LibLink: Nick Clegg – Israel must open talks with Hamas

Clegg Speech 40Writing for today’s Guardian Nick Clegg has this to say about the ongoing conflict in Gaza:

The daily images of human torment in Gaza have been harrowing and heartbreaking. More than 1,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed. Were it not for international aid rations, half the population would be without food. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are seeking shelter in UN schools – and even these offer little safety.

It is difficult to deny that Israel’s military action appears disproportionate and, combined with the Gaza blockade, is resulting in the collective suffering of the Palestinian people. Hamas cannot escape blame either. By hiding among the civilian population and stashing weapons in schools and mosques, it has shown it is willing to sacrifice its own people for military advantage. It has spent large sums on a sophisticated network of tunnels through which to terrorise Israeli civilians – money that could have gone on schools, houses and clinics for the Palestinian people. … The two sides have settled into a routine that is as futile as it is deadly. Hamas’s rocket fire will never break Israeli resolve; Israel’s bombs will never end Palestinian resistance. …

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must now put Israel’s long-term, strategic self-interest ahead of short-term, tactical military gains. It is time for the Israeli government to talk to the Hamas political leadership in Gaza. Israel’s refusal to engage with President Mahmoud Abbas’s new unity government, because it includes Hamas, must be reversed. …

In writing this, I know I will provoke some anger. I will receive letters and emails arguing that Israel should not reward terrorists with talks. I understand that reaction and recognise the existential fear among Israeli people. My response is this: military action has repeatedly failed to prevent rocket attacks against innocent Israelis. Modern history teaches that you can’t shoot, occupy or besiege your way to lasting security. Peace only ever flows from sustained and stubborn engagement. The Queen shaking hands with Martin McGuinness two years ago reminded us that even the most intractable conflicts can be resolved.

However, this is only possible when enemies acknowledge the futility of conflict and meet face to face. There is no substitute for the security that peace can bring. In the wake of yet more bloodshed and instability, it is overwhelmingly in the interests of the people of both Gaza and Israel to turn away from this deathly embrace.

You can read Nick’s article in full here.

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  • stuart moran 2nd Aug '14 - 8:46am

    It is inevitable if there is going to be a solution to the problem

    Unfortunately, the time when we could just negotiate with more moderate factions is well past now

    I am not sure that all, if any, parties are looking for a solution though – perhaps they like keeping the situation as it is

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Aug '14 - 2:12pm

    “Geoffrey Payne:

    “With the unconditional military support of the US, Israel is now a regional superpower. ”

    . . .and a superpower which votes an absolute fortune, virtually unanimously, to protect Israeli occupiers as much as ‘innocent’ Israelis from attack – but strangely enough will not protect Gazan civilians against air raids , shells and missiles.

    Obama has become increasingly pathetic in his ‘dog days’. And you cannot envisage anyone more rational and brave taking over in he next decade or so.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Aug '14 - 4:47pm

    I failed in my posting above to give Nick Clegg the credit he deserves for this statement. The credit for any such statement must, however, be limited. Unfortunately, unless he can get Cameron and then Europe as a whole to take a stand (rather than ‘warm words’) – and make USA realise we mean it -then nothing will happen at all.

    You have to realise what we are up against. An Israeli state which believes that it can occupy everything it has captured indefinitely – and where people like Gilad Sharon (Ariel’s son) can write stuff like this in the Jerusalem Post – and mean it, is not going to change tack lightly. What they are doing now is cool and calculated, timed perfectly to be eclipsed by Ukraine, Syria, ISIS in Iraq and now Libya:

    “A strong opening isn’t enough, you also have to know how to finish – and finish decisively. If it isn’t clear whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not, the goal isn’t decisive. The ball needs to hit the net, visible to all. What does a decisive victory sound like? A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated.”

    “To accomplish this, you need to achieve what the other side can’t bear, can’t live with, and our initial bombing campaign isn’t it.”

    “THE DESIRE to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.”

    “There is no justification for the State of Gaza being able to shoot at our towns with impunity. We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

