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British Palestinian MP Senses Public Pressure On Gaza Is "Working"

Layla Moran has been the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development since 2020 (Alamy)

5 min read

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has said that she believes public pressure is “working”, as “new faces” in Parliament have begun to challenge the UK government’s approach to the conflict in Gaza.

Moran, who is the only UK MP of Palestinian descent, has family members who are still trapped in Gaza and has been calling for an immediate ceasefire since last autumn. 

“Public pressure is working: I've noticed the change in tone in Parliament, particularly the number of Conservative backbenchers who are raising concerns they have over famine [in Gaza],” she said.

“They want a ceasefire and they're raising their heads above the parapet and actually, all power to them – we need this to be cross-party and that helps.”

The Lib Dem MP said that a debate in Parliament on the situation in Gaza on Tuesday had seen “new faces on the Tory benches” and a large number of Labour MPs challenging the government.

“Now that both parties have, in their own way, started calling for a ceasefire and they're dancing on the head of the pin about what to call it, that’s given people cover to be able to say what they need to say,” she said.

Mark Pritchard, Sara Britcliffe, Kit Malthouse were among Tory MPs who raised concerns with Foreign Minister Andrew Mitchell over the government’s approach in Parliament on Tuesday.

“Every life matters, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, another faith or no faith,” Pritchard said.

“The Minister will know that I have been supportive of the Government, and that I will continue to be, but I hope he will note a change in tone. The figures vary, but it is estimated that 30,000 civilians and roughly 10,000 Hamas terrorists have been killed in Gaza. 

“If it is true that 10,000 other terrorists are despicably hiding in Rafah among the civilian population, making it difficult to deliver aid, are we likely to see another 30,000 civilians killed so that Israel can find those terrorists? What is the British Government’s position? Is this something the Minister would support?”

Britcliffe asked what work was going on with international partners to make clear concerns about Israel’s planned assault on Rafah to the Israeli Government, while continuing to press Hamas to release the hostages.

“The prospect of millions in Rafah, who are there only as they desperately escape conflict to the north, being subjected to further suffering is intolerable,” she said.

Malthouse pressed on whether the government had reached the conclusion that the Israeli government is wilfully obstructing the entrance of aid into the Gaza strip.

“If so, that would presumably be a breach of the International Court of Justice’s ruling, and indeed of international humanitarian law. What would be the consequence of that conclusion?,” he asked.

Moran told PoliticsHome that she believed a number of both Labour and Conservative MPs have felt they could not “break ranks”, but that now she felt the tide was turning.

“A ceasefire is inevitable. At some point, everyone who called for a ceasefire will be proved right because it will happen, it has to happen,” she said.

“So the question for me is not about ‘if’, it's about how do we make it faster? That is about external pressure, how we vote at the UN, how we influence America; a lot of it is out of our hands, but we have to not pretend that we have no influence on this at all.”

She said that her trips to Israel had shown her that “people in the Middle East look to what Britain says” and what Parliament thinks therefore matters to Israel. 

As Parliament enters Easter recess, Moran said that she would spend time over the next few weeks trying to organise more cross-party working, as constituents continue to apply pressure to their MPs. 

Insisting that a ceasefire alone “never achieves anything”, she said that she hoped the next few weeks and months would see a shift in focus towards building a consensus on how to work towards a two state solution between Palestine and Israel. 

“Britain does have an incredibly important part to play in the two state solution and a new peace process, and we shouldn't do ourselves down over that,” she said.

“We have always had a slightly different relationship in the MENA region than America. We should be working with that, we should be leveraging that and Parliament therefore has an important part to play in how we implement it.”

Moran said she thought it was “shameful” that in her view, the UK government has broadly followed the US in its approach to Gaza. The US drafted a new UN security council resolution last week calling for an “immediate ceasefire” and hostage deal in Gaza, making it ever more likely the UK will follow suit – but the UN security council did not pass the US resolution after Russia and China vetoed it.

“We've now had four months of evidence that this needs to stop,” Moran said.

“Fundamentally, it's going to be when the Americans shift, that's when we shift. And I think that's shameful. We could have led from the front.”

Moran added that while it was important to continue challenging the government’s position, she believed that “parliamentary divisiveness”, such as was seen with the controversial SNP vote a few weeks ago, was not an effective way to deal with an issue that is so nuanced.

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