Numerous cross-party Lords voiced their support for a two-state solution while also raising concerns about Palestinian incitement and terror attacks in a House of Lords debate on the Middle East Peace Process this week.
Among Conservative Lords to contribute to the debate were: CFI Officer Rt. Hon. Lord Trimble, Lord Leigh, Lord Suri, Lord Shinkwin, and Lord Grade CBE.
Lord Shinkwin and Lord Suri both visited Israel in September on a delegation coordinated by the Britain-Israel APPG, and Lord Leigh and Lord Turnberg visited the country with the group in February.
Former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Baroness Deech, and Lord Turnberg also spoke in the debate.
Rt. Hon. Lord Trimble opened his speech by stating: “I support the two-state solution and I hope that the next time the Palestinians are offered a viable state they will accept it. It is important in this debate to remember that they have been offered a viable state at least twice”.
He said: “Some people suggest from time to time that if the Palestinian issue were solved, that in itself would resolve all the other problems in the Middle East, but I am beginning to suspect that the truth is really the other way round. Until all the other issues in the Middle East are solved, we will never get the necessary momentum to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue, even though we can see the outline of the solution”.
Lord Trimble spoke about the legacy for peace that former President of Israel Shimon Peres left.
Lord Leigh in his speech called on the Government to support for Jerusalem Foundation, stating: “As chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation in the UK, I am delighted to highlight the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem, where half the children are Arab and half Jewish, as are the teachers and as is the curriculum. It is initiatives such as this that Her Majesty’s Government may wish to consider supporting”.
He also said: “Your Lordships will be aware that, in 2015, more Written Questions were asked on foreign affairs than any subject other than health and, other than Iraq and Syria, Israel has attracted more Questions than any other country on the planet. One may wonder why”.
Speaking about President Abbas’s attendance of Shimon Peres’s funeral, he said: “President Abbas made a very brave move to attend the funeral, but he has his own restraints”.
Lord Shinkwin spoke about his visit to the country last month, stating: “My time there opened my eyes not only to the proximity and vulnerability of the Middle East’s superpower to the immediate and existential threats it faces, but to the fragility of freedom—the freedom to be Israel, the freedom to exist”.
He emphasised: “Seeing Israel up close forced me to put myself in Israeli shoes and ask myself: how would I feel to be surrounded by forces that denied my country’s right to exist and pledged to wipe my country, and with it the region’s only democracy, off the map?”
Regarding the recent wave of violence against Israelis and the two-state solution, Lord Shinkwin said: “The worst thing we could do today would be inadvertently to send the Palestinians a signal that violence pays and that more drive-by shootings, more stabbings and more rocket attacks will somehow force the Israelis to the negotiating table. Terrorism must not, cannot, triumph. Surely, credible negotiations require a credible partnership for peace”.
Former Director General of the BBC, Lord Grade, in his speech asserted that the “bilateral relationship between the UK and Israel, in particular, has never been stronger, whether in trade, technology, academia, the military or between Governments”. He said that “Israel has expressed an interest in becoming one of the first countries to secure a free trade agreement with the UK, which will benefit both our nations”.
Speaking on the peace process, Lord Grade said that “peace cannot be imposed by one party or another from the outside. The Palestinian Authority’s recent unilateral actions at the UN and in other international fora simply take us further away from that long-sought peace deal”.
Welcoming DfID’s recent announcement that it would temporarily suspend a portion of aid to the PA, Lord Grade said: “One prerequisite for successful talks is an end to violence and the renunciation of it. Sadly, Hamas remains committed to the violent destruction of Israel and examples abound of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority endorsing and encouraging violence against Israel. To this end, I welcome DfID’s recent announcement that it is temporarily suspending a portion of aid to the PA, pending investigation into claims that the PA has been paying salaries to convicted terrorists. The PA’s financial endorsement of terrorism should appall many in this House”.
In his speech Lord Grade also brought attention to the work of Israeli NGO Save A Child’s Heart, stating that “against all these difficulties, it is a source of hope to see the incredible work that is being done by many in Israel to build trust across the divide between the two communities”.
Lord Suri also spoke about his time in Israel, including his visit to Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET). Lord Suri said: “Over 12 years, MEET has brought together 400 excelling Israeli and Palestinian youth, aged 15 to 18, in their two hubs in Nazareth and Jerusalem. Each year, MEET engages approximately 170 of the most talented Israeli and Palestinian youth and currently has 300 graduates regionally and internationally. The system that it has set up is an excellent example. It has no commercial interest; rather, it just wants to promote peace and coexistence. Surely this is a wonderful model, which should be replicated”.
He asked Foreign Office Minister Rt. Hon. Baroness Anelay: “Can the Minister say what plans the Government have to fund more co-existence projects like MEET?”
Lord Suri emphasised that “Loss of life can be prevented only if we have a robust peace plan between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Israel has agreed to give a helping hand to the Palestinian state, which should be accepted. The Prime Minister of Israel has stated publicly on many occasions that he is willing to return to the negotiating table without any preconditions. However, President Abbas seems unwilling to co-operate”.
Highlighting the “remarkable” economic growth of Israel, Lord Suri said “increased economic ties will help both sides and consequently world development”. He asked: “Can the Minister say what plans there are to further the already prosperous bilateral trade relationship?”
In her response, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay affirmed the British Government’s support of coexistence projects bringing Israelis and Palestinians together and emphasised the importance of building “constituencies for peace” between all sectors of Israeli and Palestinian society.
Underlining the Government’s position against terror, Baroness Anelay said: “The foundations of a lasting and just peace—trust and good will—will never be built in an environment of incitement, terrorism and violence. We are appalled by the recent wave of terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli civilians… The Quartet report sets out the damaging effect of incitement and violence. The British Government strongly condemn, in the strongest terms I can summon up, the use of anti-Semitic, racist and hateful language”.
She asserted: “Ultimately, peace will only come through fresh negotiations between the parties”.
The Minister reiterated that the British Government is “firmly opposed to boycotts”, stating that the Government believes “imposing sanctions on Israel or supporting anti-Israel boycotts would not support our efforts to progress the peace process and achieve a negotiated solution”.
Baroness Anelay also condemned the Palestinian cabinet’s decision to postpone local elections, stating that the UK Government has “called on the Palestinian leadership to work towards genuine and democratic elections for all Palestinians based on respect for the rule of law and human rights”.
Click here to watch the full debate.