Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, for initiating this timely debate. I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum, and I am involved in interfaith dialogue promoting peace and harmony among different racial and religious groups. I am convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want a durable two-state solution. That being said, history has proven that Israelis and Palestinians, even when they are ready to negotiate directly, will need a credible third party to guide them through the process. Here, the role and full support of the President of United States will be essential. America remains the only power that is acceptable to both sides. I welcome the appointment of Tony Blair as the Middle East quartet’s new envoy. He is likely to obtain support from America and from other countries. He has the skills to engage with Hamas as he did with Sinn Fein.
The UK must continue to work closely with the quartet and with regional partners to negotiate, mediate, help strengthen Palestinian institutions and to improve security. We must offer President Abbas our full support in putting together a “moderate”
Government of national unity that is critical to taking forward the peace process. We have made it clear that we would be prepared to move forward on the quartet’s three principles: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. There are encouraging signs. At a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Ehud Olmert promised to release some $560 million in frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, to free some 250 Fatah prisoners from Israeli jails, to ease restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and to enhance Israeli trade with the Palestinians. Such actions are vital to the Palestinian people and will help to improve the humanitarian and economic situation, which is dire and critical. Greater freedom of movement would produce immediate and significant benefits. A lot of the violence is a result of frustrated Palestinians who are not able to obtain the basic necessities of life.
The peace process ought to be based and concluded on the basis of a two-state solution, and I believe that there is a glimmer of hope emerging for renewed engagement between Israel and the Palestinians.