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Peace in the Middle East: would recognising Palestine help?

05 June 2015


From the Rt Revd Stephen Platten

Sir, - Sir Vincent Fean's excellent article (Comment, 29 May) is more than timely. As he notes, the Israel-Palestine conflict is both a moral and a political issue. Indeed, almost certainly it is the key to unlocking peace in the wider series of conflicts in the region.

Few would have quibbled with the fact that Saddam Hussein's regime was both tyrannical and brutal. Twelve years ago, wider support for the US-led coalition might have been found, had Western powers - and notably the UK - worked harder for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement first. Over the past generation, the Churches have been leading advocates for a just and balanced solution to this continuing violation of human rights.

Sir Vincent's call for Britain to recognise Palestine has further resonances. It was the Balfour Declaration that first gave legitimacy to the establishment of Israel as an independent state. If we recall the terrible history of anti-Semitism over more than 1000 years and culminating in the Shoah, it was important that a proper initiative be taken to establish a stable and secure state for the Jewish people.

That has not yet been fully achieved: Israel's own sense of insecurity continues to determine much of her foreign policy and of her stance in relation to Palestine and the Palestinian people. The two elections that Sir Vincent mentions offer a real opportunity to seek new directions towards peace.

It is unlikely that any progress will be made without a wider recognition of the State of Palestine. Every effort should be made to persuade our Government to recognise Palestine at the same time as working further for the security of Israel. Throughout the past 50 years, the UK has often taken a more nuanced line on Israel than US foreign policy has displayed.

In his excellent contribution to the debate on the Queen's Speech, the Bishop of Southwark emphasises the importance of a two-state solution. The Bishop of Coventry, as the C of E's lead bishop on foreign affairs, spoke in support of this; and, as Sir Vincent's article notes, other Churches also press for recognition by the UK of the State of Palestine.

Visitors to the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel in 1967 will know just how hemmed in the Palestinian people understandably feel. This in itself can lead only to further insecurity for the Israelis. What with the allegations of double standards flung at the West, the suppression of Palestinian rights is the best recruiting sergeant for extremism across the Middle East and North Africa.

Our Government, with France, Ireland, and other European partners, should recognise Palestine now, as a step towards a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land.


St Michael's Rectory
St Michael's Alley
London EC3V 9DS


From the Revd Dr Adrian Whitehall

Sir, - Sir Vincent Fean assumes that awarding Palestinians statehood alongside Israel will bring peace. I believe that this would be an unwise and dangerous step at present, and create a scenario for further conflict.

It is a fallacy to think that Palestinian statehood would lead to peace while Hamas is the ruling party. Hamas and its supporters, notably Iran, fail to recognise Israel and seek her total destruction. It is a terrorist organisation, has no regard for human rights, and refuses to remove from its charter the aim of liquidating Israel or, to use the Iranian mantra, "wipe Israel off the map".

Israel has on occasions agreed to exchange land for peace. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, uprooting Jewish communities. This move for peace resulted in the barrage of rockets and missiles fired on Israel. In 2008, Israel offered Palestinians 93 per cent of the territory they desired, including 98 per cent of the West Bank; but they refused. In 2009, Israel complied with the Palestinian Authority request to stop settlement-building for talks to continue, but then the PA refused.

The nations have divided up this land despite the warnings of scripture. A particular warning is given to those who meddle with the destiny of Jerusalem (see Zechariah 12.2-5). Let us pray and work for peace and reconciliation, but remember that it is God's land, and he has revealed in his word that he determines its ultimate destiny and lasting peace. In my view, all humanistic plans and solutions to the conflict will continue to fail.


Meadow House, Ashbourne Road
Belper, Derbyshire DE56 2DA


From Mr Alan Bowell

Sir, - I agree that the "two-state solution" is probably the only viable solution to the Israel/Palestine problem, but surely one of the prerequisites for this is for the two parties to recognise each other's right to exist. Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have resolutely refused ever to recognise the existence of Israel as a state, referring to it as "the Zionist entity".

Until they are prepared to give a little rather than just to demand that they take a lot, progress will be impossible. How can you negotiate with somebody who refuses even to recognise your right to exist?

The recognition of Palestine as a state is an empty gesture at best, and will just lead to even more intransigence on the part of the Palestinians by giving them the misleading impression that they are "winning" while they continue to vilify Israel rather than direct their efforts to at least building a society that could survive and function as a state, should that day ever arrive.


4 Pinewood Close, Southwell
Nottinghamshire NG25 0DD


From Mr Chris Ryecart

Sir, - Your report (News, 8 May) referring to the tweet by the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer "linking Israel to the 9/11 attacks in New York" (News, 13 February), for which the Archbishop of Canterbury apologised to the Jewish community, gives the false impression that the 9/11 attacks were wholly disconnected from events in the Middle East at the time, and, specifically, from US foreign policy on Israel.

For weeks before 11 September, the Arab News had portrayed on its front pages graphic details of Palestinians killed or wounded during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's brutal response to the Second Palestinian Intifida, which he himself had provoked, and which claimed the lives of 3000 Palestinians. Only a few days before 11 September, the King of Saudi Arabia had in desperation contacted President George Bush, confessing his fears that he would no longer be able to exert control over his own people if the US failed to restrain Israel from further atrocities.

Sadly, his message proved to be of no avail, even though it turned out to be prophetic. Nineteen of the hijackers implicated in the 9/11 attacks were Saudis.

Shortly after 9/11, during my first computer lesson at the Saudi university where I was teaching, one of my Saudi students alerted me to a logo that had come up on his screen. It showed very graphically, and in close proximity, a representation of the Twin Towers, an aeroplane, and the star of David. The message to me was a very simple one: Israel from the Saudi perspective was a key part of the 9/11 equation.

Bin Laden confirmed Israel's part in the 9/11 equation in the video message he released soon after the terror attacks in the US. He spoke of avenging the humiliation of the Palestinians and the illegal military occupation of Palestinian lands.


Weinberg 4, Kefermarkt 4292

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