners over Gaza. First to stabilise the situation, then to lead on reconstruction, and make a renewed push for a sovereign Palestine, alongside a secure Israel. You can’t have a 2 state solution without 2 states so Palestine must be internationally recognised as a precondition to this happening. 

This highlights how much new leadership is required and I know from working with peace groups that Netanyahu has lost all trust in Israel which may prolong a solution.

T​​​hat brings me to UNRWA. The funding cannot be undermined for UNRWA. My colleague, Shadow International Development Secretary, Lisa Nany MP, has been working with UNRWA head, Phillipe Lazzarini so there is no disruption to their funding and the work they are doing on the ground is so important. This is particularly important, given the horrific impact on Gaza’s hospitals. Israel’s offensives have completely devastated Gaza’s health sector, with less than half of its hospitals even partially functioning.
The International Court of Justice’s interim ruling under the Genocide Convention on the situation in Gaza is a profoundly serious moment. Labour has been clear throughout the conflict that international law must be upheld, that the international courts must be respected, and that all sides must be accountable for their actions.  That’s why we’ve consistently called for the international criminal court to be involved in Gaza to collect evidence in advance of war crimes cases being brought. 
The ICJ’s interim ruling does not give a verdict on this case, but it sets out urgent provisional measures that must be followed. Israel must comply with the orders in this ruling in full. The ICJ’s measures align closely with Labour’s long standing calls for the protection of civilians, urgent humanitarian relief in Gaza and an end to extremist rhetoric. We will press for these orders to be implemented, alongside an immediate humanitarian truce and a sustainable ceasefire. The worry is that there are few mechanisms available to uphold ICJ recommendations.  We have backed these interim recommendations and demand that Israel complies.

 In November, we had a much too short humanitarian ceasefire that allowed for much needed aid to get into Gaza (albeit not enough), prisoner exchanges and many of the hostages released. This was a good sign and should have been the catalyst to intensified diplomatic negotiations for a more permanent and sustained ceasefire and process to peace. My colleagues in the Labour Party and I also backed the last 2 resolutions at the United Nations Security Council and although the second was watered down it did pass.  It meant increased aid delivery to Gaza, as we did for the previous resolution too and the hopes of a diplomatic way forward to getting this to stop.
As I said in the first section of this email, the official Labour Party position is that we demand an immediate truce to stop the fighting and a sustainable ceasefire to facilitate a process towards permanent peace and a two-state solution. This is the absolute priority.
I do think it’s extremely difficult with a reactionary, desperate and disproportionate Netanyahu government on the one side and a terrorist organisation on the other. These are not actors who will negotiate or seek conclusions in good faith and in the meantime it is innocent people in Gaza suffering the appalling consequences, most are women, children and those seeking to help.
I fully share the many concerns that have been raised by people across Edinburgh South and further afield. We have to find a pathway to getting this immediate crisis to end and use that as the platform towards a lasting peace. The issue most constituents are contacting me about is on the issue of an immediate cessation of hostilities. We all want these hostilities to end – and now. That is unarguable.
However, a sustained ceasefire is critical, but not sufficient, for long term peace.  It can only be used as a gateway to where we want things to progress to. The bottom line is that bloodshed must stop now and indeed long before now.
 Over recent weeks and months Keir Starmer has been in discussion with leaders from Europe, America and the Middle East, including Israel, Palestine, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt as the key players. Lisa Nandy and David Lammy, our Shadow development and Foreign secretaries, have also been spending the past week in the Middle East advocating for an immediate sustainable ceasefire but as I attempted to explain on the issue of current ceasefire talks, the power to influence Israel is firmly in the hands of the US and I also think that other countries in the region need to step up too.
This is no excuse however to stop pushing and many of us have been using any contacts we have to try and get to a solution including via our sister parties in the region and through the PES (Parties of European Socialists) to press forward with Palestinian recognition. 
There have been no serious peace talks in more than a decade. That’s why there must be a new political process that has the capacity, conviction and commitment to turn the rhetoric around two states living side by side in peace into reality.
Our collective voice from the UK Parliament must advocate for realistic solutions to stop the bloodshed and innocent loss of life. That is the responsible course of action when faced with such horrors. It was disappointing, therefore, for the Prime Minister to visit Israel and declare “we want you to win”. That was the wrong thing to do in the circumstances.  
Constituents have raised the issue of community tensions and I have been working hard with all our communities to provide support and advice on these issues. 
This is an ever-changing situation that I know we will revisit in the days and weeks ahead. Having visited Gaza a decade ago as part of an EU delegation, I have seen myself the issues on the ground and the impact of recent history, especially the blockade. Simply, we need a solution now.
 As a matter of urgency and long before now however, Israel must change the way it is fighting this war (and be held to account for alleged breaches of international law) by taking urgent and all steps to protect civilians, hospitals and children, and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the innocent people caught up in this war. That also means abiding by the interim ruling of the ICJ. I don’t think they are doing that, and this creates a huge and unnecessary death toll and a worsening humanitarian crisis. It also makes a ceasefire and peace less likely and makes us all feel powerless to act. 
 We are securing debate in Parliament on a weekly basis in order to press the government. On 30 January at FCDO Departmental Questions we pressed the Government on the following questions:
What recent diplomatic steps he has taken to help secure an immediate truce now and a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza?
What recent steps he has taken to help prevent an escalation of conflict in the Middle East?
What steps the Government is taking to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how can it do more?
 You can read my previous response here, which also provides a link to the response before that.
 The bottom line is that Palestinians must be assured their future will not be like the past, that they and their children will be able to enjoy the security, opportunities and rights that we take for granted. These are the essential steps if we are to deliver a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel, the only credible basis for long-term peace. 
 We need the conclusion of a process towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and as quickly as possible.  Labour have always backed the process towards a permanent ceasefire but its immediacy of when it can be achieved has always been a contentious issue as delivering such a ceasefire isn’t easy. We all want the same conclusion, a ceasefire long before now, a permanent ceasefire, and a process towards peace. The power to secure this is in the hands of those negotiating and those making the decisions to accept. 
This is hugely complex and certainly the most difficult issue I have faced as an MP. As your MP, I have always been honest, straightforward, accessible and responsive to every single communication that I receive. I will continue to do that.
The next Labour government will be dedicated to working towards this. The international community must be spurred into action rather than shy away from the challenge. The future of Israelis and Palestinians depends on it.
Our manifesto policy on Palestine is:
 “Will work alongside international partners to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as part of efforts to contribute to securing a negotiated two-state solution. Lead diplomatic efforts with international partners to support a just and lasting peace and uphold international law.”
As Keir Starmer said last week, “Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be realised for the Palestinian people and we are committed to recognition as we have always been.”
That will require new leadership in Palestine and Israel and of course the immediate task is the current crisis.
Beyond all the current efforts to end the violence and while the two-state solution may seem further away than ever, it is essential we do not lose sight of it. For far too long we have paid lip service to the notion of a two-state solution, and the world has failed to get the Palestinian people any closer to a sovereign state to call home.
Peace must be more than just something we all hope for – it must become a reality for Palestinians and Israelis.

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