LDFI Vice President calls for compromise not unilateral declarations

Speaking in the House of Lords Debate on the recognition of Palestine, LDFI Vice President Lord Palmer of Childs Hill called for a genuine spirit of compromise. He questioned how Israel could be expected to negotiate peace with a so-called unity Government including Hamas, whose declared aim is the annihilation of the State of Israel and which, since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, has launched more than 11,000 rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Lord Palmer said: “I support a state of Palestine, but by a negotiated agreement, with pressure from all friends and enemies of both to get the two sides to sit down and actually hammer out an answer. That is the only way that we will have the realism of a Palestinian state.”

Lord Palmer said:

“I support the creation of a state of Palestine in due course alongside Israel as being the current policy of recognising Palestine once it has been created in negotiations between the parties. I do not welcome the resolution simply because, as a friend of the Israelis and the Palestinians, I do not believe that there is any alternative to those two nations, with the support and pressure of the outside world, sitting down and settling their differences in negotiations, with painful compromises being made by both sides.

The noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who cannot be present today, said on “Thought for the Day”:

“Peace is a duet scored for two voices; and someone who thinks that one voice can win by drowning out the other just hasn’t understood what a duet is”.

Painful compromises would be on issues including borders, security, the compensation and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab refugees and the vexed question of Jerusalem. Israel has welcomed refugees, including 850,000 who fled Arab lands, those who fled eastern Europe and elsewhere, and currently the flood of refugees from France fleeing anti-Semitism. Likewise, the refugees in the West Bank and Gaza need to be granted full citizenship and rights in a new Palestinian state.

Passing a resolution in another place to recognise a Palestinian state in territory now controlled by Israel would do absolutely nothing to resolve those difficult issues, nor would it actually create a Palestinian state, as my noble friend Lady Warsi said. That is why I believe that the Palestinians’ attempts since 2011 to secure a unilateral declaration at the UN have been fundamentally mistaken and should not be supported. Nothing has changed since President Obama said three years ago:

“The only way that we’re going to see a Palestinian state is if Israelis and Palestinians agree on a just peace. And so I strongly believe that for the Palestinians to take the United Nations route rather than the path of sitting down and talking with the Israelis is a mistake; that it does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people”.

Indeed, my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, when he met Mahmoud Abbas in 2013, said that,

“the UK stands ready to do all it can to reach a negotiated agreement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state”.

The tragedy is that we know what a peaceful settlement to the conflict would look like, and a lot of compromise is needed, as other noble Lords have said. The four settlement towns, just on the wrong side of the 1967 truce line, would have to be incorporated into Israel with land swaps, and all the rest of the settlements would go. I think it would surprise some noble Lords, and certainly other people outside this House, to know that there is no dispute about the border with Gaza. Forty years ago, few would have believed that Israel would enjoy peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan. That peace was achieved not by unilateral gestures by one of the parties but by both sides reaching out to the other in a genuine spirit of compromise. When one looks at other territorial conflicts that have resulted in the creation of a new state, East Timor, South Sudan and Bosnia are examples of such states being created through negotiations and the hard work of the international community, not as a result of a divisive and confrontational unilateral declaration.

Finally, when my noble friends the Minister and Lord Steel reply, I hope that they will answer this question: how does Israel negotiate peace with a so-called unity Government including Hamas, whose declared aim is the annihilation of the State of Israel and which, since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, has launched more than 11,000 rockets at Israeli towns and villages? Certainly, I support a state of Palestine, but by a negotiated agreement, with pressure from all friends and enemies of both to get the two sides to sit down and actually hammer out an answer. That is the only way that we will have the realism of a Palestinian state”

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