Ed Davey: An update on our response to the Israel-Gaza Conflict

Ed Davey has sent out an email, which we reproduce here in case you haven’t seen it.

I was horrified to wake up on 7th October to the awful terrorist attacks in Israel, which we have condemned unequivocally. I have been heartbroken and dismayed to see the scenes of violence in Israel and Palestine over the past two and a half weeks.

It is hard to watch the news right now. We continue to hear reports of the brutal terrorism of Hamas, which still holds more than 200 Israelis hostage in Gaza. And now we have a situation in Gaza which is frankly devastating. The 2.2 million residents of the Gaza Strip, over half of whom are children, are hurtling towards a humanitarian catastrophe. It is horrifying.

Liberal Democrats are clear: it is vital that essential supplies like food, water and medicine get to innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza, in line with international law. It is also of the utmost importance that the hostages – among whose number includes children as young as nine months old – are immediately and unconditionally released.

We support Israel’s right to protect its citizens and target these brutal terrorists Hamas, in line with international law. We are clear that innocent Palestinians must not pay the price for the atrocities of Hamas. And we affirm that the world has a duty to prevent needless civilian deaths.

That’s why, over the weekend, we declared our support for a temporary humanitarian ceasefire, in order to bring about a pause in hostilities. We need the space for an intense period of diplomacy, to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, and to provide an opportunity to realise the release of the hostages.

In the House of Commons earlier this week, I asked the Prime Minister to support our call.

You can watch my question here:

We were not alone when we called for a humanitarian ceasefire. Others, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, had already done so. And in the days since, there has been some movement within the international community and within the UK. Both the Government and the Labour Party now call for what they term a ‘humanitarian pause’. But there is further to go.

We are clear that the people of Israel and Palestine have a right to live free from fear. The thing that will ultimately give them the security which they deserve – the security which will prevent the sort of scenes which we have seen over the past days – is to finally bring about the two state solution, and a lasting peace.

Liberal Democrats are the party of internationalism and international law. We have long advocated for a two state solution, and we will continue to do so.

Best wishes,

Ed Davey MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats


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  • Anne-Marie Simpson 26th Oct '23 - 11:09pm

    This statement is important and I hope Ed’s voice is amplified.

    The events in Israel and in Palestine are horrifying and the situation in Gaza is already a humanitarian catastrophe which is why I have a problem with the word ‘pause’ before hostilities. We want an end to hostilities. A ceasefire. Hostilities is a sanitised word of killing; for death and destruction.

    I would like to have seen the following, in brackets, inserted into the last paragraph:

    Liberal Democrats are the party of internationalism and international law. We have long advocated [an end to the occupation and] for a two state solution, and we will continue to do so.

  • Nom de Plume 27th Oct '23 - 2:54am

    The balance is about right in that email. Although Israel is unlikely to be looking for a diplomatic solution until it has reached its military objectives, whatever they may be. Humanitarian aid is an urgent issue. A two state solution is unlikely while Hamas controls Gaza.

  • I urge our MPs to sign the Early Day Motion posted on 17 October. 95 MPs have signed from every Party except the Lib Dems and the DUP! The list includes 39 Scottish Nationalists, 37 Labour and even 2 Tories.

    The motion reads:

    “This House utterly condemns the massacre of Israeli civilians and taking of hostages by Hamas; agrees with the United Nations Secretary-General that these horrific acts do not justify responding with the collective punishment of the Palestinian people; expresses its deep alarm at the Israeli military bombardment and total siege of Gaza and the resulting deaths and suffering; believes that the urgent priority must be to stop the deaths and suffering of any more civilians in Gaza and Israel; welcomes the joint statement from 12 leading aid agencies, including Oxfam, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Medical Aid for Palestinians and Islamic Relief, calling for the Government to use its influence to help protect civilians, to ensure adherence to international humanitarian law and to guarantee civilians have access to critical life-saving humanitarian support; and to this end supports their call for the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to urgently press all parties to agree to an immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities, to ensure the immediate, unconditional release of the Israeli hostages, to end to the total siege of Gaza and allow for unfettered access of medical supplies, food, fuel electricity and water, to guarantee that international humanitarian law is upheld and that civilians are protected in accordance with those laws”.

  • David Goble 27th Oct '23 - 9:25am

    @ Anne-Marie Simpson. I fully agree and would further add that I feel that the two state solution needs to be discussed and implemented as a matter of immediacy.

  • I applaud Ed’s shift of emphasis. We must not stop empathising with the Israeli nation’s distress, nor lessen our condemnation of Hamas’s callous and wanton killing of people on October 7th, but our government should be advising Israel’s political and military leaders that the continued bombing of Gaza is not any anyone’s interest, least of all its own.
    Israel claims its continued bombing is the fault of Hamas, and yet tells us that Hamas wants a cease-fire, and that it is Israel which has refused to agree to it. They say they have the right to eradicate Hamas by killing its fighters, but few can doubt that they see a high civilian death-toll in Gaza as a way to destroy support for Hamas in the future. However, taking insufficient care to avoid killing civilians is a war crime.
    Israeli spokespeople say they have no choice, and that critics don’t understand that Israel’s survival depends on defeating Hamas. They are unwilling to concede that they might be wrong, not those trying to advise them. Unpalatable though it might be to some Israelis, if they had allowed the Palestinians to have their own state the murderous attack by Hamas wouldn’t have happened.
    Israeli citizens understandably want to be able to live in peace, but their political leaders peddle the delusion that oppressing Palestinians and occupying their land is the way to achieve that. Doubling down on that strategy isn’t going to work. What will work is finally agreeing to a Palestinian state.

  • I find Ed Davey’s message inadequate and am shocked that our MPs have not signed the motion John Kelly posts here. Are we abandoning our Liberal values ? To support Israel’s actions which contradict their words about not targetting civilians, and their messaging about the Israelis killed by Hamas without mentioning Palestinian deaths is to say that one Israeli life is worth much more than one Palestinian life. That is not a Liberal value. Israel’s government passed an Act in 2018 which undervalues citizens in Israel who are not Jews and their actions show the same for people living in Palestine. How can we be a Liberal party if we support that ? What do we stand for ?
    Then, what is the point of a pause for humanitarian aid so that when the pause is over, these people who have been aided can then be killed by Israeli action ?
    Then again we are not supporting the leader of the UN and therefore not standing by our internationalist values in which people of all nations are valued equally. Yet another way in which serious omissions in our leader’s message (and apparently all our MPs) shows we are not taking this opportunity to portray our values. Could this mean that in practice we are abandoning them ?

  • Peter Martin 27th Oct '23 - 2:52pm

    All MPs should support the Early Day motion quoted by John.

    It probably won’t make a big difference to how the Israelis act but even a small difference will make it worthwhile.

    All party leaders are calling for ‘humanitarian pauses’, but not a ceasefire. This, even if it does happen, will mean is that the victims of the military action, when it does resume, will suffer slightly less in the meantime. This is nowhere near enough.

    Why do our leaders have a problem saying that it should not resume at all? What is it going to solve if the Gazan death toll increases by a factor of 10 from its current 5,000 or so?

  • By its nature, armed conflict involves acts not normally acceptable in civilised society, so the ‘Rules of War’ define the line between what is acceptable during a war, and what is by common consent too horrible to be allowed – even in a war. These rules apply whatever the circumstances, and that means even after the most extreme provocation. Breaking them is a war crime.
    Israel argues that the bombing of civilians in Gaza is legal under international law and others disagree, so the killing goes on in Gaza, and we face the possibility of indictments after the war has ended, and legal cases stretching years into the future. Meanwhile people are dying in their hundreds every day, and Gaza is being reduced to rubble. Half of those being killed are children or babies.
    Politicians of all parties in the UK have so far been too weak in their criticism of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Israel’s war cabinet and military commanders should be told right now, in Parliament, that the UK will indict them for war crimes unless the bombardment stops, and a free flow of aid is allowed in. Hamas has already agreed to have a cease-fire, so it should be as easy as pie – or as easy as taking candy from a baby’s dead fingers.

  • Jason Connor 27th Oct '23 - 4:04pm

    I think he has got the balance right. I disagree with the comments above. The two state solution is an aim in itself but the terrorist organisation does not recognise Israel as a state and wants a wipe-out. That’s very different from advocating humanitarian aid for civilians in Palestine and international intervention for two separate nations. Some of the comments on here in themselves seem rather one-sided. Doubtless there will be more anti-Semitic demonstrations this weekend.

