Sunday, July 26, 2009

Britain 'should approach Hamas'.

A Foreign Affairs Committee report shows that the British parliament are losing patience with the state of Israel and also with the British government's stance regarding the Israel/Palestine dispute.

They are demanding that the UK government make contact with Hamas and that the UK make relations with Israel conditional on its peace-making efforts.

This is quite a startling set of demands and appears to show that patience with Israel, especially when it comes to the subject of illegal settlements in the West Bank, appears to be at an end.

But committee chairman Michael Gapes said the committee saw "few signs that the current policy of non-engagement with Hamas" was effective.

He added that the government "should urgently consider engaging with moderate elements within Hamas" as it had with the political wing of Hezbollah in Lebanon earlier this year.

The wide-ranging report condemns Israel for the continuing growth of settlements and for its blockades around the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.

It was unacceptable, said Mr Gapes, to deny unrestricted access for humanitarian assistance.

And the report also called for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to declare whether it considered war crimes had been committed during the December 2008 to January 2009 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.

Hamas came into criticism for its rocket attacks, but MPs concluded that Israel's military action in Gaza was "disproportionate".

The most startling thing about this report is it's demand that UK relations with Israel should be dependent on Israel's peace making efforts.

I've felt for years that Israel feigns her search for "a partner in peace" whilst she continues to steal Palestinian land; and this is the first time that I have heard of a Foreign Affairs Committee report which appears to acknowledge that reality and set out to do something about it.

I don't know if it's the election of Obama or whether it's Netanyahu's belligerence, but there is a serious change in the attitude of this cross-party group towards how the UK should deal with the parties in this issue.

I personally welcome what they have had to say. For too long we have acquiesced in Israel's intolerable behaviour towards the Palestinians, culminating in their recent brutal attacks on civilian targets in Gaza and their siege of that territory.

Something has to give here. And Obama has started that battle by demanding that Netanyahu cease the building of illegal settlements. Netanyahu has refused to comply. The Foreign Affairs Committee report is saying that we should be on the side of Obama and that we should make our dealings with Israel dependent on how seriously she is participating in the peace process.

As for Hamas, if John Major's government could deal with the IRA then we should be able to deal with Hamas. After all, they are the people who the Palestinians chose as their elected representatives.

The change that the Foreign Affairs Committee are demanding from the UK government are all to be welcomed. For far too long our government have paid lip service to a peace deal between these two parties whilst silently acquiescing in Israeli actions which made peace impossible.

The report appears to me to be saying that it's time we got serious about this. I couldn't agree more.

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