Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Middle East

Delivered in Plenary - 6th June 2007

Mr President

Yesterday I met a delegation of Israeli citizens from Sderot who related to me first-hand the terror in their civilian population from 300 random Qassam rocket attacks launched at them from Hamas-controlled sites in Gaza, which clearly constitutes a war crime in international law, with two dead and many injured to date. Last week 33 people were detained by the IDF in the West Bank, including the Palestinian Education Minister Nasser al-Shaer, allegedly for their overt support for these rocket attacks. The detention of an education minister is interesting as it tends to support the repeated allegations in this House that the Palestinian textbooks and school curriculum supported for years by EU funds are still aimed at fomenting a climate of hatred and distrust for Israel and a glorification of terrorist violence.

Many of the Hamas ministerial components of the Unity Government – like the Hamas 1988 Charter inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – still believe strongly that the State of Israel has no right to exist, that all terrorist violence is justified through so-called armed struggle, and that they are not bound by previous PLO-signed international agreements. Therefore, in my view at present the PA Unity Government clearly does not comply with the Quartet criteria, and the EU must not yet lift the ban on Hamas as a designated terrorist organisation, or directly fund the PA Government. Neither should the TIM be abandoned for the delivery of humanitarian aid, which now totals over EUR 500 million yearly and has actually risen over the last three years, contrary to popular opinion.

I too support the Arab League’s new proposals for a negotiated solution, although the right of return is totally unrealistic. But again, and curiously, Hamas rejects their proposals for Israel’s recognition. Some hardliners on all sides reject peace or a two-state solution, but on the 40th anniversary of the six-day war it is clear that this is the only viable long-term solution for a lasting peace in the region. But first the PA must ensure law and order on its territory and stop the dissent into virtual Hamas-Fatah civil war in Gaza, which is also being stirred up in Lebanon.

Once again I would like to call upon the House and the international community to put pressure on all those responsible for the release of the BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who we now know is alive and well, and the kidnapped soldier Corporal Shalit. This will create a climate conducive to restarting the vital roadmap for peace talks.