  • Very sensible and well balanced statement from Ed Davey. Nuance is everything and it’s hard to get the balance right, but I think he has done this very well. Certainly preferably to Sunak’s belligerent statements and Starmer’s flip-flopping.

  • Mick Taylor 27th Oct '23 - 4:55pm

    The Israel/Palestine conflict has effectively been going since 1948. Two groups of people have some claim to all or part of Palestine and their demands are incompatible. Furthermore, one side -Hamas at the moment – want a Palestine from the river Jordan to the sea and that includes all of Israel and in effect they want Israel to cease to exist. Israel, on the other hand, wants to continually expand their state through settlements in Palestinian occupied land and Netanyahu at least wants to eliminate the fledgling Palestinian state.
    The backers of each side continue to avoid reality, continue to supply both sides with arms and cry crocodile tears about the deaths and destruction. Neither the USA and western democracies nor Iran, other Middle East states and Russia/China are willing to tell their client armies to stop and get round the peace table.
    Until the wider world calls a halt to the cycle of violence, stops arming the combatants and brings Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table nothing will change.

  • @jason Conner, my comments are decidedly one-sided. Hamas wants
    a cease-fire, Israel does not, so it is Israel that we need to lean on. Both sides are currently engaged in killing civilians, but Israel is doing it in far greater numbers. If we can persuade or force Israel to stop what they are doing both sides will stop. Hamas has already agreed to that. It continues firing rockets because Israel won’t stop bombing Gaza.

  • It is interesting that only one commenter for this article has mentioned the ~220 predominantly Jewish hostages that have been taken by Hamas. A number of the hostages are incredibly frail or have complex healthcare needs and will potentially die without medical treatment.

  • A ceasefire will not work. Suppose one is signed and then the location of hostages is discovered. Any nation would have a duty to rescue them. Plus Hamas will use the time to re arm for a second fight.

  • Jason Connor 27th Oct '23 - 8:06pm

    I don’t think Hamas do and have said as such. I don’t know where you get your intelligence from but Hamas is a terrorist organisation and do not represent the Palestinian people. We know for fact they do not want Israel to exist and are ensuring that innocent civilians are caught up in the hostilities.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Oct '23 - 8:14pm

    A deceased hostage isn’t much use to the hostage takers – they would have an interest in keeping them alive. But I’m assuming your point is why the ones released so far have been elderly.

  • Pamela Manning 27th Oct '23 - 8:24pm

    Nigel Jones I agree absolutely with you and I e mailed Ed Davey expressing similar sentiments. We could have stood out from other parties in sticking to our values and taken the lead but it appears that getting into power is the primary value now. Jason Connor and Mick Taylor I have a copy of an article by Khaled Abu Toameh from Jerusalem Post of Jan 21 2010 entitled “Hamas accepts Israel’s right to exist”. Aziz Dwaik, Hamas rep in west bank spoke to British millionaire David Abrahams and said Hamas was even prepared to nullify its charter. At the time Hamas wanted to engage with the EU and internatuional community but was having to accept aid from Iran due to boycott. I remember reading later that Israel would not accept the offer of recognition as the Arab word used could be interpreted as temporary. UK spoke to Sinn Fein.

  • Nigel Jones 27th Oct '23 - 9:03pm

    @EricP, I and others are saying what is missing from Ed’s message, that is the only reason for not mentioning the hostages, especially given that we are making brief comments in reaction to what has been said by Ed, not writing our own complete message, which of course would include the Hamas massacre and the hostages.
    @Jason Connor, similarly we appear one-sided because we are concerned about the lack of proper criticism of Israel’s leadership. In contrast to Ed’s message, Gutterez (of the UN) made a balanced statement when he said there is no justification for Hamas’ actions, nor that of Israel’s method of reaction. That is not one-sided.

  • @Pamela Manning, the actions of Hamas do not give credence to what they may have said about accepting the state of Israel though they might be persuaded if only we condemned the Israeli occupation and called for their retreat. Even Yasser Arafat persuaded the PLO to cross out their words against Israel’s existence from their constitution. However, especially because of the uncritical support for Israel’s decades of actions (what Gutteres rightly calles context), I cannot agree with those who say that if Israel stopped its actions that Hamas would do the same, unless of course Arab states would then be able to put pressure on them.
    @Martin Gray, it is wrong to simply accept the power of Israel; even if we cannot stop them now it is our duty to speak out against their actions for the sake of future negotiations, lasting peace and any influence we might have in both the UK and around the world. We must not forget the power of words.

