Thursday, 24 July 2014

Gaza conflict - no real end in sight

There is no easy solution to this conflict that has continued for dozens of years, ebbing and flowing in the scale of violence on both sides, and defeating the best efforts of the UN and all others to find a lasting peace. I have received robust representations from constituents in Northumberland, with constituents arguing for both sides. I will reply to all in writing, and will make their views known to the new Foreign Secretary.
Some are outraged on behalf of the Palestinians, and specifically the residents of Gaza, both for past injustices, blockades, and restrictions. But the recent escalation by Israel into Gaza they feel has made a terrible existence mores early for some and generally much, much worse.
Some are outraged on behalf of Israel, who have faced constant rocket attacks to the southern half of the country, with some rockets even hitting Tel Aviv. Some argue that Israel should defend itself against such constant bombardment.

Regular readers will know that for the last 6 years I have made a real effort to travel to the region once a year and get a better understanding. In that time I have visited Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and spent a specific length of time in Beirut and on the Turkish / Syria border trying to meet and talk with locals on the ground of all persuasions.
My 2011 trip to Beirut taught me a lot, and my 2012 trip to Israel allowed me to see the effects of the rocket attacks from Gaza on the smaller towns of Southern Israel, like Sderot. Sderot is known as the bomb shelter capital of Isreal as it is so close to the. Gaza border and the rockets. I have not been able to go to Gaza itself, for many reasons,but have spoken to many who have - both cross party MPs and experts on the situation on the ground. In truth, the House of Commons allows you to get experts and briefings that exceed almost all others. When time allows I do propose to go to Gaza, and the West Bank and see the situation for myself.

I spoke separately in the commons on Tuesday on the refugee situation in the Middle East - my
speech is available on they work for you or Hansard, but I remain committed to a durable ceasefire, diplomacy not conflict, a withdrawal by Israel, and a cessation of the Hamas rockets. Long term the only solution is a two state solution, as a basis for peace. Enforcing that peace on a long term basis will obviously be difficult, but it is a prize well worth seeking.

For an updated appraisal of the situation on the ground, by the BBC, who remain the most objective of reporting organisations, see below: