The “politics and policies” of Israel are to blame for the stalled Middle East peace process, according to a report published by a House of Lords committee.
Titled ‘The Middle East: Time for New Realism,’ peers also cautioned that U.S. President Donald Trump’s “mercurial and unpredictable nature” approach to policy making should be ignored as the UK government defines its position in the troubled area, adding “The U.S. president has taken positions that are unconstructive and could even escalate conflict.”
“As the UK prepares to leave the EU, and we have a new and uncertain American policy in the region, we cannot assume our strategies of the past will suffice,” said Lord Howell of Guildford, chairman of the International Relations Committee (IRC), at the launch of the report. “We can no longer assume America will set the tone for the West’s relationship with the Middle East and the UK must give serious thought to how our own approach will need to change.”
As for the prospect of future progress on talks, IRC members wrote: “The politics and policies of Israel diminish the possibilities of peace, specifically the rapid expansion of settlements.”
They said that settlement-expansion was due to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and noted a new bill in February to “allow the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land.”
The document then warned that the future of UK engagement in the region should give “serious consideration” to recognising a Palestinian state:
“The balance of power in the delivery of peace lies with Israel. If Israel continues to reduce the possibilities of a two-state solution, the UK should be ready to support UNSC resolutions condemning those actions in no uncertain terms. The Government should give serious consideration to now recognising Palestine as a state, as the best way to show its determined attachment to the two-state solution.”
The report’s authors, led by Tory former Foreign Office minister Lord Howell of Guildford, said that – in contrast to President Trump’s approach – “making progress on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and supporting the Iran nuclear deal… should be pursued”.
The committee also considered the UK’s continued sale of arms and munitions in the area, and criticism that UK-made supplies have been repeatedly used against civilians by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen.
To date, the UK government has been advised by a Saudi-led review process, but the Lords said this “is not an adequate way” of ensuring the UK’s obligations are met.
Public criticism of Middle East governments at the UN for their human rights abuses should also be used by the UK, the IRC concluded, along with suspension of some arms exports where there is a risk they could be used in violation of international humanitarian law.
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