Situation in Palestine
Delivered in Plenary - 22nd May 2007
The recent downward spiral of internecine violence between armed secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas militias in Gaza is of grave concern, as we now see the consequences of a weakened Israeli leadership post-Lebanese war and a weakened Palestinian President Abbas having to deal with the religious fundamentalists within Hamas, who won the elections last year. The Hamas members of the unity government are clearly not able to break away from their intransigent positions based on theocratic obscurantist views that the State of Israel can never be explicitly recognised, that terrorist violence is justified and that they are not bound by previous agreements signed by the late Chairman Arafat.
So clearly this Palestinian Authority unity government does not fulfil the Quartet criteria and the EU cannot lift the ban on Hamas as a terrorist organisation or directly fund the Palestinian Authority at present, relying instead on the TIM for delivery of humanitarian aid which now totals over EUR 500 million yearly and has actually risen during the last three years. There is increasing acceptance amongst Arabs, as evidenced by the recent proposals from the Arab League, of the desirability of a negotiated solution. The Israelis all recognise the damage to Israelís economy and society of the continuing violence after the recent spate of over 100 Qassam missiles launched by Hamas at civilian areas. In fact there was one fatality last week which constitutes, in my view, a war crime under international law.
Only the extremists, it seems, are afraid of peace. Whatever the origins of the Middle East conflict, there is increasing recognition amongst Arab States that Israel is here to stay, whilst Jews around the world can see that Israelís long-term security is best served by recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to have their own secure state also.
But the Palestinian Authority must first be able to secure law and order on its territory, which it is failing signally to do right now. Securing the release of the BBC reporter Alan Johnston and the kidnapped soldier, Corporal Shalit, would be a great start and create a climate conducive to restarting the vital roadmap for peace talks.