I have been contacted by many constituents regarding the horrific violence at the Gaza/Israeli border.
In recent days, 60 Palestinians have been killed with thousands injured. Many of us have been appalled by the scenes throughout the last six weeks, and by the deaths and injuries inflicted even on children and journalists by the Israeli border authorities. During an Urgent Question by Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, I condemned the use of lethal force by the Israeli Defence Force and border authorities.
The use of lethal force against largely unarmed civilian protesters, including women and children, is absolutely unacceptable. The Israeli Government must also recognise that the conditions for people in Gaza are also unacceptable. I agree with the UN secretary-general that an independent inquiry is needed to urgently determine whether international law has been broken. The UK should lead calls for such an inquiry immediately. It is a matter of extreme regret that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has made no statement to condemn the Israeli Government for these killings and didn’t even attend the Chamber to respond to the Urgent Question.
I also share concerns about access to adequate medical care for Palestinians. The Israeli Government must provide assurances on how the 3,000 injured will get adequate care.
It is also important that parties from all sides start genuine peace talks where nothing is ruled out. When I asked the Minister, Alistair Burt, about this in Parliament, he said that the Government was waiting to hear from ‘US envoys’. But Britain must be playing a role too, not least in formally recognising Palestine given that Parliament voted for this in 2014. Peace talks will only work when there is pressure from across the world and real leadership; the Arab League’s role in this is crucial. Without this concerted effort, violence will continue from generation to generation.
The Government must also confirm whether any of the arms licensed for export over the last three years have been used by the Israeli authorities in their policing of the Gaza border in recent weeks, including the appalling acts of violence committed earlier this week. If there is proof that UK arms exports were being used as part of that policing operation on the Gaza border the UK government should suspend those export licences.
It is not good enough that the Government appears to be leaving foreign policy in the Middle East up to the United States. I believe Monday’s opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was wholly inappropriate given the anniversary of the Naqba on the same day; this only exacerbated tensions. The Trump administration has abdicated any kind of global leadership role in relation to Israeli and Palestinian peace. With a future Palestinian state under direct threat from the Netanyahu Government’s ongoing settlement-building this is exactly the time for Britain to formally recognise the State of Palestine.
Please be assured that I will continue to push the Government on this matter.