Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Gaza

Delivered in Plenary - 15th November 2006

Mr President

Last week’s incident in Gaza, when an IDF shell mistakenly struck Beit Hanoun causing the death of 19 innocent Palestinians, is clearly tragic. The Prime Minister of Israel has apologised and ordered a full investigation.

Israel, it must be recalled, withdrew from Gaza in good faith, but the Palestinian Authority failed to establish law and order there. Instead we have witnessed a degeneration into chaos, internecine warfare and repeated Qassam rockets being deliberately fired at innocent Israeli civilian targets, such as the woman killed today in Sderot, with no apologies from the militants, such as Hamas, and the militias effectively using human shields as Hizbollah did in Lebanon by firing rockets from civilian areas, thus inviting retribution which resulted in the tragedy of Beit Hanoun. Furthermore, these Hamas-controlled militias have yet to release kidnapped Corporal Shalit.

Yesterday it was announced that a new government of national unity has been formed under independent technocrat Mohammad Shbair, but its spokesman, Fawzi Barhoom, denies that Hamas will now recognise Israel and instead disappointingly stated that the new government will recognise the terms of the ‘Prisoners’ Document’, a declaration signed this year by Palestinians held in Israeli jails that implicitly – but not explicitly – recognises Israel by calling for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. It remains to be seen if this will suffice to dismantle the TIM and resume full PA aid, and reassurances on ending terrorist violence will have to be forthcoming too.

I will be reluctantly supporting this resolution, but cannot support its call for a multinational UN force to police the occupied territories, as the track record of UNIFIL in Lebanon remains unproven. I fear that, as we speak, Hizbollah is busy rearming itself and looking for a pretext to start yet another war against Israel.

Neither do I call for an immediate cessation by Israel of all military action whilst it is still being attacked, as argued by my Liberal colleague Mr Davies.