The failure to defeat Hamas

As was confidently predicted by military experts in the days following October 7, Israel has not destroyed Hamas by invading Gaza, and it’s clearly not going to.  Despite having to re-engage with Hamas in the previously “cleared” northern Gaza, it has started to inflict further suffering on the one and a half million people seeking refuge in Rafah, in what Netanyahu says is the final stage of clearing Gaza of Hamas fighters.  He knows most of the people are civilians, and that many are women or children, but he has no other plan, and would probably have seen the collapse of the fragile coalition he leads if he hadn’t pressed ahead.  He may be hoping that if “finishing the job” won’t entirely get rid of Hamas, it may end up inflicting sufficient revenge on the people of Gaza for him to remain in office.

International condemnation of the proposed attack on Rafah was led by US President Joe Biden, and initially echoed by the British government, but although Biden has now sent a message to Netanyahu by halting the supply of bombs which are too big to be used in urban warfare, when the Rafah phase began, British government spokesmen became suddenly silent.  As with Biden after his conversion to limited respect for international law, our government is driven by domestic politics, and Sunak may prefer to avoid the inevitable humiliation of being rebuffed by Netanyahu by keeping quiet about the invasion of Rafah.  Others might say he has been influenced by lobbying groups which support Netanyahu’s Israel unconditionally.

In November last year, the inept James Cleverly was replaced as Foreign Secretary by David Cameron, and we saw a welcome shift in the government’s position on Gaza.  Lord Cameron had one last chance to salvage his reputation before he disappeared from the political arena, and he quickly made the bold announcement that when the fighting ends, the ‘two-state solution’ will have to be a given, and on the table before peace talks begin, not as the prize for Palestinians at the end of the process, if they behaved themselves.  Unusually, the British seemed to have made a foreign policy decision which diverged from the US position, although cynics would say Cameron probably had behind the scenes permission from the Americans to do so.  However, when Israel crossed what had been a “red line” by attacking Rafah, the line was suddenly no longer red, and Cameron was no longer laying down the law to Netanyahu, his brief day in the sun having come to an abrupt end.

The talk in Westminster is that Cameron has been told by the Prime Minister’s office to tone down his criticism of the Israeli assault on Rafah, and to talk up the British excuses for refusing to halt our arms sales to Israel.  Ending arms sales to a regime under investigation by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for genocide is a requirement of the Genocide Convention, but Cameron has now been forced into saying that depriving Israel of British-supplied weaponry would be tantamount to supporting terrorism, a form of twisted logic which had him squirming in his seat on last Sunday’s Laura Kuenssberg show.

Recognition of Palestine

On Tuesday of next week, it is expected that Spain, Ireland, Norway and Malta will formally recognize the state of Palestine.  Sadly, no one expects the British government to follow suit, and they will probably still be saying now is not the right time for such an announcement.

Recognition of their state by Britain would be a hugely important moment for the Palestinians, and a blow to those in Israel who want to believe world opinion backs the idea that ‘all Palestinians are terrorists’ and that by extension that justifies the scorched earth policy in Gaza, including the wholesale slaughter of civilians and civilian infrastructure, by munitions and now by starvation, and even the targeted destruction of hospitals, a heinous and cold-blooded crime after so many innocent people have been injured by  Israeli ordnance.

It is going to be incumbent on every member of Parliament, whichever side of the chamber they sit on, to tell the government they are wrong, that now is the time to recognize Palestine, and that to fail the Palestinian people at this desperate moment in their history would be a monumental failure for which there could be no excuse.




* Andy Daer is a member of the Liberal Democrats in South Gloucestershire, and Vice Chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine.

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  • Martin Gray 16th May '24 - 8:13pm

    The attack on October 7th has rightly been condemned. Those images of that day were horrific. What’s followed and continues is a brutal assault on Gaza with little distinction between civilians and Hamas. Homes, schools, and hospitals have all been deliberately targeted by some of the most sophisticated weaponry the West can supply. The death toll among innocent civilians, with so many of them children, is unimaginable. The West rightly condemns Russia for its assault on Ukraine and the deaths of civilians and the misery it has caused. With Israel, the stench of hypocrisy is overpowering – Western leaders, with their open support for the Israeli government, is nauseating. The EU Parliament draped in an Israeli flag and its President – a mother of seven with strong Christian beliefs standing side by side with Israel – belies its credentials as a bastion of human rights. If nobody goes to The Hague for this, then it’s only there for African despots and Balkan warlords. What will be left is a Children’s graveyard – but as we’ve always known is the death of an Arab child is meaningless many in the West.

  • Steve Trevethan 17th May '24 - 7:58am

    Thank you for an account with depth and breadth.

    Would that the main stream media, including “our” B. B. C., showed attributes presented in this piece.

    The better that elements of our party present information/news, the better for our society.

  • Mark Frankel 17th May '24 - 8:43am

    Some of the comments here seem to border on the Israelophobic. Israel is a legitimate state entitled to its peace and security.

  • Anne-Marie Simpson 17th May '24 - 9:01am

    Latest Yougov poll commissioned by MAP and Caabu shows that the majority of British people think there should be an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and would support the UK ending its arms sales to Israel for the duration of the conflict in Gaza. Liberal Democrats have called for a bilateral ceasefire and for a suspension of arms sales and recognition of the State of Palestine. It has never been more urgent to amplify this call, challenge the UK government, and point to their complicity in plausible genocide.

  • Excellent piece showing the moral bankruptcy of our present government in criticising Israel, warning against going too far but then showing clearly that it doesn’t really matter when they do go “too far” because there are no consequences. Indeed as Andy Daer points out we still allow arms sales to Israel. In addition, we continue to train IDF officers in the UK and allow British-Israelis to serve in the Israeli Defence Force, which is constantly being shown to be carrying out war crimes not in the West Bank as well as in Gaza. An unusually good account of what is going on in the West Bank by the BBC called “The Other War” was shown recently. It’s well worth watching, including for the chilling way it documents the cold-blooded murder of an 8 year old.
    Sadly there is no real opposition in Parliament to what is happening at present, except for questions and interventions from a small number of MPs and Peers. The official opposition has totally failed to hold our Government to account. The Lib Dem position has been very correct for months. It needs to be expressed more strongly and more loudly than it has in recent weeks. Opinion polling shows that the way the way is being conducted on the Israeli side is very unpopular in the UK. One recent poll showed that even 59% of Tory voters thought that arms sales to Israel should blocked. So why the hesitation in calling it all out more strongly?

  • Mark Frankel 17th May ’24 – 8:43am….Aren’t Palestinians in The West Bank and the Golan heights entitled to ‘peace and security’?. Attacks by illegal Jewish settlers have been going on, unpunished, for years and, since October last, have intensified..
    We mustn’t, of course mention how these same settlers attacked and destroyed an aid convoy; an aid convoy escorted by Israeli troops who did nothing whilst the Palestinian drivers were attacked and life saving supplies spoiled…
    Israel, to my mind, has forfeited every right to be called a democratic state; it’s government is a mishmash of ultra right Zionists who want ONLY a Jewish state..

  • Steve Trevethan 17th May '24 - 11:32am

    Might the attached article be relevant?

  • @ Steve Trevethan – that is relevant; those expedited shipments would have made a much bigger difference if they had gone to Ukraine…

    Clearly to the US the security of Israel is more important than the security of Europe…

  • Peter Martin 17th May '24 - 3:42pm

    @ Mark Frankel,

    “Israelophobic” is a curious word. It makes a change from “antisemitic” I suppose.

    However, as most of us live well away from Israel there is probably is no need for us to fear the State of Israel.

    It might be different if we lived nearer. The Palestinians live the closest of all and they have every reason to be fearful.

  • Hot news – published today.

    “A YouGov poll commissioned by MAP and Caabu has shown that the majority of British people think there should be an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and would support the UK ending its arms sales to Israel for the duration of the conflict in Gaza.”

    “Low public approval for both the UK Government and Labour opposition’s handling of the Gaza crisis was also found. Only 18% of people polled approve of the UK Government’s response, while even fewer, just 12%, approve of the response from Labour.”

    There is clearly a vacuum in political leadership that the Lib Dems could fill.

  • Leekliberal 17th May '24 - 6:36pm

    For once we are ahead of labcon teams with a policy that is emphatically right on Palestine and also supported by the UK voters. So lets SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!

  • The odd thing is that it is already our parties policy to immediately recognise Palestine. Furthermore Layla Moran has introduced a Palestine recognition bill to parliament every year except this one.

    Yet curiously, I’ve heard very little mention of it since October 7th from our party.

    Meanwhile the greens and the worker’s party are hoovering up the votes of disaffected Muslims and progressives completely bypassing us!

    We need to be shouting this from the rooftops and either introduce the recognition bill again or take a leaf out of the SNPs book and embarrass the labour party with a commons motion!

  • There’s actually a good interview with Layla Moran on this subject here where she talks about how she changed our policy on this as well as her families situation before Christmas:

  • We should certainly make more of our position on Israel~Palestine, if only to show up the Workers Party, which is pro-Hamas rather than pro-peace. Voting WP because you want peace in the Middle East is like voting BNP because you want racial harmony in this country.

  • Lord MONROE Edward P 19th May '24 - 12:21pm

    The article fails to reflect on the atrocities of 7th October. Hostages were taken and are still kept- maybe not alive. I want a two State solution but that cannot include HAMAS who are committed to repeat their pogrom. So return the hostages, have a mutual ceasefire whilst the future of a peaceful Gaza can be organised

  • My position is that further killing is pointless and the international community should make sure that message gets through to Netanyahu. Further, Israel’s onslaught on Gaza has deprived it of any moral authority. Therefore the next step will not need Israel’s permission or involvement, and the establishment of a fully independent Palestinian state should be overseen by the UN and implemented without reference to Israel.

  • Peter Davies 19th May '24 - 8:10pm

    Recognising Palestine presumably means recognising its borders as those of the Gaza strip and the West Bank. This is probably less than they deserve and more than they have so it’s a compromise position will not be accepted easily by a majority on either side. it won’t be accepted at all by Netanyahu and a significant Israeli minority who are to his right. Similarly, It won’t be accepted by Hamas, Hisbolah, Islamic State or Iran. A two state solution won’t occur until Israel choses a government willing to accept those borders (it has before and will again). If we recognise Palestine, that doesn’t mean we recognise anyone as the government. Presumably, we would have to recognise a democratically elected Palestinian government though I can’t see an easy way to get there. At the moment there is no de facto government either. Hamas has clearly lost control of Gaza and Fatah has only limited control in the West Bank. The big question then is where can a government emerge from that we can recognise.

  • David Allen 21st May '24 - 6:28pm

    We should support the ICC prosecutor, who rightly seeks to charge both Hamas and Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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