Thank you for writing to me regarding the discussion around the introduction of a ceasefire in Gaza.
As I am sure you can appreciate, I have received hundreds of emails on this highly emotive matter, and I hope my response below goes some way to addressing your concerns and setting out my point of view.
As a former Middle East Minister, I am very familiar with the region and have visited Israel, Gaza and the West Bank a number of times. The situation is far more nuanced than some of the reporting suggests. To that end it is possible to support Israel’s right to defend itself after those barbaric attacks on the 7th October but be critical of how it’s using its significant military might which seems to be without a plan of what comes next and is seriously compounding humanitarian challenges in Gaza. Similarly it is possible to support the pro-Palestinian voices seeking a two state solution but criticising those who do not condemn Hamas.
I hope we can all agree; Hamas has lost an claim it may have to represent the people of Gaza. The question is how is this terrorist group is removed and an acceptable temporary technocratic council put in place until a more longer term democratic governance structure can be created. It’s clear Israel cannot do this alone and it requires the participation of regional Arab countries (especially those that signed the Abrahamic Accords) and the international community to agree a grand strategy of how this can be achieved. Britain could easily be the convening power here and I have written to the new Foreign Secretary to suggest this.
I have joined others including the President of the United States in calling for an immediate Humanitarian Pause. This would allow not only a lull in fighting to get urgent aid into the strip, but a period for Israel to receive input from the international community on a more structured approached to destroying Hamas, its tunnels, HQ’s and ammunition cashes without further infra-structure damage and handing over security responsibility to an agreed third party.
This is different from a full cease fire which requires terms and conditions to be agreed, and an accepted neutral force to step in so the cease fire can be monitored and enforced. It also means Hamas would be empowered as a signatory bolstering its claim to continue to represent the Gazan people. For this reason I fully support a Humanitarian Pause as a stepping stone to a full ceasefire.
I would prefer to be seeing Parliament call for the UK to host an urgent international summit timed to take place at the beginning of a humanitarian pause thus preventing the likelihood of escalation.
Sadly, under the present trajectory the conflict is sadly heading that way. As I’ve said publicly many times, Israel’s current approach may kill many hundreds of fighters but it will not kill the ideology.
For that to happen there needs to be a viable alternative as to what replaces Hamas. Also if there is no strategy to challenge Iran’s proxy influence in the region, then Hamas 2.0 is likely to emerge.
We cannot be by-standers here. The West’s threshold to deal with challenges across the world is being tested.
I have written a number of articles on this subject, you can find my most recent piece here: We need a Gaza plan