The terror attacks on Israelis by Hamas at the start of October have horrified us all. I condemn unequivocally these appalling acts of murder and violence; nothing can ever justify, excuse or explain brutally killing civilians, kidnapping grandmothers and young children, taking hostages, and firing thousands of rockets into residential areas without warning. That is terrorism and it must be defeated.
At the same time, I am extremely concerned about the humanitarian crisis which is unfolding in Gaza – and getting worse by the day. The images of tens of thousands of people struggling to survive, with virtually no access to food, water and medical supplies are profoundly distressing; the human cost is enormous especially for the very young and the very old.
The Government’s views
The Government has been clear that in the face of the barbaric actions by Hamas, Israel had, and continues to have, the legal and moral right to defend itself.
Our Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has also stated clearly the importance of protecting Palestinian civilians and complying with international humanitarian law.
The UK is working via all diplomatic channels – bilaterally and collectively in the region – to ensure that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which has cost so many lives over many, many years, can be brought to a halt.
Between 20 and 21 October, the Prime Minister visited Israel and also met the leader of the Palestinian Authority, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the President of Egypt and the Emir of Qatar. Mr Sunak was clear that the first priority arising from these meetings is to get more humanitarian support into Gaza. To help achieve that, he announced a further £20 million increase in UK aid to civilians in Gaza. This builds on £10 million he had already announced.
My personal views
Naturally, I too wish to see civilian casualties minimised. I fervently hope that ongoing talks are successful in allowing more aid into Gaza, providing safe passage out of the territory for some residents and ensuring the release of all the hostages held by Hamas. Equally, it must be remembered that Israel does have the right to self-defence and it is absolutely entitled to protect its people, within the bounds of international law.
Since the attacks of 7 October, I have spoken personally to the Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary and a senior member of the Israeli Defence Forces. I have said to them all that we must take great care not to conflate the terrorists of Hamas with all Palestinians. The Foreign Secretary has assured me face-to-face that in every conversation he has with the Israeli authorities; he emphasises the need for humanitarian assistance to reach those in need. I have also attended meetings in Parliament with the Israeli and Palestinian Ambassadors to the UK.
On the broader Israel-Palestine question, I have consistently said that I believe that there should be a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a fair and realistic settlement for refugees.
The UK Government regularly calls on Israel – both bilaterally and via the UN – to stop actions that undermine the viability of the two-state solution. This includes ending the eviction of Palestinians from their homes, ceasing the demolition of Palestinian property – including homes and schools – and halting the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Indeed, the UK is clear that these actions cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians, call into question Israel's commitment to a viable two-state solution, and, in all but the most exceptional of cases, are contrary to international humanitarian law. I have joined ministers in London and officials from the UK Embassy in Tel Aviv and at the UN in calling for evictions, demolitions and settlement expansion to cease with immediate effect.
I have previously spoken myself at Aylesbury mosque about the anger and hurt caused by police violence at Al Aqsa mosque – points I raised with ministers to ensure they were aware of the strength of local feeling.
I know how important this is to many members of the community in Aylesbury. That is why, on the morning of the attacks by Hamas, I was with other MPs at Heathrow airport on my way to meet both Israeli and Palestinian ministers and officials, and see for ourselves the reality of life in Ramallah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. However, as news started to come in of the unfolding terror, our visit was understandably and rightly cancelled.
At the end of September, I travelled to Jordan to have discussions there about the urgency of solving the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians, and ways to bring peace and reconciliation. I am making these visits because I believe there is a responsibility on all of us to play our own part – however small – in trying to find a resolution to this decades-long conflict; and at this moment of intense crisis, there is an equal responsibility on all of us to adopt a calm, measured and tolerant approach in the way we speak and act that I hope will be reflected in our local area.
Note: Given the speed with which events are taking place, I am aware that this article cannot cover every issue or answer every question a constituent might have: for the most up-to-date and detailed information, I recommend referring to statements on gov.uk alongside the social media feeds of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary.