“I urge Her Majesty’s Government and those responsible for European Union policy to approach the Middle East with a proper and necessary sense of humility. We should recognise that our actions – and indeed, our inaction – have led to the wasted yeas of a so-called peace process, with no real peace and at least three brutal and devastating wars, beginning in 2003.
Our new humility should include a sympathetic understanding of both Israel and Palestine. Israelis remember centuries of persecution, largely in European states, culminating in the Nazi attempt at genocide.
On the other side, we have to understand the pent-up anger and frustration of Palestinians over their sufferings. The Naqba, or disaster, uprooted Palestinians, who now number millions of refugees and exiles scattered through the Middle East and beyond.
Both sides long, however, for real peace, bringing with it mutual security, recognition and legitimacy.
The religious leaders in Israel and Palestine have a distinct contribution to make towards real peace.
Unilateral measures, taken by all sides and parties, could also be helpful if they are carefully co-ordinated. I have in mind particularly the release of captives and detainees, and the building of a transport link to connect Gaza and the West Bank.
Our Policy, as I suggested earlier, should be humble but realistic, understanding of basic needs and interests, and patiently working to include all parties in conflict resolution rather than in unsatisfying conflict management. Time, as has been said early today, is not on anyone’s side.
The Minister for Defence, who replied for the Government, was not able to find time to say anything about the Middle East.