Wera Hobhouse MP: Polarisation will not bring peace

A two-state solution, based on 1967 borders, is the only way to guarantee the dignity and lasting peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve

Trade unionist arms factory protest Israel

Just over six months on from the brutal October 7th attacks, tensions in the Middle East appear to be increasingly fraught. In light of Iran’s recent missile attack on Israel, now, more than ever, is the time for the international community to come together to secure a lasting peace, and prevent regional escalation.

Failure to achieve a prompt, sustained ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in order to secure the release of hostages and get desperately-needed aid into Gaza, has put thousands in jeopardy, with threats of food insecurity and a mounting death toll of over 34,000 people, according to the Gazan Hamas-run Health Ministry. These devastating numbers are not just made up of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, but international humanitarian aid workers and journalists too. The agonising pain resulting from this conflict reaches far and wide; it’s clear that polarisation will not bring peace.

Polarisation has been an overwhelming theme throughout this conflict. Criticising the actions of one side in the Israel-Hamas war has often been misconstrued as unequivocal support for the other, contributing to the deepening divide. I am sure I am not the only MP who has been asked to take sides in recent months. However, this approach fails to recognise the nuances of a 76-year-old conflict, and the room for humanity and grief on both sides.

It negates the possibility, for example, of being able to condemn the deplorable actions of Hamas on October 7th, while maintaining that there is an appalling humanitarian catastrophe taking place in Gaza. It is possible, and indeed necessary, to demand justice for all who were murdered by Hamas terrorists by urging the Foreign Secretary to lobby the International Criminal Court to issue international arrest warrants for Hamas leaders, as we Liberal Democrats have done. It is equally possible, and pressing, to simultaneously call for the UK to suspend arms to Israel if they are being used to breach international humanitarian law. These positions are not mutually exclusive.

Nevertheless, it appears that the latter is too much to ask for from the UK government. They have failed to heed the calls of over 130 parliamentarians, including myself and other Liberal Democrat colleagues, to end arms sales to Israel, following the death of seven aid workers, including British citizens, John Chapman, James Kirby and James Henderson. The UK has a responsibility to minimise the risk that the arms we sell are used in breaches of international humanitarian law. Crucially, the government needs to publish the legal advice on whether UK arms sales to Israel comply with the law.

Over the last few months, a phrase from journalist Jonathan Freedland has stayed at the forefront of my mind – this conflict “is not a football match”, there are no sides to take. Rather, this is “two peoples with deep wounds, howling with grief, fated to share the same small piece of land”. To the repeated calls that urge me to “choose a side”, I say that the side I continue to be on, is the side of peace. 

I am proud that my party is committed to securing a lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. For months now, we have called for an immediate bilateral ceasefire. Unless this is achieved and successfully maintained, it is unlikely there will be an end to the increasing hostilities that we have seen in recent days. Iran’s missile and drone attacks on Israel on 13th April have intensified fears of escalation across the Middle East. For the Iranian regime to try to exploit the conflict and unfolding humanitarian catastrophe for their own advantage is totally unacceptable.

However, the international community’s collaboration thus far to stabilise the situation and prevent the threat of escalation provides some optimism for the potential to secure peace in the region. Although it is no mean feat, it’s imperative we work together, prioritising unity over division, to push towards this goal in order to get aid into Gaza, to secure the release of the hostages, and to begin discussions to deliver a two-state solution. 

A two-state solution, based on 1967 borders, is the only way to guarantee the dignity and lasting peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve. There must be two states for two peoples. Anything less will condemn them both to continue reliving this nightmare over and over again.

It will take the strength and determination of the entire international community to find a way to end this conflict. It is abundantly clear that polarisation will not bring the peace we desire. We must instead concentrate our efforts on securing a future for Israelis and Palestinians to live harmoniously, in dignity and security.

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