Vincent Feane was formerly Consul General Jerusalem, responsible for British relationships with Palestine. Previously Ambassador to Libya and High Commissioner to Malta, he is now Patron of the Britain Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network and a trustee of Medical Aid for Palestinians. Below is a statement he issued recently which has been published in Scotland. I think you will agree that it is an excellent statement.
We can restore hope in a just peace for Palestine and Israel
Palestinians have the right to statehood, peace with justice and hope. Israelis have the same
right to live in safety, with good neighbours and shared hope. We can do what is right for
both peoples. Our next Government should recognise the State of Palestine alongside Israel,
to preserve the two --state solution. Failure to resolve this conflict fairly remains the best
recruiting sergeant for violent extremism. We regain our balance by upholding the
international law we helped to write.
Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister , did two things before Israel’s elections. He addressed
the U.S. Congress on the Iranian threat to Israel (Israel being the only nuclear weapons state
in the region ). Roger Cohen wrote in The New York Times:
“One word did not appear in Netanyahu’s speech: Palestine . The statelessness of the
Palestinians is the real long --term threat to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state . Iran has
often been a cleverly manipulat ed distraction from this fact”.
Just before Israel voted , Netanyahu ruled out a Palestinian state . He tried to remove what
Palestinians need and deserve – hope. We must restore that hope . Palestinian statehood is
not in his gift. In 1967 Israel occupied the Palestinian Territories – East Jerusalem, the West
Bank and Gaza. Israel does not own them . They form the State of Palestine, recognised by
two thirds of the world community. It’s time Britain did the same.
Recognising Palestine now on ’67 lines is the right step for us -- committed as we are to a just
two state solution : Palestine and Israel living peacefully side by side . What we do matters.
Recognition gives hope to the beleaguered peacemakers in Ramallah, showing their weary
people that non violen ce brings results; tells Israelis that there will indeed be a so vereign
Palestine with whom to live in peace, and proves to ourselves that right matters more than
might. Sweden showed the way, recognising Palestine last October.
Recognition is necessary -- not sufficient. Then we need a unanimous UN Security Council
Resolution se tting the framework for a negotiated end to this conflict, with incentives for
progress and penalties for foot--draggers. We need the USA, Europe, and the Arab States –
particularly Israel’s peace treaty neighbours , Jordan and Egypt. We cannot leave the parties
to the conflict to sort it out – the disparity in power between Israel and Palestine is
immense. We cannot leave it to the USA – Secretary Kerry valiant ly failed last year to
secure peace with justice . Britain’s policy must be d istinct, complementing US policy when
appropriate, but going further – with France, Ireland, Italy and the willing Europeans – when
the US is hamstrung by the Israel lobby. For the ir part, Palestinians need to resolve the
sterile stand--off between Hama s and Fatah, reuniting Gaza and the West Bank in deed as
well as word, with non violence their creed.
Christian Church leaders in Jerusalem have asked us to recognise Palestine. Pope Francis
effectively did so during his Holy Land pilgrimage last May, addressing Mahmoud Abbas as
President of the State of Palestine . To her lasting credit, the Church of Scotland has spoken
the truth to power objectively for years, as have the Quakers. To tell the truth ,
indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza is criminally wrong. Deadly, disproportionate Israeli
bombardments of Gaza are wrong and resolve nothing. Without hope , Gaza will explode
again.The conduct of the Occupation systematically breaches international law : the illegal
settler enterprise (over 650,000 Israelis squatting in Palestine ), the Gaza blockade, the
Separation Barrie r on Palestinian soil (for 85% of its length), the forced transfer of Bedouin,
homes demolished without security justification.
We British have “form” historically on this conflict, going back to the 1917 Balfour
Declaration, then the British Mandate for Pales tine after World War 1. I commend the work
of the Balfour Project (www.balfourproject.org). Highlighting our history in Palestine , it
illuminates dark corners of our past to inform decisions now, explaining why our actions
On 21 April, the Scottish Parliament debates a motion tabled by Sandra White MSP (SNP) on
UK recognition of Palestine. I hope all political parties will speak in favour, but last October
Mr Cameron put the cart before the horse, making successful peace negotiations a
precondition for UK recognition. That gives Netanyahu, who has just dismissed an
independent Palestinian state, a veto over our sovereign right to decide. A Tory rethink is
The voice of Scotland is important , and will be heard . The view of the Westminst er
Parliament and Government is decisive. Scotland will send 59 MPs to Westminster on 7
May. The British charity M edical Aid for Palestinians is asking all Parliamentary candidates to
support three principles :
- Israel, recognised by the UK in 1950, has the right to world--wide recognition and
- Palestine now has the same right to UK recognition, on ‘67 lines
- Illegal settlements and the Gaza blockade gravely obstruct a just peace.
If you agree, please ensure that your future MP does, too.