Until July 2016 I was the minister with responsibility for UK’s assistance to the Palestinians, much of which was channelled through United Nations agencies, some in collaboration with the EU, and some directly by our Department for International Development’s operations based in Jerusalem .
I regarded myself as a critical friend of Israel, but I kept that criticism between myself, our diplomats and the Israeli ministers and politicians with which I interacted.
At one meeting with the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, who was also their chief negotiator with the Palestinian Authority, my criticism was sufficiently forceful to cause him to storm out in rage.
I had made a number of complaints: illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank of the Jordan; the unfair treatment of Palestinians; and the bulldozing of schools by the Israeli occupying authorities -built with funding from UK taxpayers.
My concern was that the proposal for a ‘two state’ solution to the conflict, with a Palestinian State co-existing peacefully alongside Israel (which was -and which remains- UK Government’s policy), was becoming increasingly untenable given the rate at which Israeli settlements were expanding into the occupied Palestinian territory, making it very difficult to include in any viable and geographically contiguous future Palestinian state.
When I no longer enjoyed that ministerial responsibility, I went public with my criticism for the first time: I led a debate in Parliament on the illegal Israeli settlements in February 2017
Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israeli Settlements – Hansard – UK Parliament
Following the debate I was invited to meetings with any number of Palestinian representatives. Basic ‘due diligence’ revealed that many of them were on the record with all sorts of blood-curdling statements about the destruction of Israel, and they had associations with terrorist organisations.
In this light it is important to see the conflict from the Israeli point of view: it is impossible to negotiate a settlement with opponents whose aim remains the obliteration of Israel. The horrific attack by Hamas from the Gaza strip which they control and govern is just the latest and worst in a long history of terrorism. The curtailment of civil rights in Israeli occupied Palestinian territories, of which I previously complained, is itself very largely a consequence of the security measures that have had to be taken to protect Israeli citizens from the terrorist threat.
Israel has endured, bombings and killings for so many years. This latest atrocity is the last straw. The Government of Israel must destroy the terrorist organisation that is Hamas, in order to prevent it from continuing its own quest to destroy Israel and all Israelis.
The action against Hamas now presents huge dangers to Israel itself, to the occupants of the Gaza strip , and to the stability of the whole region. Nevertheless, what other course is open to Israel?
It must protect itself from continued attacks
Equally, no peace process can proceed whilst armed terrorists are determined that there should be no peace until Israel is wiped from the map.