Last week I received a delegation of charities and voluntary organisations, many respected and well known household names, who came to complain about conditions in Gaza, and the restrictions which hamper their attempts to bring relief. In addition, they gave vent to their frustration about what they percieve as Israel’s increasingly brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories, with illegal settlements, demolitions, and collective punishments.
I responded by pointing out just how much we, as a government, are spending to demonstrate our support for the Palestinian people, it runs into hundreds of millions of pounds, and we are second only to the USA as a bilateral donor.
Notwithstanding the ever present terrorist threat, there is no getting away from the fact that, for staunch allies and supporters of Israel like ourselves, it is becoming increasingly difficult to defend some Israeli actions. As I said to ministers when I visited Israel recently, they aren’t giving us much to work with.
There are however, individuals and organisations in Israeli civil society who have the same concerns that were shared with me last week. This, at least, is an encouraging sign in what has been a bleak period for any prospect for peace.