Israel and Gaza
The devastating scenes we see unfolding in Israel and Gaza over the past month have been heartbreaking for us all. Any loss of life – Palestinian or Israeli – is tragic, but the fact so many have been children makes it even more upsetting. With every airstrike, rocket and bullet fired, children are paying the highest price for a conflict they have no part in. We are all watching our TV screens in total disbelief with a sense of powerlessness, upset and anger.
We are all too aware of the cycles of conflict that plague the lives of innocent Palestinians and Israelis. The backdrop to this current escalation of hostilities is well known. The question we now find ourselves wrestling with is how we help reach the peaceful resolution we all so desperately want, and how to achieve the long-term aim of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
There is only a political solution to this crisis. The reality is that neither the long-term justice for Palestine nor the long-term security of Israel can be delivered by bombs, bullets, and bloodshed, especially of children.
I have been inundated with messages from constituents horrified by what we are witnessing and crying out for action to bring the bloodshed to an end. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to contact me. How could anyone not be moved and angered by what is unfolding? I fully share the many concerns that have been raised by people across Edinburgh South and further afield.
This is not just a humanitarian crisis; it is a crisis of humanity.
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.
Israel must change the way it is fighting this war against Hamas terrorists by taking urgent steps to protect civilians, hospitals and children, and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the innocent people caught up in this war.
In parliament, votes are being held on the King’s speech where many amendments have been placed by MPs. 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.
An immediate ceasefire is the desired outcome as the UN and international agencies have called for and others have rightly said, but sadly – right now – it is not possible given both sides in this war have already said they will not countenance it. Even if Israel was persuaded to unilaterally stop its military operation (and the Israeli government has said it will not consider this until all hostages are returned as a minimum), the terrorists Hamas have already said they would continue to perpetrate murderous attacks like 7 October “over and over again”. A ceasefire requires buy-in from both sides to work and no side wants it.
I will therefore be voting tonight for an amendment to the King’s Speech which outlines a practical, achievable path to a political resolution, which recognises several complex issues of the current situation, and aims to stop the bloodshed. I acknowledge that many want the House of Commons to go further, but what is being put forward by the Labour Party is a possible and realistic solution for today, not a perfect solution for tomorrow.
The amendment includes the following elements:
- It demands a full, comprehensive, and immediate humanitarian pause in the fighting from both sides across the whole of Gaza and Israel now.
- Recognises all human life is equal and that there has already been too much suffering of innocent civilians and children.
- Affirms our commitment to the international rules-based system, humanitarian law, and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to address the issues in Gaza and the Hamas attacks.
- Calls on Israel to protect hospitals, lift the siege in Gaza and allow in unrestricted aid and supplies.
- Requests the Government continue to work with the international community to prevent a wider escalation of the conflict in the region, guarantee that people in Gaza who are forced to flee during this conflict can return to their homes and seek an end to the expansion of illegal settlements and settler violence in the West Bank;
- Acknowledges that while daily humanitarian pauses allow in aid and the movement of civilians, believes they must be longer to meet the desperate needs of the people of Gaza.
- And acknowledges that while humanitarian pauses are not perfect, they are the possible and necessary first step to an enduring cessation of hostilities and a credible, diplomatic, and political process to deliver the lasting peace of a 2-state solution.
This is a wide-ranging amendment that covers all the issues that have been raised directly with me and with my colleagues and reflects the speech delivered by Keir Starmer two weeks ago.
It also recognises that humanitarian pauses are what is negotiable at present, can be delivered, and can be the foundation on which to build trust towards a more permanent ceasefire and a pathway to some sort of lasting peace process. We must not give up on the narrow openings that keep the prospect of peace alive.
That means preventing escalation in the region and de-escalation in Gaza; condemning violence from settlers in the West Bank; condemning rocket attacks on Israel from Iran’s proxies in Lebanon and elsewhere; and creating a future where Gaza is not subject to occupation.
Meanwhile, international diplomacy evolves and the facts on the ground are changing day-by-day, in relation to both the hostages being rescued and Hamas’s capability to carry out despicable attacks like we saw on 7 October.
For the violence to end we need to create the conditions on the ground where both sides can bring an end to the bloodshed. That starts with what is possible, even if we may wish we could go further and faster to the point where the violence stops now.
Ultimately, we all want to see a lasting cessation of violence and for peace to prevail in the region. While the daily pauses that have been achieved by diplomatic negotiation are insufficient, they show that progress is possible. Tiny steps can be the foundation for a more permanent ceasefire.
As the amendment I will vote for today highlights, these pauses must now be much longer to allow movement on the part of both sides towards ending the conflict – including, as many constituents have also demanded, releasing all the hostages, cessation of rockets into Israel, providing the necessary humanitarian aid and genuinely safe humanitarian corridors for people to leave affected areas.
I also want to address the issue of ‘war crimes’, which is the reason for us calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate what is happening in Gaza. We are all horrified by the killing and maiming of children, abduction of children, and attacks on their schools and hospitals. These are grave, and those responsible must be held to account for their actions through the appropriate bodies.
I know that not everyone will fully agree with me or with each other on these complex issues, but we all share the same desire for an end to violence and bloodshed. 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. A number of specific questions have been raised and I have written to the new Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, to seek answers on your behalf and make your representations to government. I will keep scrutinising, pressing and representing constituent concerns to the government.
For those particularly interested in what and how aid is getting into Gaza, there was an urgent statement in parliament that you can read here.
And there have been a number of statements on the government’s position this week that you can read here.
This is an ever-changing situation and I am certain we will revisit this 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 the recent history, especially the blockade. Simply, we need a solution now.
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.
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.
MP for Edinburgh South
Published at 15:30 on Wednesday 15th November