Ed Miliband: It’s Labour values to recognise Palestine

24th Dec 2014

Gareth Thomas MP

In remarks made at the Labour Friends of Palestine’s Annual Gala Dinner, November 26, Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, said, “It is right, just, fair and in line with the values of Labour to recognise Palestine.”

Labour believes statehood for the Palestinians is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised. That is why since 2011 Labour has supported Palestinian recognition at the UN and called on the Government to support this important principle.

As we approach the end of what has been a traumatic year in the Middle East, the bloodshed during and before the terrible scenes in Gaza over the summer, is a hard reminder of just how important, and how difficult, a return to meaningful negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis will be.

With the weather getting worse, the immediate priority is to speed up reconstruction of the 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed during the conflict, and ensuring that one of the most basic of rights, the right to shelter, is delivered for the people of Gaza.

It is vital that access to basic services such as water, electricity, sewerage and healthcare are restored as quickly as possible too. Crucial infrastructure, such as roads, hospitals and schools must also be rebuilt. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that the reconstruction effort in Gaza is accelerated, and in so doing, create employment opportunities, a safe place for children to go to school, and above all else, hope.

One of the key underlying causes of the conflict this summer was the collapse of the Kerry-led peace talks. This latest diplomatic failure reinforced the feelings of insecurity and fear that too many of those living in Palestine and indeed Israel feel about their futures. That insecurity is the fear of yet more rocket attacks, or more attacks from tunnels, with yet more dreadful loss of life.

Labour remains deeply committed to a two-state solution and the negotiations that remain crucial to deliver it. But negotiations between the two sets of leaders – whilst critical – are not enough. Long term security will only come if the peoples of both countries have been involved as well in discussions about their future, are able to talk through the toughest issues, and the questions that demand the most difficult answers. It is from such discussions that the political space for leaders to talk and negotiators to engage is created.

We must do all we can therefore to encourage open debate among the peoples of Palestine and Israel and indeed between them too.

Gareth Thomas MP, is Shadow Minister for Middle East & North Africa

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