Israel & Gaza

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Does the Minister agree that the terrible carnage in Gaza means that the prospects for the two-state solution we all want are vanishing? It was still very possible back in 2000; I recall that when I was middle east Minister I had discussions with Prime Minister Barak and Yasser Arafat in Palestine, but that all collapsed and Hamas was elected. Now, Israel’s refusal to negotiate seriously with Hamas, coupled with its merciless assault on Gaza, risks inviting in something even worse and more extreme—ISIS. Surely we should learn from Northern Ireland that to end wars people have to negotiate with their enemies or the terror simply gets worse.

Mr Ellwood: I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his interest and experience in this area. He is right to point out that we face very difficult challenges. On a positive note, we welcome the announcement of the formation of a new interim technocratic Government for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, reuniting Gaza and the west bank under a Government committed to peace, which is a necessary condition for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel & Gaza

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Surely friends of Israel, like the Prime Minister and I, have a duty at this time to speak the truth. These attacks, despite the horrendous rocket assaults on Israel and the extremism of Hamas, are not “disproportionate”; in any other conflict they would be described as war crimes. That is the truth. The problem also is that there is no end in sight to this. What will happen, a moderate Palestinian leadership having been replaced by Hamas through the failure to succeed in negotiations, is that Hamas, as the respected former Israeli Government adviser Daniel Levy has suggested, could soon be replaced by ISIS in Gaza. We have to start, as the west, speaking the truth, acting and persuading the Israeli Government to negotiate seriously.

The Prime Minister: As a friend of Israel—the right hon. Gentleman said that he is one too—I think we should always speak the truth, and I always have done with Israel, for instance in the case of illegal settlements. But I think another element of the truth is that if Hamas stopped the rocket attacks on Israel, the Israeli operation in Gaza would end and there would be a ceasefire. The point that the Israeli Prime Minister makes, which I think is a legitimate one, is that there have been a number of occasions when he has unilaterally declared or agreed to a ceasefire, but Hamas will not follow suit. I absolutely agree that we need to speak the truth, but the truth must start with an end to these attacks.