Many constituents have contacted me in the last two weeks to express their concerns about the current situation in Palestine and Israel. I share their concerns and deep worry about this issue.
There was an Urgent Question in Parliament to the Foreign Office on 1st July about the abduction and killing of three young Israeli men in the West Bank and the subsequent retaliatory killings of Palestinians. During the Question, I put on the record my heartfelt sympathy to both the families of these abducted and murdered young men and to the families of the Palestinians whom Israeli troops murdered during their search for the missing youths.
The Israeli Government is currently pursuing a policy of collective punishment which has involved hundreds of arrests, the looting and ransacking of houses, a ground attack into Palestinian territory and a large number of airstrikes that have killed over 170 Palestinians and injured a further 1,230, of whom a third are children, since Tuesday last week.
The urgent priority is to de-escalate tensions in the region. I believe that there should be an immediate ceasefire and am pressing for this via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is vital that all parties avoid actions that are exacerbating the current situation.
During the statement in Parliament on the situation in Palestine and Israel today, I asked the Foreign Secretary to convey the concerns of both myself and my constituents to Hamas and the Israeli Government.
I visited Israel and the West Bank with the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) in December 2012 following the horrific bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli Government in November. I wanted to see for myself the situation on the ground. In my article about the visit I spoke about the injustices, frustration and indignity that many Palestinian people face on a daily basis. Since my visit, I am still actively involved in supporting the Palestinian people, most recently attending a fund raising event for the Saddleworth Palestinian Support Group as part of International Women’s Day to support an education programme for women.
One of the Palestinian women involved in this scheme has kept us informed of what is currently going on in Gaza. I will be raising this, and the concerns that many constituents have raised, with the Israeli ambassador later this week when I meet with him, with other Parliamentarians.
It is too early to be clear about the full implications for the Middle East peace process from the current situation in Israel and Palestine, but I hope that once a ceasefire is agreed it will be followed by a return to negotiations on a two-state solution, which is, and remains, the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all.