I wanted to take the opportunity to update constituents of my views on the situation in Israel and Gaza, the Government’s diplomatic response to it and address the vote on the amendment to the King’s Speech calling for the UK to demand a ceasefire.
Firstly, in connection to the votes on the Kings Speech, as I am nearing the end of my maternity leave, I was not present to vote in the House of Commons chamber when the division took place. However, I do wish to confirm that, had I been present, I would not have voted in support of a ceasefire and I shall set out below my reasons for this position.
A great many constituents have written to me to express their horror at the scenes that have unfolded in Israel and Gaza and I share in that. I doubt that anyone could not be affected by the tragedies we have witnessed, first in Israel and now in Gaza, and I sincerely hope that this conflict can be brought to a close as swiftly as possible. Regrettably, too many have mischaracterised the debate as between two camps; those that are calling for a ceasefire and those that are disinterested in the plight of Palestinians. I believe that this is far from the truth and that this misconception has undermined much of the public discourse on this topic alongside heightening community tensions.
While recognising that the complex history of Israel and Palestine did not begin on 7 October, it bears repeating that on this day Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad committed a truly barbaric attack upon Israel causing the single largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust. Since then, Hamas have reiterated their intentions, stating clearly that "we will repeat the October 7 attack time and time again until Israel are annihilated". In the face of such threats, I agree with and support Israel’s right to take action to defend itself and to recover its hostages still held by Hamas.
I recognise and appreciate that calls for a ceasefire are, in the main, made from a genuine and sincere desire to protect civilian life, and I repeat that both the Government and I share this aim. However, the reality is that Hamas have no interest in a ceasefire and they have never attempted to engage in a two-state solution. Furthermore, a unilateral and unconditional ceasefire would simply allow Hamas, designated as a terrorist organisation by 33 countries, to entrench their position (too often amongst the civilian population) and continue their attacks. The Government is therefore continuing its negotiations with regional partners for the extension of the recently established humanitarian corridors to allow for more civilians to flee the conflict and to allow more vital aid to enter. Alongside this the Prime Minister has been clear that the only way a consistent peace can be brought to the region is via a two-state solution, with an independent Palestinian state, and we will work with a renewed focus upon achieving this. I confirm that I support the Government in this position and would have voted in accordance with this yesterday evening.
While I do support Israel’s right to defend itself, it is not without limit. It is clear that a humanitarian disaster is taking place in Gaza and that too many Palestinian civilians have lost their lives. Ministers continue to press Israel to ensure that its campaign is targeted against Hamas leaders, militants and military infrastructure, and the UK Foreign Secretary has also called for discipline, professionalism and restraint from the Israeli military. The Government has also called upon Israel to take steps to stop settler violence in the West Bank.
Recognising the humanitarian crisis, I have previously written to the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to represent and support calls for increased aid provision into Gaza and there has already been progress in this regard. While not nearly enough aid has passed through the Rafah Crossing, following significant diplomatic efforts, the crossing is now open and the RAF have airlifted supplies directly requested by the Egyptian Red Crescent. We are continuing to consider ways in which this can be expanded further by the opening of other crossings into Gaza but also potentially by air and maritime access. Alongside our efforts to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, the Government has more than doubled our own contribution with £30 million of additional aid being made available to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
I recognise that this position will dissatisfy those that had asked me to back the amendment yesterday. However, I hope that this update is helpful in setting out why I was unable to vote in this division and my broader views on this sensitive subject.