Letter: Assassin the only winner in Middle East

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The Independent Online
Sir: I visited both Israel and the Occupied Territories in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza on several occasions between 1977 and 1992, meeting both Israelis and Palestinians. In 1992, and since, I have asked Israeli ministers and ambassadors whether the settlements in the most exposed and sensitive places, e.g. Hebron and Gaza, could not be removed, in accordance with UN Resolution 242 and the principle of land for peace.

The settlements in question cannot be said to contribute to the security of Israel; they are a liability. The quid pro quo should be an international guarantee of permanent access for bona fide religious reasons for Israelis and Jews from the rest of the world, to such holy places as the burial place of Abraham in Hebron and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, in parallel with access by Christians and Muslims to their holy places.

A precedent for withdrawing settlements exists in respect of those in Sinai, under the Camp David agreements. There were of course objections and protests, but both settlers and military installations were moved.

The present government of Israel depends to some extent upon the votes of the religious parties in the Knesset. I trust that this short-term political situation will not be allowed to put at risk the existing peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and to make impossible a negotiated peace with Syria and Lebanon. The world has the strongest possible interest in a comprehensive Middle East peace. The EU should make access to European markets conditional on the observance of the 4th Geneva Convention and the human rights clauses of the Oslo agreement.

The time has come to ensure that UN resolutions do not remain a dead letter and that the essence of undertakings, given in Madrid in 1991 and Oslo in 1993, is fully respected.

Lord HYLTON

House of Lords

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