We need to embrace new thinking to secure peace


Richard Burden MP, Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group, has today called on President Peres, the next Israeli Prime Minister and President Elect Obama to embrace new thinking to secure peace and justice in the Middle East for both Israelis and Palestinians.

As Foreign Secretary David Miliband completes his visit to the Middle East, today sees both Israeli President Shimon Peres addressing parliamentarians and an unconnected major Lobby of Parliament urging an end to the occupation and justice for the Palestinians.

Speaking earlier today Mr Burden said:

‘I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s recognition that justice for the Palestinians is every bit as important to achieving peace in the Middle East as security for Israel.

‘It is also encouraging that outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has acknowledged that this is something which the Israeli Government must at last face up to and that an essential component for this will be ending the occupation.

‘The prospect of a new President in the USA also offers a real window of opportunity to take this new thinking forward in order to achieve the lasting peace which both Israelis and Palestinians deserve.

‘It is vital, however, that neither President Elect Obama nor the next Israeli Prime Minister waits until the end of their terms of office to put these principles into practice. I very much hope that in his speech today President Peres will embrace this new thinking rather than dwell on the past.

‘Here in the UK Parliament, the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group consistently argues for an end to the violence which continues to be perpetrated by the Israeli military, by settlers in the West Bank and by those Palestinian groups who fire rockets from Gaza. Whether unprovoked or tit-for-tat, such violence offers neither future nor security either to the Palestinians or to the Israelis.

‘Equally, that peace has not yet been achieved is no excuse for international law to be ignored, for humanitarian crises to be glossed over or for the provisions of existing international agreements to be fudged. That is why the appropriation of land and the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank must stop. And it is why the UK Government is right to point out that EU trade preferences agreed with Israel do not apply to goods imported to Europe from those illegal settlements. And it is also why we must be clear that the blockade must be lifted to alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding there.

‘The ordinary people of Gaza should not be collectively punished in these ways. To have their electricity cut off or their hospitals starved of equipment because a Palestinian group fires rockets into Israel is no more acceptable than it would be for the ordinary people of Israel to be collectively punished for what their forces or armed settlers sometimes do in their name.’

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.