Here’s a column I wrote for the Jewish Chronicle:
Lib Dems are only on one side: the side of peace
The blame game is the real obstacle to Middle East peace
In Hornsey & Wood Green in North London, there is a strong pro-Israel lobby and a strong pro-Palestinian lobby. When Jenny Tonge made her disgraceful and ignorant comments in the JC, calling for an inquiry into Israel taking organs in Haiti, I got emails from the pro-Israel lobby saying that the Liberal Democrats were pro-Palestinian.
When Nick Clegg then rightly sacked Baroness Tonge from the front bench, I received emails claiming that he had only done so because the “Zionist conspiracy” had got to him. Both were symptomatic of the polarization by the two sides in the Middle East conflict.
The only side the Liberal Democrats are on is the side of peace. We condemn all acts of violence and urge all parties to negotiate a lasting settlement to this crisis. A sustainable solution will only be achieved with two separate Israeli and Palestinian states, mutually recognized and internationally accepted, within secure borders based on the situation before the 1967 conflict.
Liberal Democrats condemn Hamas violence unequivocally. We believe that Hamas must move to respect the “three principles” set by the Quartet: renounce violence, recognise Israel’s right to exist and accept previous agreements.
However, we are concerned that while Hamas recognition of Israel is a necessary outcome of negotiations, it should not be interpreted so rigidly that it becomes a pre-condition that stops progress towards peace.
Searching for a solution also means swallowing some bitter pills. I hate to see the lesson that history teaches us, but the bitter truth is that dealing with unpleasant, murderous brutes is often needed to bring peace. Remember the IRA? In the end, the promise of peace and prosperity, together with negotiation, is what eventually heralded a break in the deadlock of decades and the hatred of centuries.
Entrenched positions get us nowhere. Being partisan or playing the blame is a hiding to nothing. No change, no solution.
Blame has been hurled back and forth, ricocheting between opposing sides ever since Israel’s painful birth. It is the Palestinians in the refugee camps and the ordinary citizens of Israel who suffer in this terrible game.
If there is one thing that is clear to me it is that none of the players really have the best interests of these peoples at heart. It is all about agendas and interests. That applies to the US and Iran, the UK and those countries in the region, all of whom are going to have to be willing to change the game.
We need the world to roll up its sleeves and commit itself for as long as it takes to focus all its efforts on pursuing peace and a lasting settlement. Blaming those who aren’t willing to do that is the only part of the blame game worth playing.