Selaine's response - Ceasefire vote 15th November 2023
The ongoing humanitarian crisis is heart breaking to watch, and the human cost in both Israel and Gaza is far too high.
Instead of this escalating violence, I too want to see a ceasefire. Unfortunately, just wanting a ceasefire, or even voting to show Parliament’s desire for one will not bring one about. Both sides have made clear that as things stand they will not consider a ceasefire, and even if one were suddenly brought about it would only pause the violence.
The Israelis will not agree to a ceasefire unless their hostages are freed, Hamas’s ability to launch attacks like that on 7th October is dismantled and Hamas is no longer in control of Gaza.
Hamas officials have said that they will not stop fighting. Ghazi Ahmed, a senior Hamas member, said on 1st November: “The al-Aqsa Flood (Hamas’s name for the 7th 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”.
If Israel were to agree to a unilateral ceasefire, Hamas has in no way indicated that it would release the hostages it took on October 7th. The holding of hostages is a hostile act, and so this would not be a true ceasefire. Whilst we may want a ceasefire, neither Israel nor Hamas have indicated they are in a position to consider one.
Given the entrenched positions on both sides of the conflict, and the historic tensions in the region, a ceasefire will only be brought about by sustained and open hearted diplomacy where the civilians of Gaza and Israel are put first. I understand people’s desire to see more dramatic intervention in the conflict, and it is the role of Parliament to both express the concerns of the British people to the Government and to scrutinise their actions.
But the current votes being proposed by various MPs do not achieve these goals, they are a distraction from the work of the Foreign Office and are laid in the knowledge that they will not change the ongoing diplomatic work. Hence, I will not be voting for the ceasefire amendments to the Kings Speech.
The diplomacy involved is working beyond the binary yes or no of a ceasefire. The UK and its allies are working with countries in the region such as Qatar, who is talking with Hamas, to secure more likely options. In the short term humanitarian pauses, and the release of hostages are more viable options. I hope that both of these can be brought about as soon as possible. And when suitable I will consider any motion that comes before the House, and express yours and other constituents’ opinion on the conflict.
As we have seen over past decades when the conflict reaches a point where a ceasefire can be considered we must work on supporting a sustainable two state solution. Without such considerations in place violence will inevitably return to the region. I hope to see Israel and Palestine securely co-existing side by side. I strongly empathise with your calls for a ceasefire now, but we must focus on building a stable, long term peace in the region.
Selaine's response 1st November 2023
The events we have seen unfolding in Israel are truly horrific. I join the UK Government in utterly condemning the appalling attacks perpetrated by Hamas, standing resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror, and highlighting the need to act in accordance with international humanitarian law. My thoughts are with all those who have been affected.
The UK recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and supports 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. I respect Israel’s right to retaliate against the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza, take back the hostages, deter further incursions and strengthen its long-term security.
The loss of every innocent life is a tragedy, and while acknowledging that Hamas has enmeshed itself behind the civilian population of Gaza, the UK Prime Minister has called on and will continue to call on the Israeli Government to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians. The UK Foreign Secretary has also called for discipline, professionalism and restraint from the Israeli military.
The UK Government’s response is now focused on getting humanitarian aid into Gaza, and I hope that a humanitarian pause in the conflict will facilitate this; preventing regional escalation and supporting long term solutions to the crisis.
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 has increased its humanitarian support by £30 million, more than doubling our existing aid commitment for this year (£27 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 and Foreign Secretary have also been engaging extensively with their international counterparts, to try and prevent escalation of this devastating conflict.
I note there have been calls for the UK to push for a ceasefire. The UK is working via all diplomatic channels, bilaterally and collectively in the region, to ensure that this conflict, which has cost so many lives already, can be brought to a halt.
Selaine's response 18th October 2023
This week I listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons and the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly’s cross party briefing.
The events unfolding in Israel and Gaza are truly horrifying. I join the UK Government in wholly condemning the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad that began on 7 October, and in standing resolutely with Israel as it seeks to defend itself against these atrocities, but it is vital this is done in accordance with international law. The Government is working hard to support British citizens directly affected by these terrible attacks. My thoughts are with those affected, especially the families of those civilians who have been murdered.
The rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza is also troubling. The UK Prime Minister and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed Israel’s response against Hamas in Gaza during a call on 12 October. Acknowledging that the terrorist organisation has embedded itself in the civilian population in Gaza, our Prime Minister highlighted the importance of taking all possible measures to protect ordinary Palestinians and facilitate much needed humanitarian aid.
The loss of all life is tragic, and many innocent Palestinians are victims of Hamas and the spreading violence too. Hearing from both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary I am reassured that the United Kingdom is working with allies and regional actors to provide aid to Palestinians. I also understand the difficulties the British Muslim community is facing at this time, and the fear of further conflict.
I welcome the support the Government is providing to the British Jewish community, including the additional three million pounds for the Community Secretary Trust to protect schools, synagogues and other Jewish community buildings.
It is vital that the international community works together to relieve the impact on civilians, a point the UK Prime Minister emphasised during his meeting with the Prime Minister of Sweden ahead of the Joint Expeditionary Force Summit in Gotland on 13 October. I understand that he has also spoken with the Egyptian President, and the Foreign Secretary reiterated the importance of opening the Rafah crossing to allow for humanitarian access and provide a route for British and other nationals to leave Gaza, and that we now have Border Force in Eqypt working with our embassy to help with crossings. UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office officials have also been closely engaged with UN efforts to secure humanitarian access and scale up the response.
I welcome the cross party agreement that every precaution must be taken to protect innocent civilians from harm as we stand alongside the people of Israel against the brutal terrorist group Hamas. This is a fast moving situation, and it Is not always clear where responsibility lies for some missiles in this rapidly evolving conflict, and I will continue to follow developments closely, and seek clarity and accurate information.
However, the reality is that Hamas have no interest in a ceasefire. They have no interest in resolution, have never attempted to engage in a two state solution and have made every attempt to collapse the Oslo process. I must reiterate that Israel has the right to take action to defend itself and to recover its hostages, and the UK, while respecting that, will always encourage it to adhere to international law and protect civilians.
Looking to the long term, it is clear that we must not lose sight of how essential a two state solution is. I welcome that the UK will work with international partners to bring renewed energy to this effort.
I will be sure to follow this fast moving situation closely.