Thank you to the thousands of constituents who have contacted me regarding the horrific situation in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. I recognise the very strongly-held views which people hold on this issue and the grief expressed by communities in Lewisham East, in the United Kingdom, and across the world.
Since events began to unfold, I have received correspondence on a wide range of topics related to Israel and Palestine. Five issues have featured most prominently: calls for a ceasefire; the application of international law; the delivery of humanitarian assistance; ending the siege conditions facing Gaza; and violence in the West Bank. My statement below responds to each of these in turn.
As the situation in Israel and Palestine continues to evolve, I will seek to periodically published updated statements. However, I regret that I may not be able to do this as frequently as some constituents have requested as my small team and I continue to work on a wide range of issues facing residents in Lewisham East. Thank you for your understanding.
The scenes emerging from Gaza each day and the immense scale of human loss and suffering endured by both Palestinians and Israelis is utterly heart-breaking. Not a single day goes by where I do not think of this and how urgently such agony must be brought to an end.
I understand why so many people in Lewisham East and beyond are desperate for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. I sympathise profoundly with their calls and I, of course, want a ceasefire to be negotiated and sustained.
On 15th November 2023, amendments to the King’s Speech were tabled by the Labour Party and by the SNP. You can read Labour’s amendment here.
I voted in favour of Labour’s amendment and abstained on the SNP’s amendment. I appreciate that this will have disappointed constituents who called on me to support an immediate ceasefire. Let me explain why I voted in the way I did.
First, the United Kingdom – even if a majority of MPs voted in favour of a ceasefire – cannot force Israel and Hamas to agree to one. Only Israel and Hamas can negotiate for a ceasefire, agree to one, and then sustain it. Currently, both Israel and Hamas have indicated that they do not support and would not sustain a permanent ceasefire.
In this context, I believe that politicians must respond to the reality which faces them rather than the world as they wish it existed. Therefore, I abstained on the vote for a ceasefire and voted in favour of daily humanitarian pauses. While this falls short of my own hope that we may see a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, I voted this way believing it offers the greatest prospect of implementation and the most credible path towards the eventual ending of hostilities.
The pause in hostilities which took place between 24th and 30th November 2023 showed the viability of this approach. It offered a vital opportunity to secure the release of hostages who had been taken by Hamas and to upscale the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza. But, with hostilities now resumed and the prospect of further pauses seemingly slim, I worry it did not succeed in moving Israel and Hamas close enough to a lasting ceasefire. I therefore want the British government to play a more active role in engaging with our allies and with leaders in the Middle East as part of international efforts to secure an enduring ceasefire. This can only be achieved through rigorous diplomacy by the Government so I have written to the Foreign Secretary to make this clear and ask what discussions he has had to further this aim. You can read my full letter here.
Second, I want to be clear that that I do not believe that a ceasefire alone is enough. Unless Hamas releases all hostages and we see the realistic emergence of a political peace process, any ceasefire risks being destined to fail. Therefore, as much as I want to see a ceasefire agreed and sustained, it would be irresponsible to support one while hostages are still being held in Gaza and while we are still without a robust political framework in place to deliver a two-state solution: a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and secure Palestinian state. It is the Government’s responsibility to work with international partners to improve the prospect of a two-state solution and a political road to peace. My letter to the Foreign Secretary therefore asks what discussions the Foreign Office is having in order to further this aim.
There are a multitude of ways for me, as a Member of Parliament, to represent my constituents. While voting in Parliament is one way, it is far from the only one. I believe that I can much more effectively and thoughtfully represent the grief and sorrow expressed by people in Lewisham East through writing to the Government and encouraging it to use its role and its international relationships to improve the prospect of a lasting end to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
Following Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attack against Israel on 7th October 2023, I was clear that we must condemn this terror and stand in support of Israel in its time of agony. I continue to firmly believe this, and that Israel has a right to defend itself and keep its people safe just like any other country.
However, any action taken must always be done in accordance with international law. This means that civilians must not be targeted and that the lives of innocent children, men and women must be protected.
Many constituents have expressed to me their deep concern regarding the United Kingdom’s commitment to international law. I recognise the importance of this and have been clear from the start that the British government has a key role to play in ensuring international law is upheld and adhered to.
Labour’s amendment to the King’s Speech made clear that there has been far too many innocent children and civilians killed in Gaza and affirmed the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in addressing the conduct of all parties engaged in Israel and Gaza. I voted in favour of this and will continue to offer political support for the ICC as well as ensuring the Government is a strong proponent of international law.
Humanitarian Assistance & Siege Conditions
The humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate rapidly and there is not enough food, water, fuel, electricity, and medicines making its way to civilians. While humanitarian assistance has been passing through the Rafah crossing since October 2023 and the pause in hostilities in November 2023 allowed for higher volumes to enter Gaza, humanitarian assistance is still not being delivered on the scale required to meet the needs of people in Gaza.
Let me be clear: Israel must lift the siege conditions and allow the safe, unhindered, and regular flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. This means food, water, fuel, electricity, and medicines. This is what I voted in favour of when supporting Labour’s amendment to the King’s Speech.
Almost every piece of correspondence which I have received from constituents in Lewisham East has expressed alarm at the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. It is clear that there is much more the United Kingdom can do to support the delivery of humanitarian aid. I wish to see extra Government funding to Gaza alongside the appointment of a UK Special Coordinator for International Aid to Gaza. The Government must also be ready to deploy British experts and medical support teams and to work with international partners to give UN agencies the long-term funding they need. My letter to the Foreign Secretary makes this clear and asks what the Government will do to increase the amount of aid distributed by the United Kingdom to Gazan civilians.
2023 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since casualty records began. The displacement of Palestinians due to air strikes, evictions and demolitions is responsible for the further deterioration of already-painful conditions.
I condemn violence and extremism by Israeli settlers and want the Israeli government to prevent this and to ensure accountability for perpetrators. I have raised this in the House of Commons and called on the British government to condemn such violence and extremism.
As an occupying power, Israel must meet its obligations under international law. It must not withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority and the British government should introduce entry bans for anyone identified as being involved in serious criminal activity or in fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the United Kingdom.
British diplomatic efforts should work towards strengthening and reforming the Palestinian Authority as part of a stabilised West Bank. My letter to the Foreign Secretary addresses this and asks what discussions the Foreign Office is having with regional partners to pursue this.
Support for Relatives in Gaza
For any constituents with relatives in Gaza who may require my assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me on Janet.Daby.MP@parliament.uk.