Constituents have been writing to me about Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. My statement below sets out my views on the current situation. Over the past month I have met with and listened to both Muslim and Jewish constituents as well as constituents of neither faith. I have met and listened to Palestinian families whose relatives have been killed in Gaza and Israeli families who have relatives still held hostage after being captured by Hamas. I continue to listen to them all.
Cessation Of Violence
The events in Israel and Palestine are horrifying. Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7th killed the highest number of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust, whilst the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is playing out on an unimaginable scale.
Short pauses are a first step, but on their own won’t make the impact needed to relieve this humanitarian crisis. The damage to water pipelines and other infrastructure to hospitals need to be rebuilt, and that requires a longer pause. The aid getting into Gaza is still completely insufficient. It is unacceptable that Israel still has not lifted the siege conditions.
We need a full and immediate humanitarian pause in the fighting across the whole of Gaza to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian civilians and for Hamas terrorists to release the hostages. The full pause must start now to get sufficient food, water, electricity, medicine, and fuel into Gaza and address the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. A full pause needs to happen now.
I completely understand calls for a ceasefire. We all want to see an end to the violence. But right now, both sides have made clear that they will not agree to one.
Hamas terrorists admit they have the capability and the intention to repeat the appalling 7th October massacre “again and again.” And hostages remain captive in Gaza. In these circumstances, it is not credible to expect Israel to unilaterally put down arms.
I want to see a cessation of fighting as soon as possible. A pause is the only viable prospect at present, and the UK is working with international partners including the United States, the European Union and Arab States to make this happen. We all want the violence to end and to be replaced by a lasting peace.
Hamas must release the hostages and stop using civilians as human shields and Israel must take urgent, concrete steps to protect civilians.
Israel has the right to self-defence and to degrade the capabilities of Hamas. But it must do so within international law. The right to self-defence is fundamental but it is not a blank cheque. International law must be followed at all times.
That requires Israel to act in accordance with the principles of necessity, distinction, proportionality and precaution. It means civilians, hospitals, schools, and refugee camps must be protected and cannot be targets.
Palestinians must not be forced to leave their homes en masse, but where they have no choice, there must be guarantees they will be able to return quickly and will not be permanently displaced.
Allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law should always be treated with utmost seriousness. Assessing those allegations is the proper task of lawyers and competent international courts.
Labour supports the independence of the International Criminal Court and recognises its jurisdiction to address the conduct of all parties in Gaza.
More than 10,000 people have reportedly been killed in Gaza, with two thirds of the dead being women and children. This is devastating. Every civilian death is an equal tragedy. There has been far too much civilian suffering over the past month.
More than 1.5m people have been displaced and there are desperate shortages of basic essentials. The aid that is arriving is completely insufficient to meet the scale of humanitarian need. The lack of fuel means hospitals are struggling to operate and water and sewage systems are breaking down.
The international community has demanded that the siege conditions on Gaza be lifted, but that has still not happened. That is totally unacceptable, and it cannot continue.
Aid, fuel, water, electricity and medicines must be urgently ramped up to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza.
More than 4,000 children have been killed in Gaza which is utterly devastating. There are 1 million children caught up in the devastation, many orphaned, injured, sleeping outside as winter approaches, short of food and forced to drink dirty water.
In the face of such an extraordinary threat to children, Labour has called for an emergency plan to support the children of Gaza, to prioritise aid to children, safe and protected shelters for food, clean water and medical care as winter sets and a long-term co-ordinated plan to support this traumatised generation.
The West Bank
In recent weeks, there has been a sharp increase in violence and displacement of Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank accompanied by dangerous, irresponsible, and extremist rhetoric including from far-right politicians in the Israeli government. There have also been attacks on Israelis in addition to several planned terror attacks that have reportedly been foiled.
I totally condemn acts of violence and extremism by Israeli settlers in the West Bank and call on the Israeli authorities to prevent settler violence, ensure accountability for perpetrators and condemn extremist rhetoric.
I support imposing entry bans on those settlers that have been identified as being involved in serious criminal activity or in fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK, as previous governments have done in other cases.
I am extremely concerned by Israeli government proposals to withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority plays an essential role in the West Bank, is an important partner for the UK and is essential to any long-term negotiations towards a political settlement and a two-state solution.
The UK government must do all it can to avoid further escalation in the West Bank and the wider region.
Long Term Peace
The facts on the ground are changing day-by-day in relation to both hostages being rescued and Hamas’s capability to carry out attacks like we saw on October the 7th. We must move to a full cessation of fighting as quickly as possible.
The reality is that neither long-term justice for Palestine nor the long-term security of Israel can be delivered by bombs and bullets. A political agreement, however unlikely that seems today, is the only way to resolve this conflict, once and for all.
There must not be a reoccupation of Gaza. It is essential that there is a route out of this conflict that takes us towards a just and lasting political settlement based on a two-state solution, with an independent sovereign Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
That is the best way to guarantee lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians, to permanently end the occupation and bring peace and stability to the region.
As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, there can be no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism, no reoccupation of Gaza, no blockade of Gaza, and no reduction in the territory of Gaza after this conflict.
Any political process must involve both Palestinians and Israelis, regional partners, and the international community. The UK should play its role supporting this.
This crisis shows we need to restart the hard work of talks for a two-state solution with a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel. For too long the international community has put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the too difficult box. This will be a priority for a future Labour government.