Delivered in Plenary - Ocotber 13th 2004
Unlike the previous speaker I refuse to condemn so forcefully the government of Israel or the Israeli defence force in its operation on 29 September in Gaza to prevent Hamas – an organisation banned by both the US and the EU – from launching Qassam rockets which recently killed two Israeli children and wounded ten civilians in Sderot. No government anywhere can tolerate civilian fatalities killed by a deadly and implacable enemy without reserving the right to retaliate with all the means at its disposal, and the Palestinian Authority has clearly not reined in its terrorists.
For years Hamas rockets were fortunately more like fire-crackers than bombs, but since the start of 2004, 149 high-explosive rockets have been launched from Gaza. The BBC, not renowned as a friend of Israel, has reported that 15 out of 16 of the Palestinian men killed by the IDF were known terrorist militants.
All of us have a common enemy in fighting international Islamist terrorism. Last week in Taba innocent Israeli holidaymakers were killed by a bomb attack which has all the hallmarks of al-Qa’ida. It must also be emphasised that Israel took great care during the operation in Gaza to provide medical and humanitarian support for all the casualties, as well as innocent Palestinian civilians.
Prime Minister Sharon, in spite of fierce Likud opposition, is pressing ahead with withdrawal of settlements from Gaza as a way of kick-starting the roadmap for peace in the Middle East again and bringing about a two-state solution. But I call on the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, otherwise Israel will be very reluctant to withdraw from the West Bank, which poses a much bigger challenge and is ultimately a much bigger prize.