Britain must unilaterally recognise Palestine as an independent nation because “quiet” diplomacy has failed to persuade Israel to meaningfully pursue a two-state solution, the former Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi has told The Independent.
Speaking after her first visit to the occupied territories since resigning over Britain’s stance on the conflict in Gaza, Baroness Warsi said the UK Government’s policy of “Israeli appeasement” was not working.
And she called on ministers to unambiguously condemn Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank which, she said, was potentially becoming an insurmountable obstacle to a two-state settlement.
“These settlers are illegal occupiers of illegally occupied land,” she said. “It is clear concerted policy of the Israeli Government to do this and that is why we’ve got to recognise Palestine and set down a marker. We have to say these are illegal; people who live there are illegal and they will have to be removed.”
She added: “We say that we believe in a two-state solution but we are only recognising one of the states. It’s really simple logic. If you don’t even allow one of the states that you believe should exist to be recognised in our own country how are we going to be able to get the Israelis to recognise them?
“The right to have a state is not a gift that we need to give. It is a right that the Palestinians have. For us to say you can only have a state at the end of a negotiation – are we therefore saying if there is no negotiation there is no state?”
Baroness Warsi was also strongly critical of the Government’s argument that it could exert greater influence on the Israeli Government behind the scenes if it pursued a policy of being supportive in public. “The argument we use is that we don’t upset the Israeli Government because we want to maintain political capital to be able to influence them [behind the scenes],” she said. “We tried to build up that political capital during Gaza by not being critical – and by not condemning the appalling human rights abuses that were happening at the time. But at the end of the period Israel just announced more settlements and no consequences ever followed.
The famous on Israel-Gaza
The famous on Israel-Gaza
1/21 Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem
Oscar-winning married actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem signed an open letter accused Israel of "genocide". They said: "Gaza is living through horror these days, besieged and attacked by land, sea and air'.
2/21 Zayn Malik
The One Direction singer was bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine to his 13 million followers. The tweet collected over 130,000 retweets, but it soon became apparent that not everyone agreed with his opinion.
3/21 Mia Farrow
Mia Farrow, the actress and Unicef ambassador, said on Twitter: 'We can passionately protest Israel's assault upon Gaza without descending, even remotely, into the hideousness of anti-Semitism'.
4/21 Katy Perry
Way back in 2011, Katy Perry faced a slew of angry responses from Palestinians and their supporters after she tweeted to her fans, asking them to 'Pray for Israel'.
ABC via Getty
5/21 Massive Attack
Massive Attack spoke of their ‘love and commitment’ to supporting the plight of young Palestinian refugees after the band visited the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon.
6/21 Selena Gomez
The former Disney child star caused a stir when she posted an image on her Instagram account than began: 'It's about humanity. Pray for Gaza.' Joan Rivers responded to the TMZ celebrity news website: 'Oh, Selena Gomez, yeah, that college grad. Well if Selena said that...let’s see if she can spell Palestinian'.
7/21 Russell Brand
Russell Brand is currently caught up in an entertaining spat with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Brand uploaded a video where he accused Hannity of terrorism after his agressive behaviour in an Israel-Gaza debate. Hannity, who is famously right-wing and pro-Israel, asked Yousef Munayyer if he was 'thick in the head'.
Rihanna tweeted, then deleted, the hashtag #FreePalestine after eight minutes. She claimed its publication was an accident.
9/21 John Legend
The singer waded into the debate on Twitter when he wrote: 'So sick watching our Secretary of State have to grovel so hard to tell Israel how much he loves them while Israeli cabinet shits on him'.
10/21 Bar Refaeli
Leonardo DiCaprio's former girlfriend added to the debate when she posted a quote on her Instagram account, which she attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately it was actually taken from a Lincoln figure encountered by Captain Kirk and Spock in Star Trek, season three, episode 22.
11/21 Bill Maher
Bill Maher received a storm of criticism after he compared Hamas to a 'crazy woman trying to kill you'. 'You can only hold her wrists for so long before you have to slap her,' he tweeted.
12/21 Jon Voight
The actor and father of Angelina Jolie unleashed a rant on Fox News. Reading from a script, he criticised Obama’s actions over the current unrest in Israel and Gaza.
13/21 Joey Barton
Despite already getting into a dispute with Yossi Benayoun over comments on the Israel-Gaza conflict: Joey Barton has continued to deplore the violence in Gaza, tweeting the hashtag '#stopisraelkillinginnocents'.
14/21 Howard Stern
When a caller attempted to blame Israel for the war with Hamas last week, SiriusXM radio host Howard Stern told him to'“F*** off!' before launching into an impassioned defense of Israel, saying: “If you’re anti-Israel, then you’re anti-America”.
15/21 Wonder Woman
Otherwise known as Gal Gadot: the Israeli actress took to Instagram, writing: 'I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children'.
16/21 Piers Morgan
Piers Morgan was branded 'Zionest scum' for his stream of tweets about the Israel-Gaza conflict. He declared various opinions such as 'I like Jews. I like Arabs' and 'Same nonsense made Northern Ireland a murderous tinderbox for 30 years'.
17/21 Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers didn't hold back when she was interviewed by TMZ; likening Israel's position to that of New York if it was attacked by New Jersey. Asked where she thought civilians caught up in the crossfire were supposed to go, she replied: 'I don't care, they started'.
18/21 Dwight Howard
NBA star Dwight Howard 'did a Rihanna' - tweeting '#FreePalestine' before quickly deleting it and spending the rest of the day apologizing for the 'mistake'.
19/21 Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban
Nicole Kidman uploaded a short video to her Facebook page, featuring Keith Urban with their daughters Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret, captioned: 'Keith, the girls and I are joining Reba McEntire to #PrayForPeace. xxNic'.
20/21 Simon Cowell
X Factor boss pledged almost £100,000 to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at a US fund-raiser in Beverly Hills in 2012. The gala brought in more than £12million for the organisation, which helps to provide welfare services for IDF soldiers and their bereaved families. So far, however, he has only commented on the conflict to say that he is "praying for peace".
21/21 Brian Eno
Musician and producer Brian Eno condemned the Israeli action in Gaza as 'ethnic cleansing' in an open letter on David Byrne's website.
“So this great capital that we built up – I see no example of influence being exercised.”
On her four-day trip to Israel and the West Bank, which was organised by the Council of Arab British Understanding, Baroness Warsi said she was struck by the scale of Israeli settlements.
“The settlements are no longer being occupied by crazy people on the fringe of society,” she said. “There are actually Cabinet ministers who now live in very plush houses that are in the settlements. These are huge structures with swimming pools and schools and health clinics and thousands of homes. These are proper towns. They are butted up again Palestinian towns – and the settlements have got water and electricity and all the modern facilities and yet right next to them you have villages with people living like they would have done a couple of hundred years ago.”
She added: “These settlements represent the slow strangulation of the two-state solution and unless action is taken now it will be impossible in the future.”