As the appalling toll of lives lost has mounted again today in Gaza, it is increasingly clear that it is practically impossible for the Israelis to conduct proportionate operations there. The UN Security Council has rightly called for an immediate ceasefire. The UN Secretary General has described Israel’s shelling of the Shejaiya district of Gaza as “an atrocious action”.
Israeli Forces may well give advance notice of their actions but Gaza is arguably too densely populated to allow effective evacuation under operations of this scale. The scandalous deaths of the boys on the beach and of the infirm in hospital have cemented the fact that Israel has taken innocent civilian lives in the course of this response.
For the sake of common humanity, there should be an immediate ceasefire on both sides. There should be immediate humanitarian aid. There should be a swift resumption of serious peace talks.
Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials have repeatedly said that the only way to avoid the cycle of violence and the perpetual insecurity in the region can be to address the root causes of the conflict.
As we have recoiled from the violence committed by both sides, too little attention has been paid to the reality of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, their development over the years and their consequences for Palestinians. The progression of those settlements has left the Palestinian people in a state of despair. The election of Hamas appears to be one result. A hopeful future must be found instead.
As William Hague explained on 8 April 2014, the British Government’s position is that a two-state solution should be based on the 1967 borders of Israel. As he explained on 17 June, the UK’s long-standing position is that Israeli settlements on occupied land are illegal.
Given the expansion of Israel into the West Bank during years of talks, it is not surprising that local people view with anger and disgust the circumstances within which so much innocent blood is now being spilled.
An immediate ceasefire should be followed by sincere efforts to create a prosperous future for both the Israeli and Palestinian people through the establishment of a functioning Palestinian state. It is extremely difficult to see how any other solution will be peaceful and lasting.