Recognise Palestine to rekindle hope
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is the first MP of Palestinian descent, writes: "Before it is too late, the UK Government must officially recognise the State of Palestine and give the Palestinian people back some of the hope that has so tragically dwindled".
Once again, our media has been bombarded with horrific scenes from Gaza of dead bodies of Palestinian men, women and children.
Yet the Conservative Government have refused to back a UN Human Rights Council vote for an independent investigation into what was the worst violence in the region in many years.
While the violence has become all too familiar a story in recent months, but never do these reports fail to run chills up my back. Because behind every death is a grieving family. Behind every death is a family that has lost hope.
I am the first MP of Palestinian descent. I feel these scenes keenly. The only way to now re-kindle hope in this war-stricken region is to properly recognise the Palestinian people.
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt told me last week in the House of Commons that should only happen "at a time when it's most designed to serve the cause of peace". During his answer I held my head in my hands in despair. If now is not the time, when is?
This inadequate response has been compounded by the decision of the Conservative government to abstain from the UNHRC’s key vote. A vote which would have gone some of the way to bringing justice to victims and their families. The apathy of this Conservative government is abhorrent.
The reality on the ground is that the two sides in the conflict are not meeting as equals. The opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem – a watershed moment - serves as a reminder of that.
Trump's headbanging diplomacy has had real-life consequences. His decision, as others have said, has sprayed gasoline on a fire that has been burning for weeks. It is - beyond all doubt - the catalyst for the recent violence.
By breaking with decades of official US policy by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Trump has taken a sledgehammer to the peace process, whatever that looks like anymore. He has effectively abandoned the Palestinian people.
Don’t just take my word for it. Only a matter of months ago an extraordinary Organisation of Islamic Cooperation condemned Trump’s move and called for worldwide recognition of "an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its occupied capital".
The Palestinian people have, as you would expect, lost faith in the US. The UK Government’s decision to abstain from the UNHRC vote may lead Palestinians to lose faith in the UK too.
Trump’s actions have bolstered the Israeli Government. Indeed, I am deeply concerned by the religiosity that featured so strongly in Mr Netanyahu’s remarks on the status of Jerusalem. This was manna from heaven for extremists everywhere, including here in Europe.
Trump has also appeared to have bought into the Israeli narrative that hollows out the Palestinian identity. Those who listened will notice that the words Palestine or Palestinian were not uttered once in the opening of the embassy. Only ‘the other side’ was referred to. Perhaps that is the US vision. If there are no Palestinians then that is one path to peace. Complete surrender. Put up or shut up. I’m sorry to tell them, that will never be accepted.
As for now, I fear things could only get worse. Between Hamas, with an agenda I certainly do not share, and a very extreme Israeli Prime Minister is the blood of children. That must end.
Working with our EU partners, now more valuable than ever before, the UK Government must meet the expectations on its special responsibilities and influence in the Middle East. The US has left the field, UK Government Ministers cannot hide away. And we must remember our obligations under Balfour. In a very real way, we are partially responsible for this mess. We must not shy away in a corner.
I therefore call on the UK Government to apologise unequivocally for their abstention from the UNHRC vote for an independent investigation and do all they can to ensure this investigation takes place as a matter of urgency.
I call on the UK Government, including at the security council, to contribute toward a resumption of peace negotiations based on a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
I call on the UK Government to bear in mind the international consensus and guarantee our own diplomatic representation will not be moved to Jerusalem.
Above all else, however, progress cannot be made, until we have two sides that are equally recognised.
My plea is this; finally, before it is too late, the UK Government must officially recognise the State of Palestine. And give the Palestinian people back some of the hope that has so tragically dwindled.
Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education and the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon