I am writing to you as a constituent regarding the upcoming Backbench Business debate on Thursday 9th February entitled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”. I urge you to attend this debate and bring the appropriate balance to this subject.
As I am sure you will agree, peace will ultimately only be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians as a result of direct negotiations. It is entirely appropriate that the issue of settlements will form part of these negotiations and it is widely accepted that this can be resolved through mutually agreed land swaps in any proposed two state solution.
However, it is inaccurate to suggest that the removal of settlements will by itself result in peace. Israel forcibly removed all settlements from Gaza in 2005, the unfortunate precedent is that what followed was not peace but the rise of Hamas in Gaza and constant rocket fire towards Israeli civilians.
Settlements are just one of many factors that will need to be resolved before long term peace can be achieved. Among many obstacles to peace are incitement from the Palestinian Authority including the naming of schools after terrorists who have murdered Israeli civilians; payments to families of terrorists; and rocket attacks and terrorist tunnels emanating from Hamas-controlled Gaza. The status of Jerusalem and the concept of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees also need to be addressed.
In previous rounds of negotiations Israel has made very generous offers to dismantle settlements in the West Bank for the sake of peace but those offers were rejected by the Palestinians.
Peace cannot be imported to the region and will only be the result of bilateral initiatives. Attempts to resolve the conflict through unilateral measures or through international measures such as conferences or resolutions where the parties are not involved are counter-productive to the peace process.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email and I hope you will be able to use your contribution to the debate to support the need for renewed bilateral negotiations – which Israel has offered without preconditions - and reject calls for unilateral steps.