[Delivered at the House of Commons, London England] KGS
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I thank Mr. Speaker for allowing me this debate, and the Minister for being here to listen to my remarks.
Today marks 58 years since Israel declared its independence. Israel is a democracy, committed to western values, freedom and the rule of law, located, I am afraid, in a sea of hostile Arab states. Today also marks 58 years that Israel has been fighting for its survival against those hostile neighbors and terrorist groups who, in many cases, still refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
I am thinking in particular of Hamas, the radical Islamist terrorist organization, which won an overwhelming majority in the Palestinian elections in January. Hamas won 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian legislative council elections and has filled the Palestinian Authority with Ministers who, I am afraid to say, defend the deliberate killing of innocent Israeli civilians.
The Hamas movement was born out of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It is committed to the destruction of Israel through armed struggle and the establishment of an Islamic republic of Palestine based on sharia law. Between 1989 and 2005, Hamas killed 579 Israelis, and wounded 3,235 more, in brutal acts of terrorism; some 93 per cent. of these were civilian casualties. Hamas suicide bombers have attacked Israel at least 58 times—symbolically, one for each year since Israel declared its independence in 1948.
Britain should remain steadfast with regard to Hamas and should not be led to water down the three preconditions set by the Quartet on 30 January. Hamas needs to understand that it needs to recognize Israel, commit to non-violence, end terrorism, and accept previous agreements and obligations signed by its Palestinian predecessors. The Minister should not waver: all three conditions must be fulfilled before Britain and the west should even consider dialogue or meetings with Hamas. The Minister must remain firm and vigilant against Hamas, and lead the international community to pressurizing Hamas to commit to a two-state solution: a secure Israel living side by side with a viable state of Palestine.
Hamas must end its violence and terrorism, and it is in the British national interest to promote freedom and democracy against that oppression and terror. Her Majesty’s Government should not waver on any of the conditions set for the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
There are those who hope that Hamas will be moderate in office, but I am afraid that its actions show the opposite. Although it has, by and large, respected the ceasefire negotiated by Abu Mazen in February 2005, many Hamas leaders continue to defend terrorism against Israel, and they ally themselves with abhorrent regimes, themselves state sponsors and financiers of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria, that openly call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”.
Last month, Tehran hosted a “support for the Palestinian intifada conference”, which was attended by Hamas’s political bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal. Iran has pledged $50 million to finance the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Hamas is an integral part of the fundamentalist regime in Iran, which, as we all know, seeks to export terrorism and wage jihad against western democracy and values. With close links to an Iranian regime hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and destabilizing the whole of the middle east, the Hamas Government are exposed as a regime with the same goals: destruction of Israel and an attack on western democracy and values.
Hamas’s Foreign Minister, Mahmoud al-Zahar, is openly an extremist and is cultivating links with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, rather than—as I am sure we would all wish—showing moderation to the west. On 24 March, Hamas’s Interior Minister, Said Siyam, who is responsible for Palestinian internal security forces, publicly committed himself not to order arrests of operatives who carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. Siyam’s declaration amounts to an open invitation to all terrorists, including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Fatah militias.
In effect, the Hamas regime, far from being a moderating influence, is facilitating continued terrorist attacks on Israel while disclaiming responsibility. Although the Hamas movement appears to abide by a ceasefire with Israel, the policy of the Hamas Government is to allow terrorists free rein. Hamas failed to condemn the first suicide bombing to take place after it took power in January. Instead, it called it “an act of self-defence”.
Not only is Hamas refusing to criticize publicly acts of terrorism, but it has actually been implicated in the attacks itself. For example, an investigation into the attempted suicide bombing at the Karni crossing on 26 April revealed that it was carried out by the popular resistance committees in the Gaza strip, which are under the direction of Hamas.
There are glaring inconsistencies in the messages that Hamas sends out to the western and Arab media on the issues of terrorism, Israel and negotiations. Indeed, Hamas’s media strategy is to adapt its various messages to the relevant target audience. To the western media, Hamas attempts to put across a soft image; to the Arab media, including that in Palestine, Hamas presents a defiant and uncompromising image, including on issues such as terrorism, the peace process and recognition of Israel.
For example, Hamas’s Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, has been labelled a pragmatist in some of the western press. Yet it was Haniya who took credit for a Hamas suicide bus bombing in 2003, which killed 23 Israelis and wounded 130. In March this year, in the Arabic press, Haniya said the following on the issue of the recognition of Israel:
“One of the basic principles of the new Government is not to surrender to international threats and to refuse to recognize Israel.”
However, days earlier, in the western media, he had said:
“We will respect the agreements which will ensure the establishment of a Palestinian state on the ’67 lines, as well as the release of prisoners. If Israel withdraws to the ’67 lines, we will formulate peace in stages.”
That dual message speaks for itself. Hamas continues to support terrorism, refuses to recognize Israel and shows no sign at all of accepting the notion of a two-state solution. Sadly, the evidence suggests that, far from a democratic Palestine, we could be witnessing the emergence of an Islamist state on Israel’s doorstep, with vested interests from fundamentalist regimes such as Iran and Syria and terrorist groups including al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
Will Her Majesty’s Government grant assurances that they will remain steadfast against Hamas and remain committed to all the preconditions set by the Quartet on 30 January? Will the Minister also make assurances that Her Majesty’s Government will not become lenient in interpreting the preconditions set by the Quartet? It is unacceptable when the Foreign Secretary says, as he did in Riyadh only a few weeks ago, that recognition of Israel does not mean a formal declaration by Hamas, but just a practical acceptance of the “reality” of the Jewish state. Hamas, in its entirety, is a terrorist organization proscribed by the European Union. Will the Minister join me in condemning the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the EU for recently meeting with the Hamas Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament?
In conclusion, Britain should stand united with Israel against Hamas and remain vigilant that Hamas recognizes Israel ends terrorism and accepts a two-state solution based on the road map to peace. Hat tip: Joy Wolfe
[Delivered at the House of Commons, London England] KGS