Thank you for contacting me with regard to the forthcoming debate. I will not be in Parliament that day. I have been elected by Parliament to chair our Inter-Parliamentary Union, and will be in Geneva at our annual assembly where, amongst other things, we will be discussing Israel/Palestine with a number of different parliamentarians from around the world. However if I was in Parliament, I would not be voting for recognition of Palestine, but would be supporting the amendment, to which my name is attached. Let me explain why.

I have followed the Israel/Palestine issue for most of my years in Parliament. It means a great deal to me, and I have visited the area many times. I am pleased to have both Israeli and Palestinian friends and colleagues. This year has seen hopes raised and dashed. I am a strong supporter of Secretary Kerry’s efforts at talks. They do not offer an Israeli veto - what they do is create the only stable base for a resolution of the issue, one to which both sides will have agreed and committed to deliver. Without that, there would remain many uncertainties which could de-rail the process. Which authority would rule Palestine – Hamas or Fatah? Is Gaza to be recognised or not? Would Hamas still call for the extinction of Israel? If so, how could it be part of any agreement? What conditions would bind Israeli settlers, if its government was not part of an agreement which materially affected it?

None of these issues, big as they are, are insurmountable. But at present I believe we should stick to the position of urging the resumption of negotiations - the talks have not ended - and press for their conclusion. The conflict in Gaza this year has had a profound effect. It has been a disaster for all, for the unnecessary lives lost, for the failure of political leadership, and for the Palestinian Authority, deliberately squeezed out of activity by Hamas and Israel combined. Israel has lost many international friends, not for the principle of defeating the terror attacks upon it, which it has a right to do, but for the manner in which it conducted its operations.

Despite my long standing position in the Conservative Friends of Israel I made clear publicly my view that the nature of some of the Israeli responses was unjustifiable. However until Hamas, and others, desist from their attacks launched knowingly putting civilians at risk, and until there is a fundamental political determination to conclude the peace process, the risk of more violence remains. Against that background, the debate in Parliament will be timely. I think recognition of Palestine is still premature by the UK, and to suggest that only one side is solely responsible for where we are is, I think, not correct. But Israel needs to set out how it intends to proceed, and the Palestinian Authority needs to explain how it will deal with its own challenges. But both sides need to be challenged by UK, and world, parliamentarians to display real urgency before the situation deteriorates again, and we see another crisis on the West Bank or in Gaza.