  • Mick Taylor 29th Oct '23 - 8:13am

    Go on any march to support Palestine and look at the Hamas constitution. “Palestine shall be free, from the river to the sea”. One person saying that perhaps Hamas might accept Israel’s right to exist is hardly a basis for confidence.
    A new direction is needed in the Middle East, where the backers of both sides stop arming them and tell them to negotiate. Unfortunately the backers of both sides have reasons of their own for the conflict to continue because it avoids the international community looking too carefully at those states with poor human rights records and an almost total lack of democracy. And US politicians dare not push Israel because of their dependence on finance from pro Isreal groups.
    Peace is never easy to pursue, but we must consistently and constantly put the case for peace negotiations. There really is no other way. The current situation promises only more war, more deaths and more suffering.

  • George Thomas 29th Oct '23 - 10:45am

    My heart is breaking at the moment both with what is happening in the two nations but also how people are reacting to it around the world. Empty drums make the most noise, protests are always made up of people with different opinions loosely under one banner etc., but it does seem there are more people with extreme views now rather than seeking nuance and objectivity.

    If the choices is getting into bed with Hamas or Israeli government, then the answer is sleeping on the sofa and calling both out for what they’ve done.

  • Nonconformistradical 29th Oct '23 - 5:49pm

    “If the choices is getting into bed with Hamas or Israeli government, then the answer is sleeping on the sofa and calling both out for what they’ve done.”

    Here’s someone with experience of Israel’s previous fight with hamas in Gaza:-

    “Now, I want to be that voice of reason for the soldiers sent into yet another war. Military force will not resolve this problem if it is not paired with a political solution that offers hope for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

  • Maybe we should now go for a Cease Fire, perhaps time bounded say 3 months, that is distinctive and would catch the media and national eye. It would also show we had guts as a political party reminiscent of Iraq almost 20 years ago.
    The seminar on Tuesday evening should be well worth participating in.

  • Yes, we need to be distinctive here, we should go for a Cease Fire with a 3 month timeframe, gives time to try and sort some things out.
    We are primarily responsible for all this are we not, the Balfour doctrine etc.

  • Sally Chaplin 1st Nov '23 - 7:47am

    The Lib Dems are moving in the right direction but it is not enough. Why isn’t the party wholeheartedly supporting John Kelly’s Motion? A ‘pause’ is not enough. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself but that doesn’t mean acting with impunity. The death toll is rising, whole families are being wiped out, Gaza is being reduced to rubble and the Palestinians aren’t getting basic needs met….water, electricity, food, etc. The babarity of Israel’s retaliation is appalling. Imagine if this were London? Just imagine it for a moment…it does not bear thinking about. I cannot and will not vote for any party that condones what’s happening in Gaza right now. It’s time for the Lib Dems to be brave and speak up. Call for a ceasefire. This war is not a solution to anything, it’s a huge problem and we can’t stand by and watch it happen.

  • Tony Dawson 1st Nov '23 - 9:50pm

    “We support Israel’s right to protect its citizens and target these brutal terrorists Hamas, in line with international law. We are clear that innocent Palestinians must not pay the price for the atrocities of Hamas. And we affirm that the world has a duty to prevent needless civilian deaths.”

    Do not Lib Dems also “. . .support Palestinian people’s right to protect ithemselves and target Netenyahu’s brutal terrorist thugs in line with international law? Being clear that innocent Israelis must not pay the price for the atrocities of Likud and its even more racist allies And affirming that the world has a duty to prevent needless civilian deaths in both Gaza, the illegally-occupied West Bank and Israel?”

  • We often hear politicians calling for a balanced view, or see social media posts calling for peace on both sides. That might give a feel-good factor to the reader, but it implies an equity between oppressor and oppressed.
    I am angrier than that, and with good reason. My sympathy lies with the Palestinian people. We need to be much stronger in both our condemnation of Israel’s actions – actions of accelerating horror – and also do all we can to prevent them and restore justice to the Palestinian people.

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '23 - 1:40pm

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