Israel - Hamas Conflict (Ceasefire Vote)
As I am sure you can appreciate, this subject is extremely polarizing both internationally and within domestic politics. Laurence keeps this sensitivity in mind when discussing and highlighting all Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Laurence has received hundreds of letters and emails from his constituents, and understands completely the sentiment of many on this desperate issue.
Laurence would like to make it very clear that he does wish to see the hostilities between Israel and Hamas end.
As you may know, the UK government has no power to bring this about, and all Parliament can do is express a view. Unfortunately, Hamas has made it repeatedly clear that they would not abide by a ceasefire, with a Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, speaking last week in an interview with Al-Liwaa newspaper, saying that Hamas would repeat the Oct 7th attack, which aimed to prevent Israel from being a ‘natural entity’ in the region. They also retain multiple hostages of all ages; from Israel, and from the UK. There is no possibility of this war coming to an end without the release of these hostages.
The United Kingdom, alongside the United States, and several other key European nations have suggested that temporary “humanitarian pauses” may be needed in the fighting for the delivery of aid and the release of hostages. However, none have called for a ceasefire; with President Biden saying the US will not support negotiations for a ceasefire until Hamas has released the hostages it took.
The White House announced on 9th November that Israel has agreed to impose four-hour humanitarian pauses each day in its assault on northern Gaza.
The Prime Minister has announced that the UK will provide a further £20 million of humanitarian aid for civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).
This is in addition to the £10 million of aid announced by the Prime Minister (16th October), bringing total aid contribution to £30 million since Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on 7th October – more than doubling the UK’s existing aid commitments of this £27 million, for 2023-24.
The UK Government are working with local partners like the Egyptian Red Crescent and the United Nations, primarily, and deploying Navy assets to the region.
Laurence urges all parties to exercise restraint and respect international law.
Alongside a number of other MPs, Laurence was part of a fact-finding political delegation to Israel and the West Bank in April 2022. This included seeing the IDF in action, speaking to both Israeli and Palestinian stakeholders, including the leader of the Palestinian Authority, as well as visiting the security fence separating Gaza and Israel which, along with Egypt’s border, keeps over 2 million people in a confined, separate space, in less than ideal economic and social conditions. Some years before that, Laurence visited Lebanon, where he met representatives of Hezbollah, and Syria, where he met President Assad.
It is clear that the conditions which prevail in Gaza are unacceptable and a way forward has to be found, but this has to exclude Hamas. Even the leaders of the Palestinian Authority would appear to understand this.
For these reasons, Laurence felt that, while a genuine ceasefire would be very welcome, the conditions are not, at the moment, right for Parliament to endorse such a situation. Not only did the Conservative Party take this view, but so too did the Labour Party front bench. In total, 293 MPs voted against the SNP amendment on a ceasefire.
Laurence would continue to call on both those in Israel and Palestine to work towards a peaceful two-state solution.
Persecuted Christians Worldwide
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is committed to defending Freedom of Religion or Belief as a universal human right which should be enjoyed by everyone. The UK regularly raises this issue with governments across the world and funds projects that promote respect for all people of different faiths.
In January 2019, the then Foreign Secretary launched an independent review led by the Bishop of Truro, into FCO support for persecuted Christians. The report has identified specific steps the British Government can take to address the issues faced by persecuted Christians around the world. The government has accepted the recommendations in full and will work to implement them. This work will include exploring how best to deliver a new Security Council Resolution on protecting Christians in North Africa and the Middle East; and sanctioning those who persecute people for holding a religion or belief.