  • To call a democratically elected government , a terrorist organisation, refuse to engage with them and instead blockade them into a tiny area of land to create little more than a large prison, will inevitably lead to those inside rebelling in one way or another. That is to put it mildly. Israel always states the mantra of ‘security’, yet does everything possible to ensure that its security is threatened. It refuses to have fixed borders, is occupying and annexing land that was never intended as part of the State of Israel, helped to create Hamas to try to destabilize Palestinian politics and immediately reacted to destroy the non-violent Unity government formed between Fatah and Hamas, by collectively punishing Hamas and any one associated with them, when they already knew that Hamas was not behind the original kidnapping of the Israeli students and that they were already dead. Now yet again, despite Hamas saying that it did not kidnap the Israeli soldier, they collectively punish innocent men, women and children under the pretext of looking for him. It is only after the renewed slaughter that they agree that the soldier probably died under their own fire. If nothing else Israel is creating generation upon generation of Palestinian children who know nothing except for Israeli cruelty. Is that the way to gain security? If they succeed in destroying Hamas, who will follow?
    We are commemorating the start of WW1. In 1916 Britain and France drew up the Sykes Picot agreement that carved up the Middle East, causing the very problems that are exploding today – we created Saddam Hussain who at least protected the Christians and then we destroyed him and the Christians are now having to accept the consequences of the War on Terror. That was followed in 1917 by the Balfour declaration, well before the WW2 and the holocaust., in which we carved up Palestine with no reference to those living there. Each time the consequences of our actions are worse. Whatever the arguments Israel may make, it’s behaviour is totally counter-productive to peace, not just for themselves, but for the whole of the Middle East. I find it hard to fathom what they imagine their end game to be. Based on correspondence with local Zionist Jews and Christians it is to take all of the land back from an alien invasion, but Israel is a largely secular state and having taken the moral high ground and announced itself as a modern western democracy with a rule of law, it lays itself open to scrutiny and fails in every respect. Talking to Hamas is the very least that we should be doing. We should also put right the very grave wrong that Britain committed against the Palestinians when it failed to respect the sentence in the Balfour Declaration that said that the Palestinians should not suffer as a consequence of the the creation of a homeland for the Jews. We have betrayed those innocent people at every turn and if we now accuse some of them of being terrorists, then we only have ourselves to blame.

  • David Allen 4th Aug '14 - 3:28pm

    Credit where it’s due. It is an important step forward, and Nick Clegg is to be congratulated for making it (even by sworn opponents like myself).

    Many above have cogently explained why it isn’t enough. They are right, but again in defence of Clegg, he has argued the case on “moderate” premises which make it harder for others – Cameron, Obama for example – to ignore his remarks.

    All the more reason why the rest of us should speak out and make clear our outrage.

    On parallel threads, there is currently a good deal of argumentation in favour of “even-handedness”, the “two wrongs don’t make a right” approach to life. I profoundly disagree that one should always be “even-handed”.

    Obviously, there are some fields in which even-handedness is important and appropriate. These would include, for example, deciding what Bank Rate should be set, or (to take a more emotive subject) the merits of animal experimentation.

    On Gaza – as in the case of the combatants in the Second World War – I argue that even-handedness is quite inappropriate. Two wrongs may not make a right – but more importantly, Hamas’s wrongs don’t in any way balance out Israel’s wrongs, or act to nullify the charges against what Israel has done. It’s a two-sided issue, but we must come up with a simple one-sided answer. Mass slaughter of civilians is criminal, and that’s that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Aug '14 - 1:27pm


    I find it hard to fathom what they imagine their end game to be. Based on correspondence with local Zionist Jews and Christians it is to take all of the land back from an alien invasion,

    I assume by “Christian” here you mean the sort of USA-based evangelical Protestant type, who seem to have their own reasons for being fanatically Zionist.

    However, just a bit earlier in your message, you used the word “Christian” to mean the Christians who are being forced out of their Middle East homes, who are mostly various forms of ancient Eastern and Catholic denominations, and therefore just about as far removed theologically as you can get from the USA Evangelical Protestant types. Mass has been said continually in Mosul for 1600 years – until just now when the Islamists forced out the Christians who were carrying on with that ancient tradition. USA Evangelical Protestantism is almost entirely a religion made up in the last few decades, just taking bits of ancient Christianity out of context where it suits their agenda. Much of it is something like the “Islamists”, starting off with the political message they want to push, and finding little bits of scripture they can quote to try and justify it. So shouldn’t you have made a distinction between the two? Not doing so may help spread the idea that all Christians are by nature fanatical Zionists, which is simply untrue, but is perhaps a contributing force to the ancient Christian communities in the Middle East facing destruction after all these years when their continuing existence reminded us there was a time when Islam was more tolerant of religious minorities than Christianity. The traditional Christian view of the Jews (now downplayed, because of the way it led to anti-semitism) is the opposite of Zionism.

  • Matthew, you were quite right to point out that I was not clear about the very wide range of Christian perspectives that exist. There are similarly a wide range of Jewish and Muslim perspectives. The Christian Zionists tend to support Israel non-critically. Those being forced out of the Middle East also cover a range of perspectives and so the term ‘Christian ‘ must suffice. Where I referred to Zionist Jews and Christians , I did mean Zionist Christians and must admit that I find their form of Christianity difficult to reconcile with the teachings of Jesus. Unfortunately, long before Christian Zionism, the Crusaders also had their own unfortunate brand of belief and we see the sad evidence of the harm they did to this day.
    It was actually the Christian Zionists and not the Jews who encouraged the Jews to settle in Palestine. Before then they were looking at other options. That movement then grew and took on a life of its own to become what is seen very much as political rather than religious Zionism in Israel. It is almost amusing to note that it is Christian Zionists who are the most anti-Semitic. They believe in an interpretation of Revelation that says that when the 12 tribes of Israel are gathered into Greater Israel, Then there will be the Second Coming and the Jews will either be converted or destroyed! In joining forces with Jewish Zionists, the end game is conveniently forgotten.

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