For clarity the Speaker only selected motions R (Leader of the Opposition) and H (SNP Motion) for debate and vote on the King’s Speech.
The human cost in Israel and Gaza is immense and what we see on our news bulletins and online is truly heart breaking. International Law should be respected by all, yet wanting a ceasefire and an end to hostilities, even voting to support a call for one at the King’s Speech, doesn’t make one happen.
Hamas officials have said they will not stop fighting and intend to repeat the murderous events of 7th October. Ghazi Ahmed, a senior Hamas member, said on 1 November: “The al-Aqsa Flood [Hamas’s name for the 7 October attack] is just the first time and there will be a second, a third, a fourth because we have the determination, the resolve and the capabilities to fight”. He continued: “The existence of Israel is what causes all that pain, blood and tears”.
Hamas' stated objective is not a 2-state solution or even a Palestine where people peacefully live alongside each other, but the annihilation of Israel and its people. How does Israel negotiate with a group whose starting point is the annihilation of not just the state of Israel, but it's people? Contrast this to the 2005 peace deal with the Palestinian Authority (Who were violently ousted from Gaza by Hamas) to withdraw all Israeli forces from Gaza. This means Israel will not agree to a ceasefire until their hostages are freed, Hamas’s ability to launch attacks like that on 7 October is dismantled and Hamas is no longer in control of Gaza.
International law is clear, military infrastructure must not be fixed to civilian locations. Yet within Gaza Hamas deliberately embeds terror infrastructure and its leadership within, and beneath, densely populated civilian areas, including mosques and hospitals, effectively using them as human shields. Gazans are also put at further risk from rockets launched by terror groups. At least 550 misfired terror rockets and mortars have exploded within Gaza killing unknown numbers, including the awful explosion at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital.
Simply voting for a motion in the House of Commons calling for a ceasefire is not going to achieve a peace which lasts, especially if a ceasefire results in Hamas simply being able to regroup and fight again another day. Israel can rightly point to the fact a ceasefire was in place on 6th October, the day before Hamas carried out the worst pre-planned massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. A principal target of Hamas attacks being a music festival attended by young people who had no hostile intent.
I would also highlight what a ceasefire should mean, a cessation of all hostilities, including the release of hostages seized by Hamas. Holding hostages is a hostile act. A ceasefire cannot simply mean Israel ceases military operations while Hamas continues to hold hostages, whilst re-grouping to prepare future attacks on Israel and re-establish its rule over Gaza. A ceasefire means an end to all hostile acts, with a view to a permanent solution, including Hamas being removed from power in Gaza, not just one party ceasing hostile action, whilst the other continues.
The UK Government’s response is rightly focused on getting humanitarian aid into Gaza, including calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow this. Alongside this the UK Government has been working to ensure UK citizens trapped in Gaza can leave, preventing regional escalation, and supporting long-term solutions to the crisis. With the Foreign Secretary having directly engaged with the Egyptian Government on these points.
The UK is already a significant provider of aid to the Palestinian people, but in light of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza, the Government is increasing its humanitarian support by a further £20 million. To support regional stability, Ministers have increased our military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, deploying a Royal Navy task group and bolstering our forces in Cyprus. The Prime Minister has also been engaging extensively with his international counterparts, including the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, all of whom are determined to prevent escalation of this devastating conflict.
Recent events are a reminder why there must be international attention on ensuring the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people are met and support a lasting solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike. However, Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their aspirations; it offers nothing for them other than more terror and more bloodshed. Hamas’ brutal dictatorship in Gaza abuses its political opponents and murders gay men. Hamas therefore cannot be a part of a long-term future for the Palestinian people.
Finally, I have written to the FCDO asking for more details of the work being done in relation to ensuring aid is able to reach civilians in Gaza. I will provide a further update when I receive a response.