Thank you for contacting me about violence in Gaza.
As a Government Whip, I do not, by convention, sign any Early Day Motions as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code’s rules on collective responsibility. However, I can comment on the issues you raise.
I am deeply concerned by the deaths and injuries in Gaza - the violence is shocking and tragic. Taking into account Israel's right to defend itself, I believe there is an urgent need to establish the facts, which is why I would support any independent and transparent investigation into violence at the Israel/Gaza border. It is highly regrettable the Commission of Inquiry Report does not look comprehensively at the actions of non-state actors such as Hamas.
While Palestinians have the right to demonstrate, these protests must remain peaceful. I am extremely concerned that extremist elements may have used the protests to further their own violent and deplorable aims against the State of Israel. Above all, it is important that this violence is not repeated and that all those involved commit to peaceful protest, restraint and observing international law.
There is a pressing need for all parties to reach a wider agreement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Gaza and to take the necessary steps to ensure Gaza’s reconstruction and economic recovery. Any agreement should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket and other attacks against Israel and that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective governance, thereby enabling Israel to lift its restrictions and ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians.
I do not believe that imposing a blanket arms embargo on Israel would promote the Middle East peace process. Defence and security exports support a country’s legitimate right to self-defence. Israel has this right as much as any other nation. I know that the Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust licensing systems in the world.
The Government is gravely concerned about the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza. I am alarmed by statistics that show 54 per cent of the total population is estimated to be unemployed, including over 70 per cent of young people. This situation cannot be improved until the conditions exist which enable the blockade of Gaza to be eased and its economy allowed to grow.
The Government has proposed many measures to improve the humanitarian situation and I am proud of our own efforts to support job creation and economic development in Gaza. Measures proposed include the adoption of a more transparent process for allowing goods into Gaza and permitting greater exports from the strip and seek to address movement and access restrictions.
Over the next five years between 2018-2023, the UK will also more than double the amount of aid spent on economic development in the Disputed Territories to around £38 million. This will include support for projects addressing the water and electricity crisis in Gaza.
The UK Government firmly believe that the international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers a safe and secure Israel alongside an independent Palestine and that a two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP