Baroness Warsi attacks Middle East policy in Lords debate

Baroness Warsi attacks Middle East policy in Lords debate

Baroness Warsi
Baroness Warsi

Former Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi has launched a withering attack on the Government’s policy on the Middle East peace process, warning it was no longer an “honest broker”.

Lady Warsi said the policy of a two-state solution with a negotiated settlement was not working and was “flawed”.

She told peers: “Different strands of our policy are simply not viable and no longer hold true. We know that our policy is not working – yet we continue to stick to it.”

In her first speech in the Lords since suddenly quitting in August over the Government’s response to the then-crisis in Gaza, Lady Warsi accused ministers of not responding to the reality of changes on the ground.

“This approach damages our reputation both at home and abroad – and sadly no longer makes us an honest broker.”

The Tory peer was sitting just behind her successor at the Foreign Office, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, as she launched her attack.

When she resigned, Lady Warsi branded the Government’s policy on the crisis in Gaza during the conflict with Israel “morally indefensible” and she repeated that charge today in a debate on the Middle East.

Outlining the failure of talks to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine, Lady Warsi claimed Israel had effectively been given a veto over the process.

She said Britain condemned Israel’s “illegal settlements” in the region and said they threatened the viability of a two-state solution.

“But what consequences ever follow from that condemnation? The 1967 borders of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem are not lawfully part of the state of Israel.

A line had been drawn in international law but every year this was “violated” by Israelwith a growing number of “settlers”.

She said that, as Tory minister Sir Alan Duncan had stated: “Settlements are simply an act of theft, initiated and supported by the state of Israel.

They created “enclaves of Palestinians, cut off from each other … and cut off from a viable existence. So it is an organised and planned strangulation of what we call a two-state solution,” Lady Warsi added.

Lady Warsi said the Government’s policy no longer held true. “The situation on the ground has so changed and continues to do so that what we say we seek is unlikely to be achieved.

“We say we have a position: we condemn. But the actions of that condemnation are not there to be seen. No consequences follow.

“We prefer private to public diplomacy – and I agree with that – but I fail to see those tough private conversations.”

Lady Warsi said that if the Government was not prepared to move to a recognition of Palestine, it must say what conditions must be met and set out a “pathway” in the interests of transparency.

Her comments came after Sweden’s new government said it has recognised a Palestinian state.

Lady Warsi told peers it was because of the concerns she had raised today as the then-minister with responsibility for human rights and not because she was a Muslim, that she concluded: “I could no longer defend our policy at the despatch box.

“Our current position on this issue is morally indefensible. It is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.

“It is time for us to start to be on the right side of history.”

Independent Baroness Tonge said it was no surprise that the West’s unquestioning support for Israel had led to the emergence of more and more extreme Islamic groups “determined to get their own back on the West through terrorism”.

Nor was it a suprise that there had been attacks in Canada and a terrorist plot exposed in Australia since both countries had “unhesitatingly supported Israel” with the UK and US

She demanded: “Why can our leaders not see what damage we are doing by supporting the unspeakable policies of Israel, who break international law … and totally ignore the human rights of the Palestinians?

“Why do we give this rogue government our support?”

Lady Tonge put this support down to the activities of the “particularly dangerous” pro-Israeli “lobby” in the UK and US.

And she claimed Lib Dem MP David Ward was “currently fighting yet another battle against the lobby”.

In July, Mr Ward gave a “categorical apology” for his comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after tweeting: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes.”

The debate ended without a vote.


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